Textbooks: An Initial Impression
(By a Student Who's Actually Used it)
This initial impression of Teaching Textbooks was written by our teen daughter (Emily in my "Our Experiences With Math " article).
I think it's helpful to read the comments from actual users of a specific curriculum. Sometimes that says so much more than an adult's comment who just "looks" things over. Our daughter has always "disliked" math, and let me tell you, as her mom, it's thrilling to have her suddenly excited and enjoying her previously "worst" and least favorite subject.
Review of Teaching Textbooks
One of the subjects in homeschooling that I find most difficult and boring is math. I have always been better at writing and reading. However, this does not mean that I am bad in math, but that I struggle more to grasp the concepts; or find it harder to remember the material. No matter how many math programs my Mom searched out, it didn't do any good in changing my view of math. Some programs I did better in, but I was not necessarily having an enjoyable experience with any of them. I always tried to make math be at the last part of the school day, because I hated even thinking about doing the problems. If I started the day with math, it usually left me in a bad mood. I tried playing music in the background, but nothing availed. I believed that there was no possible curriculum that could change my perspective on math.
However, as I completed Math-U-See's Algebra I, my Mom showed me a description of a math company on the computer, Teaching Textbooks. She showed me a demo, and it seemed interesting. "It certainly wouldn't hurt," I thought, "to try something new." I thought the material might be a little better than Math-U-See, but not by much. I didn't wait with much anticipation, but when Teaching Textbooks did arrive, there was something different in their appearance. We ordered the Geometry and Algebra II sets; they each came with a big spiral textbook, a book of answers and tests, a cd-set with lectures and practice problems, a cd-set with explanations and solutions for every lesson, and a cd-set with test answers. The word "lectures" makes me cringe. I think about the videos I've had to watch for Math-U-See, and how much I dislike the teacher in the videos. He has a dry humor that grates on my nerves, and he never quite explains the concepts in a way that stick in my memory.
What first struck me as different about the Teaching Textbooks Geometry and Algebra II programs were their covers. Each of the math books and cd-sets has a bright cover with a comic-book appearance. Perhaps it is naïve to judge a book by it's cover, but these books have a special appeal. I couldn't resist flipping through each quickly, only to find, to my surprise: pictures! Pictures in an older student's textbook?! To me, that was unheard of. However, these pictures were not just of triangles, numbers, and circles, but of famous philosophers and humorous illustrations to go with word problems. For some people, pictures in a math book may seem insignificant, but for me it meant that I was going to begin Teaching Textbooks in a slightly more positive light.
As I have progressed in the program, I've learned the structure of the lessons, and how they are to be taught. I was pleasantly surprised in that the "lectures" that were a part of this math program were fun and interesting to listen to. Rather than watching someone complete an equation on a dry-erase board, I can listen to the audio and read corresponding notes on a virtual notepad. I like this difference in lectures, and the way the teacher speaks in comparison to my previous math program's teacher. The individual that does the Teaching Textbook lectures doesn't rush, or leave some things unexplained.
Another useful feature is that the computer teacher explains each and every practice problem in detail, so that there is almost no possibility of not understanding the math concepts! In addition, he offers extensive explanations for each problem set. I like this because when I get a problem wrong, I can just listen to the explanation of the entire solution step-by-step, and can easily figure out where and why I've made any mistakes. It works better to watch each problem be solved with all of its steps, rather than to try and "decode" how a problem was solved from answers in a solution book.
Although all of these features fit my learning style better than my other math programs I've tried, I most like that the concentration of the books is NOT on learning the names and practice of math operations, but putting math into context. The problem sets have a lot of fill-in the blanks, completion of sentences, fun (not stressful) word problems, translation of word phrases to equations, matching answers with the correct equations, and practice problems. I like how Teaching Textbooks doesn't bog me down with a million problems, but rather teaches me a concept in such an incredibly memorable way, that extra problems are unnecessary.
Something I find interesting about this program is that it feels not just like a math program, but also like a logic and history course. Since I am taking a logic course at the same time as Teaching Textbooks, I like how a few of the beginning lessons are related. Teaching Textbooks Geometry course is most similar, because it teaches deductive and inductive reasoning, premises, and other terms that were explained in my logic course. I'm learning "how" to think through problems, not just use "rote" memorization to solve them. I also like finding out about ancient peoples and more recent historical figures, and how they played a part in the world of geography and thinking. Teaching Textbooks challenges me to think of math as not just a series of numbers, but a way of coming to logical conclusions. There is no more "guess-work".
With Teaching Textbooks Geometry and Algebra II, I can complete a lesson in one day, rather than in about a week, as I did with Math-U-See, because each concept is broken down into a daily manageable size "chunk". I am getting concepts better than ever before! For example, I recently came across an Algebraic operation that has always stumped me. I used to always get these kinds of problems wrong before. I have tried many math programs, but nothing ever really "did it" for me. Now I understand what to do and it's easy! I guess it took a Harvard math tutor to change that (Teaching Textbook's program teacher) and make things clear for me.
If I have any sort of trouble with the problem sets (which is rare because of the excellent explanations), I look for the parts of the text highlighted in gray. All of the most important information is highlighted in gray, so there is no more searching around my textbooks to find the help I need!! I also really like, for some strange reason, that the problem sets are contained within the textbook itself, rather than in a separate book. It was always inconvenient to have some of my math problems in a separate workbook. My mind clamps shut just flipping through math books full of a million unsolved problems. Instead, I like to just be able to see what I'm going to be working on for that day: it's less overwhelming.
Teaching Textbooks Algebra II and Geometry courses has made a radical change in my attitude towards math. I'm not stressed, so I don't get in a bad mood. I've actually switched my time around. I do math at the beginning of the day now, by my own choice, because it's so much fun. I show my family members my most favorite concepts on our dry-erase board. I even did some extra math work, and helped my youngest brother with a few of his own math problems. Believe me when I say that I HATED math. It was horrible, I didn't get it, and I retook Algebra I because I just didn't understand it. Now, with this program, math is the best it's ever been for me! I'm actually excited over the stuff I'm learning! I hope you consider using Teaching Textbooks as your next math program!
*Emily has now graduated from homeschool and has a psychology degree. She did VERY well in her college math classes.
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