August 1, 2013

Algebra for Lower Elementary

We have found a supplemental algebra program that is ideal for all ages, including lower elementary.  I call it supplemental only because my kids are 6,7, and 9, so algebra won't become the main focus of our math time for a while still.   We're keeping our regular curriculum and just adding this in as fun time 2 days per week.  Borenson's Hands-On Equations has been a most pleasant surprise in the world of math products.  I assure you that I'm not in business with them.  We're just really happy customers and when I find something we love, I like to share!

This program starts the student out with physical objects to move and a scale on which to balance the sides.  You get a set of rules, like a board game, and as you progress through the lessons, you learn "legal moves" for keeping the scales balanced.  It comes with a video instruction for each lesson, which often means watching a kind of goofy guy bore himself to death, but it's clear and concise and only a few minutes of instruction per lesson.  MOst of the time is spent playing algebra.  Sometimes the lessons are taught by kids, and my kids are a bit more motivated by the idea of a kid teaching algebra, even though those lessons are a little less clear.  Even with the boring old guy, the program is so easy and fun that the kids have stayed engaged.  

Once your kid has a grasp of basic arithmetic, they can do this program and find algebra success.  It just makes so much more sense than the way I was taught.   And it's clear that it was filmed in the late 80's or early 90's, so I'm wondering why on earth every teacher on earth hasn't' heard of it and why every class on earth isn't using it.  I just ran across a post about it on facebook, of all places, and watched a few videos.  That was enough to sell me on buying because it's a pretty good price.  Now that's we've been using it, I'm totally sold.  

I think of it more as chess than checkers, just because you have several "legal moves" to learn and so far, we've learned one legal move per lesson now that we're past the guess and confirm stage.  So it is still a cumulative learning process, but it's actually kind of fun.  I will admit that the guess and confirm stage frustrated Hunter, and it felt a little unnecessary, except to highlight how much less frustrating algebra becomes once you know the legal moves.  Now that we're learning moves, he's actually enjoying algebra.  Had I known this, we'd have just skipped the first 3 or so lessons and all the frustration.  I'm not sure why they'd want to set the tone for the program like that, but whatever.  After lesson 3, we're happy as clams.

So, I love it!  I highly recommend it.  And if you get it, I recommend just watching lessons 1-3 in the first day and getting past the frustrating part where they make you experience what algebra would be like with no foundational knowledge at all.  After that, it's intuitive smooth sailing.  I would never have expected to hear, "Can I just play the algebra game a little long?" from my kiddos.  This is awesome!  

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