Math is one of those foundation subjects that we all need to study. Every student I have ever known has to study math, but not nearly all of those students would say that math is fun. And when it comes to algebra, a common complaint is that it's hard to see how it will be useful in the real world.
Introducing AIMS, a non-profit organization committed to creating math and science activities that engage students in the learning process, and looks to make math and science hands-on and fun subjects. AIMS offers a wide variety of math and science products geared from Kindergarten through Grade 9 in their online store. We had the opportunity, through the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, to try out Looking at Lines, an activity book about linear functions. The book teaches proportional and non-proportional relationships with activities drawn from science, business, and real-world applications, helping students "see" how algebraic thinking and graphic works.
The activities involve making and using manipulatives, and there are interesting graphic pages that you can print out for the student to record their findings and see their instructions. From what we looked at, the items we needed to do the activities were all things we had available - things like coins, straws, a basketball, a mirror - so I didn't have to hunt down tools and things that would cost extra or I wouldn't likely use again.
The student pages are all available on a CD of .pdf files, so I didn't have to mess with holding a book open on the copier, which was a relief!
I have to admit that we looked at the book far more than actually doing the activities. Although the teacher information is presented in detail for each lesson, I found it a little intimidating, partly because it was geared for a classroom teacher, and I felt like it was way more preparation than I was interested in doing for what I viewed as a supplemental activity. I'm not proud of it, but my eyes kind of glazed over when I saw lists of "Benchmarks" and "NCTM Standards", suggestions for Management, Connecting Learning, and Extensions. I realized that I didn't need to read all of those things in order to use the book (and it's not like I'm well-known for doing everything the instructions say!), but the impression it made on me was that I would need to do a lot of mental prep work or I wouldn't be able to guide my student through the activity. Most of the activities are designed to be done with students in pairs or groups, but could be done by just one student. My personal opinion is that the activities would all be more fun - and more effective in helping students understand the concepts - when done with some classmates.
What we liked best:
- activities that make use of math concepts in everyday and practical applications
- interesting and eye-catching activity pages that are easy to print
- encourages algebraic thinking in creative ways
What we weren't crazy about:
- styled more for classroom use, and less appealing for an individual student
- as I mentioned, I found the detailed background teaching sections somewhat intimidating
Would you like to Look at Lines - or any of the other products AIMS offers? Here's what you need to know:
Looking at Lines is recommended for grades 6-9 and is available as a book with CD of printable student pages, or as an e-book for $24.95. You can visit the AIMS online store to see all the math and science products they have to choose from, or visit the AIMS Education Foundation website to find out more about the foundation, or check out some of the sample activities.
Visit the TOS Homeschool Crew blog for more information, and to read other Crew member reviews. Crew members reviewed other products from AIMS as well - telling time and science products for very young students, and fractions and science products for older elementary students, and algebra and science for middle school students.
Disclaimer: As part of the TOS Homeschool Crew, we received a complimentary book and CD in exchange for our honest opinions.