Tuesday, August 8, 2017

No-Nonsense Algebra from Math Essentials (A Homeschool Coffee Break Review)

No-Nonsense Algebra from Math Essentials (A Homeschool Coffee Break Review) on Homeschool Coffee Break @ kympossibleblog.blogspot.com

Math hasn't been a strong subject for my students, and my own algebra skills aren't up to the task of teaching it without solid help. Several years ago we were able to review a course from Math Essentials that was great for my son, and when that same course - No-Nonsense Algebra - was offered to my daughter for review, we both were eager to see if it was a good fit for her as well.

Math Essentials

Award-winning author Richard W. Fisher brings his expertise to a series of math products from Math Essentials. He was a math instructor in California for over 31 years, teaching and developing unique math materials. His teaching system is easy to use, easy to understand, and gets results. 

No-Nonsense Algebra is a complete algebra program that combines short, self-contained lessons in a book with concise and helpful video tutorials for each lesson available online. The book gives examples of problems with step-by-step solutions, and provides practice problems and review in each lesson. Chapter tests and a final exam are also included to help evaluate a student's success. 

No-Nonsense Algebra

How did we use it?  Well, as I said, math is not one of our strengths, and my rising junior has had more than her shares of struggles understanding and remembering math principles. Kennady has already done some algebra, but doesn't feel confident that she's mastered it, and with the probability of an SAT looming this year, it's important to prepare her for the math portion of that efficiently. So after some discussion, we decided that we would use No-Nonsense Algebra as her main curriculum for this coming year, and plan to do the entire book, even though much of it would be review. We did have the advantage, in a way, of having had this course at our disposal before, when Landon used it, so I felt pretty safe in saying that this was going to be our main math curriculum. (You can see our previous review here: No-Nonsense Algebra {Schoolhouse Review Crew})

The first Chapter is intended as a refresher of basic math principles and algebra tools that students must master before they can be successful with the more complex algebra problems in the rest of the book. Each lesson in this chapter is just one page of Introduction, Examples, Exercises, and Review. It covers topics such as:

  • adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing integers
  • exponents
  • order of operations
  • relations and functions
  • factors and multiples
No-Nonsense Algebra from Math Essentials (A Homeschool Coffee Break Review) on Homeschool Coffee Break @ kympossibleblog.blogspot.com
One-page lessons in the review chapter

From that point on, the lessons are usually two pages long, with a longer Introduction (that's where the concept is taught and summarized) and more exercises. The chapters are:

  • Chapter 2: Solving Equations
  • Chapter 3: Graphic and Analyzing Linear Equations
  • Chapter 4: Solving and Graphic Inequalities
  • Chapter 5: Systems of Linear Equations and Inequalities
  • Chapter 6: Polynomials
  • Chapter 7: Rational Expressions (Algebraic Functions)
  • Chapter 8: Radical Expressions and Geometry
  • Chapter 9: Quadratic Equations
  • Chapter 10: Algebra Word Problems
Each chapter is followed by a Review test, and at the end there is a Final Review. There's also a section at the end of the book with a Glossary; a listing of formulas and symbols; and charts of commonly used prime numbers, squares and square roots, and fraction/decimal equivalents. The solutions to all the problems in the book are also included at the end, so if you want to make sure your student can't cheat, I recommend just pulling those pages out. 


No-Nonsense Algebra from Math Essentials (A Homeschool Coffee Break Review) on Homeschool Coffee Break @ kympossibleblog.blogspot.com
Important Formulas and Symbols for reference

No-Nonsense Algebra from Math Essentials (A Homeschool Coffee Break Review) on Homeschool Coffee Break @ kympossibleblog.blogspot.com
Glossary for reference

We decided to start with the review section and watch each video lesson (an average of 10 minutes apiece) and work the example along with the instructor for a quick review of the concepts. We're almost finished working through that section, and several times Kennady has told me while watching the video she realized that although she'd known the steps to working almost all of those problems, she now understood how the problem was solved and why it worked.

No-Nonsense Algebra from Math Essentials (A Homeschool Coffee Break Review) on Homeschool Coffee Break @ kympossibleblog.blogspot.com

Following are a couple of screenshots of the video instruction. It is a whiteboard screen on which Mr Fisher works the example problems while teaching the concept and explaining each step. No background classroom noise or music, nothing on the screen to distract.

No-Nonsense Algebra from Math Essentials (A Homeschool Coffee Break Review) on Homeschool Coffee Break @ kympossibleblog.blogspot.com

No-Nonsense Algebra from Math Essentials (A Homeschool Coffee Break Review) on Homeschool Coffee Break @ kympossibleblog.blogspot.com

We also chose a few of the lessons in the later parts of the book to preview, to get a sense of whether Kennady would still find the concise video instruction would adequately explain the math concepts. And we were not disappointed, as we found that the videos were still quite short and the explanations clear and . . . well, no-nonsense! There are enough problems in the book for students to practice and master each concept, but without getting bogged down with something overly repetitive. Get it, prove you got it, and move on.

No-Nonsense Algebra from Math Essentials (A Homeschool Coffee Break Review) on Homeschool Coffee Break @ kympossibleblog.blogspot.com

No-Nonsense Algebra from Math Essentials (A Homeschool Coffee Break Review) on Homeschool Coffee Break @ kympossibleblog.blogspot.com

Kennady said she liked that each lesson and video focused on one concept and explained it clearly, and because they were concise and visually uncluttered, she was able to comprehend and better retain what she had learned. We both like that it teaches and reviews high school algebra thoroughly, but without it needing to take huge chunks of time. In fact, since Kennady started working a summer job during the past few weeks, she has had only the evenings available to work on any schoolwork. She was not thrilled that I wanted her to continue working through the review lessons, but since they really didn't take much more than 15 minutes (I did not have her work all the practice problems for the review topics), she was able to keep up. She confirmed that she does want to continue using No-Nonsense Algebra for her math curriculum this year, and I feel like her confidence level with algebra is going up.

What we liked best:

  • video lessons that are concise and clear, and that focus on just one concept at a time
  • textbook that is also concise and uncluttered, with what we considered a "just right" number of problems to adequately practice and master the concept
  • logical, step-by-step progression through algebra that makes it easy for students to work at the pace that's right for them - we are moving quickly through the review chapter and all concepts that she already understands, and can slow down the pace when there's something she needs more practice with
  • this curriculum can be used as main curriculum, as a supplement, or as a review and test prep, so it's flexible - and at a very affordable price!
What I need to mention:
  • the solutions are in the back of the book, so you may want to pull out those pages so your student won't be tempted to copy
  • students need to be working the example problems along with the instructor, not just watching the screen
Our bottom line: We really like this straight-forward, concise approach to learning Algebra and just in the short time that Kennady has been using it, she has gained confidence that she does understand algebra and that it's not too hard for her. We are planning to use No-Nonsense Algebra all the way to the end of the book in this coming school year and feel that it's a great fit for us.

Math Essentials

Would this No-Nonsense approach to learning Math Essentials be a good fit for your homeschool? Here's what you need to know:
Visit the website: www.MathEssentials.net
See all the products available from Math Essentials: www.MathEssentials.net/products

Pricing: No-Nonsense Algebra is available from the Math Essentials website for $28.95. This includes the workbook and access to all the online video tutorials. 

Age Recommendation: late middle school through high school

You can follow Math Essentials on Facebook.

Visit the Homeschool Review Crew blog for more information and to read other reviews.

No-Nonsense Algebra {Math Essentials Reviews}

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