Wow! The Art of Problem Solving (AOPS) folks have me pretty darn impressed with their new math curriculum for 2nd-5th graders, called Beast Academy. I received a free sample chapter in the mail to review, and it was a geometry section from one of the two, third grade books. As my son Bruce (6) puts it: “It’s like they copied Calvin and Hobbes but stuck in a lot of educational stuff and took out the human beings.” That’s an apt description, and I have never seen another math program like it.
This is from the Guide book.
This is from the Practice book.
Of course, it’s too bad that I of all people received the geometry section, because what I would really love to peruse would be arithmetic. How are they going to handle traditional algorithms? I’m dying to know. I have very strong feelings about how math should be taught from a Constructivist perspective.
From a careful reading of the geometry section however, it seems that Beast Academy encourages problem solving and critical thinking skills, two core components of Constructivism. This program does not seem to be spoon feeding children methods to solving problems, but rather encouraging them to analyze and think for themselves. It is based on the National Common Core State Standards.
Another strength of Beast Academy is the answer key at the back of the Practice book, which I bet is going to educate a lot of parents who use this program. It has the most detailed explanations for solving problems that I have ever seen in a math book for children. This would be a valuable asset to parents who were not trained in teaching math, or who had a weak background in mathematics themselves.
For Afterschooling families such as ours, I think Beast Academy would be an excellent choice becase it is so engaging and fun. If you wanted to use it as a summer bridge activity, you could do both the Guide and Practice books. If you were only looking for a bedtime read-aloud during the school year that would sneak in some math, you could just get the Guide.
How to compare this to other homeschool curriculums on the market? It is totally different from anything I have ever seen in public schools. It’s a whole lot better mathematically than Life of Fred (Pro). It does not seem to be as hands-on or as manipulative based as Right Start (Con). I wish I had a background using Singapore so I could compare it with that. Maybe I can convince my friend Claire to write a guest post with that info after I mail her the books! (No pressure, Claire.) 🙂