Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Math Mammoth~ Real Learning, States By the Numbers

See.... I told you there would be more math.... and there is and will be more yet again... ;) (WHEW!)

This time around is a re-run of a vendor from last year, Maria Miller's

You can read my review last year of "Golden Series 6-B", and "Light Blue Complete Grade 2" , but right now I'd like to talk about the "States By the Numbers/ Make it Real Learning" workbooks. (With problems that are appropropriate for grades 3-7)

The concept behind these workbooks is to use real math concepts and numbers to help your children practice their math facts, and to see how math might be used in "The REAL world... " :)
The books use facts and numbers pulled from the Census Bureau's 2008 Statistical Abstract of the United States.

Because I'm from Montana, but have lived more of my life in Massachusetts, and because they are two very diverse states, I requested the appropriate state books as I thought it would be interesting to see what these two books look like.

Each workbooks covers the same basic material in cookie cutter fashion. Each book uses the same nice two-page explanations with sample problems. The topics appear to also use the same word problems(20 in each)with only the actual figures changing according to state. This is where going through these books unit-study-style could come in, comparing the answers for two such states that vary so widely in size and population as Montana and Massachusetts. The topics covered, with MY opinions on the grade levels of each is as follows:
  • Place Value~ 3rd-5th grade
  • Rounding~ 4th-6th grade
  • Estimation~ 5th - 7th grade
  • Understanding Fractions and Percents ~ 5th -7th grade
Now for my general feelings:
  • Some of the "content" was a little over the heads of the intended audience, and the explanations (for instance "what a BTU is") just muddled their thoughts and confused them as to what they were supposed to be doing math-wise.
  • Some of the wording of the problems was a little clunky, and even "mom" had to read them a couple of times in order to understand what was required to answer the question.
  • The "Cookie cutter" approach is interesting for the sake of comparison, but there are some questions where states with lower numbers (Either in land or population figures) should be modified to make sense. For instance, when talking about Montana's population in the Estimation section(question 16), it would make more sense to round the population to the nearest 10 thousand rather than 100 thousand(Since Montana hasn't quite hit a million yet, although they are getting closer!).... Likewise, it might make more sense with smaller states to round some of the area questions to the hundreds place rather than the thousands place.
  • Now a more negative comment than I usually care to give~ I feel that the workbooks need their answer keys to be gone over more thoroughly. I remembered having a couple of issues with incorrect answer keys in the books we used last year, but I assumed they were flukes, after all no one is perfect, and we've had similar experiences with other curriculum. This time, however, the number of answer key mistakes was a rather higher percentage than I am willing to accept... It is not helpful to a busy homeschooling mom (Who should be able to rely on provided answer keys), and aggravating to children who get problems "wrong", and then later find out they were actually correct... For instance, out of 20 questions in the Massachusetts "Estimation" section, 3 out of 20 questions had the incorrect answer in the answer key, 1 other question was not clear in expecting the work to be carried out to the hundreths place and then rounded to the tenths place, and a final question (in both the MA and the MT books) included an explanation that was the opposite of the actual answer. :\ In the same section of the Montana book, there were 2 incorrect answer key answers out of 20....
Based on these experiences, I would not actually recommend the the States By the Numbers books, until the answer keys have been gone over and edited for correct answers, and perhaps some of the questions reworded to make more sense to the average adult, not to mention the average child.

I truly do hope that each book will be gone through with an eye to correcting the answer keys, because they do provide an interesting framework for real math in the real world at a fairly reasonable price ($2.99 for each state book as a pdf download).

If you would like to see a sample of the States By The Numbers books, they have the North Dakota book available as a free download, as well as free samples from many of the other books offered.

For more opinions, on these and other offerings from Math Mammoth, please visit the TOS Crew Blog, and see what my fellow Crew Mates have to say(I know that some of them are EXTREMELY happy with Math Mammoth, so if your family doesn't work the same way that mine does, you might want to get some more opinions!). As always, I hope my reviews will help you to spend your homeschool budget wisely.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this item/service for free as part of the TOS Crew Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commision's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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