Mastering Essential Math Skills: Pre-Algebra Concepts
This math system, designed by math teacher Richard Fisher over a 20-year period, will bring to light any "holes" or deficiencies in math skills. Each lesson is presented on a single page and is designed to be doable in 20 minutes. There are two "groups" of books in the series: one roughly leveled series of two books that incorporates multiple topics, and a topical series designed for grades 4-12. These books aren't colorful, but they have an unintimidating look that may make math practice more inviting. Book 1, Book 2 and Pre-Algebra also include access to online video tutorials (one per each lesson in the books). For additional audio-visual instruction, DVDs are also available for several of the books.
Book 1 and Book 2 offer five parts to each single-page lesson: speed drills, review exercises, teacher tips, new material, and a word problem, all of which fits into the 20-minute time frame. Students first complete the review exercises. These are generally only four problems per day that provide reinforcement of previously-learned math skills. Speed drills come next. These are always fact wheels with the center blank. You supply the "wild" addend or factor, based on your child's particular need for practice with certain fact families. New material is introduced next, along with "helpful hints" and examples. You should work the two sample problems with your child. Then, they complete the daily exercises (usually about ten) and word problem. Each book contains a "How to Use This Book" section, which makes it easy to use, and all solutions to exercises are included. Book 1 chapters include whole numbers; fractions; decimals; ratios, proportions and percents; geometry; number theory and algebra; integers; charts and graphs; probability and statistics; word problems and final review, all in 160 pages. Book 2 is divided into sections that cover more advanced aspects of whole numbers, fractions, decimals, percents, geometry, integers, charts and graphs, word problems, and review. An answer key is included in Books 1 and 2. Consumable, approximately 144 pgs.
Topical book lessons have 4 key parts. They begin with a review exercise covering previously learned concepts. Helpful hints introduce the new material, then two sample problems are to be worked by the adult and the student, then students do problems on their own for practice. The last item of each lesson is one word problem for students to solve. There are usually about 10 practice problems except in the problem solving book which may have fewer. Each book ends with a Final Review and a Final Test over the content of that specific book.
The instructional DVDs which accompany these books feature the author, Richard Fisher, "America's Math Teacher," and can be purchased separately or with the books. They include thorough explanations and demonstrations on a white board of the concept or concepts for each lesson. There is over 6 hours of instruction on each of the DVDs, and they are intended to accompany the Mastering Essential Math Skills books. The format of the DVDs remind me a bit of the Saxon DIVE CDS, but these are written on white board using a black marker and Mr. Fisher uses red at times to make it easier to follow his explanations. His instruction consists of the information found in the "Helpful Hints" sections of the book with elaboration. These DVDs are instruction only and you will need the corresponding book for each student. - Linda / Donna
While offering some instruction, these programs include less teaching material or do not cover the full range of grade-level skills that the comprehensive programs offer.