Friday, April 27, 2012

Review: Balance Math (Critical Thinking Co)

In case you are short on time today, let me give you the short version of this review.  I LOVE products by Critical Thinking Co. They are very nicely done, easy to use, and just fabulous. Head on over to their website and check out the vast amounts of resources for your homeschool.  Right now.  Go on.  Try not to buy one of everything! (Psst!  They have bundles if you’d like to try!)

Now, for those of you who require more detail and specifics, I was sent two products for review, both covering math topics targeting grades 4-12. 
Balance Math Teaches Algebra by Robert Femiano presents algebra with a visual approach using balance scales. There is a 2-page sample at the website to print and try out a few of the 52 activities provided. The activities are presented from simple to complex, building upon the previous pages.

PhotobucketMy son,who is currently in pre-algebra, has a pretty mathematical mind. However, during his math work, I noticed that he doesn’t always get balancing equations. He understands how to do the calculations, how to combine like terms, and use other skills needed to balance equations. However, he doesn’t always recognize that the equals sign in an equation means if you did something on one side of the equation, you must do the same on the other to maintain balance. This isn’t too surprising, since he is still working through some directional challenges related to his struggles with dyslexia. It is frustrating, however, and we've been working on recognition of the equals sign as creating two sides of the equation.

When I gave my son his first sheet of Balance Math to complete, he immediately knew how to work the problems. In fact, he was working the problems in his head faster than I was. Usually when new material is presented to him, he needs to go through examples and do a few problems. Balance Math was completely intuitive for my visual learner. It instantly clicked.

Balance Math &More Level 2 by Robert Femiano, includes some of the same activities as Balance Math along with two additional activities called Tic Tac Math and Inside-Out Math.  There is a 3-page sample at the website that will provide examples of the differing puzzles offered in the 38 activities.  There are three levels of this series, with Level 2 focusing on multiplication and division of whole numbers, with a few problems using fractions.

We focused on just the Tic Tac Math and the Inside-Out Math since we were already doing the Balance Math sets from the other book.  One thing I noticed with these types of problems was it wasn’t the math my son struggled with, but the sequencing and accuracy needed. My son is too quick to get frustrated with multi-step problems where the answer to one part is needed for another.  Part of this is because he is very much a big picture person and breaking things down into parts presents more of a challenge.  When adding that to a tendency to rush work and make silly errors, the outcome is one frustrated boy.  I noticed that both of these exercises forced him to practice both his sequencing and accuracy skills in a rather non-threatening and visual manner.  While he didn't enjoy the other activities in this book as much as the Balance Math, I appreciated that they provided some much needed practice in some weak areas.  I always mourn an incorrect answer because of silly calculation errors!

Both of these titles are reproducible for home or classroom use, which makes them a great value as the copyright legally allows use for multiple children. The pages are perforated to make copying convenient.

As expected, these are two titles that I can definitely recommend to those looking for some supplemental math materials. Balance Math Teaches Algebra is available for $14.99 and Balance Math and More Level 2 is available for $9.99. Explore many of the other products available from Critical Thinking Co. with the printable samples and software demos available. 

Disclaimer: This review was provided as a result of my participation in The Old Schoolhouse Magazine Crew. I was provided the product free of charge in exchange for my honest review. I have received no other compensation. I strive to give a balanced overview of each product, detailing my opinion of both pros and cons and how the product worked for my family. What works for one family may not work for another. I encourage you to read reviews of other Crew members and research sufficiently to determine if any product will be a benefit to your homeschool. You may read more reviews on this product by visiting here.


Suji said...

I've drooled often over those CT bundles. :) Thanks for the review. Just recently stumbled upon your blog and have added it to my list of favorites. Hope you don't mind!

Heidi said...

Thanks for stopping by, Suji! I've been tempted by those bundles too!