I have mentioned several times here that we are using Rod & Staff for our main math curriculum this year. With many people making decisions for next school year at this time, I wanted to share with you why we will continue to use this math curriculum! (Be sure you also check out my post 5 Ways to Make Math FUN!)
1.) Plain & Simple
Coming from a Mennonite publisher, there is nothing flashy, bright, or colorful in the Rod & Staff curriculum. I actually consider this a major plus for us! Big Brother has some pretty noticeable issues with attention and focus, and he is very easily distracted. The plain black & white pages without a lot of unnecessary "fluff" actually help him to stay calmer and better able to just focus on his work.
Yes I know that math is math, but I love being able to incorporate Scriptures and lessons about the Lord in our math program. God is a God of order, and this is clearly shown in this curriculum. Big Brother mentioned just yesterday that he likes the short verses and Christian poems that are sprinkled throughout the workbook. He says they make him happy. :) You just can't beat that folks!!
Another big thing here is that the word problems are practical and many have good Christian themes. This is important to me. When I was in 8th grade, my mom had me try Saxon's Algebra 1/2 for the first quarter or so of the year. Not only did I despise the spiral method of instruction (more on that later!), but I also noticed the word problems were just...weird!?! We sat down and started looking up some of the names and words used and found many subtle references to Hinduism and other stuff that was just...weird. 'Nuff said. (So I switched and finished 8th grade and high school with ACE math. Also a good math program!)
3.) Predictable Lessons & Easy to Teach
Big Brother feels so confident when doing his math lessons because each lesson is set up according to the same basic pattern and he knows exactly what to expect when he gets to his workbook. He has 1 minute speed drills every other day. This really helps build a predictable routine which is so helpful for him.
The Teacher's Manuals (though written for a classroom teacher) are amazing! I am given detailed activities to do each day for our math class time. Prep time is extremely minimal. I do add a few extra hands on things here and there such as LEGO learning, games, etc, but the Teacher Manuals are full of great teaching ideas! I would venture to say if all you did with your child was do the "Class Time" activities found in the Teacher's Manuals for each lesson without even using the actual workbooks, your child would still get a complete math class. It is just that good!
4.) Mastery based
Ok, I know I will catch some flack here, but I firmly believe that mastery based math instruction is best! Call me what you want. I do not think teaching multiple concepts at the same time without the child having time to master any of them is a good approach. I mentioned my own struggles with Saxon (a spiral based program) as a homeschooled 8th grader. The concepts presented seemed random, and I felt like I was drowning in a whirlpool of unrelated concepts with nothing to really grasp. That is the best way I can describe how it feels to try to learn with the spiral method. Saxon, ABeka, and several other popular programs out there teach using this method. No. Not for us!
Rod & Staff (along with A.C.E. and a few others) teach based on the concept of mastery. One concept, fact, or skill is taught at a time; and it is taught to the point that the child master's it before going on to the next. Learning builds naturally and gradually. This is actually based on a Biblical principle found in Isaiah 28:10 For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little:
Big Brother is amazing in his ability to quickly recall his basic math facts without the need of his fingers or other props. He is also able to apply these facts in real time in real life situations. So I know it is working and he is internalizing the concepts while mastering these math skills. I know learning facts might not be popular these days, but it is still helpful for the child later on as the concepts become more difficult! My mother as a Christian school administrator and tutor has encountered numerous teens who could NOT do even simple algebra because they had never mastered their basic math facts. Sad but true.
I might throw in here that some of the top scoring private schools in the nation use Rod & Staff as their math curriculum! Impressed yet?!
For what it is worth, let me say that my beloved husband went through the same Saxon book I hated in the church school he attended and is great at math...but he also works out number problems in his head for fun because he finds it relaxing (serously!)...so I think he just has a natural inclination toward math and would have thrived with any curriculum. He did master his basic facts with mastery-based ACE for the first few years of his education before beginning Saxon, so no doubt that helped him more than he realizes!
The final reason we will be sticking with Rod & Staff math is more of a practical/economical reason. The materials are pretty inexpensive compared to other mainstream math curricula out there! Being a Mennonite company they do not have a website, but you can order Rod & Staff curricula online from one of their dealers such as Milestone Books.
From 3rd grade up the student books are nonconsummable so you can save them for the next child in line! Great for bigger families!!
What is your favorite math curriculum? Why? Have you tried Rod & Staff? I would love to hear your take!!
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