A few months ago, I was given the opportunity to review a math textbook that was written for public schools but is also available to homeschools. I want to confess up front that one of the main reasons I wanted to review this book is because I was curious what public school textbooks look like today. I received a complimentary copy of enVision Math Grade 1 from Pearson Education to use with seven-year-old James.
The Big Down Side
When the book came in the mail, I was amazed at its size – it’s enormous! It’s as tall as a normal textbook but as wide as two textbooks … kids aren’t going to be storing this book under their desks! It has a soft cover, and students are supposed to tear out the page that they’re working on and fold it in half so that it’s a normal book size. I don’t really understand the point of that and found it inconvenient and at all space-efficient. If the pages are just going to be folded to book size anyway, I don’t know why they need to be printed in the super wide format.
I also don’t really understand having a child tear out every single page to work on it. In our house, all those papers just created a big mess and I threw away the vast majority of them after James worked on them. I decided to save the lesson tests for records, but everything else has gone in the trash as quickly as he’s finished.
At first, I was keeping the enVision Math book nearby – on the couch, in the floor, stuffed precariously on our bookshelf – and tearing out the page James needed to work on just before I handed it to him. After a few weeks, though, I got quite tired of having this huge book lying around all the time. I tore out about ten pages, folded them, and paper clipped them together. I put the pages on our school shelf where we can grab them easily each day. I put the great big book in the closet where I’ll go when I need to tear out more pages. This is working much better for us!
The Big Up Side!
Really, the size is just a small inconvenience and not a big deal at all. The important thing is – James loves this book!
From the first worksheet, he has been thoroughly enamored with “doing math” in his new math book. Each page is full color with drawings of kids, animals, trucks, and other items. If you can imagine the single wide sheet folded in half so that it’s a two-page book/sheet -
- The first/cover page gives the title and number of the lesson along with a central area that says “Home – School Connection.”
- The inside is a two-page spread with math problems on both sides and a brief instruction across the top.
- The back page includes more math problems.
Home – School Connection – This doesn’t mean “homeschool” connection, which is what I thought when I first saw the phrase. It means home to public school connection. I didn’t get the Teacher’s Manual to go with the enVision Math student book, so I’ve been basically winging it as I tell James what to do on each page. One thing I’ve never been able to figure out, though, is just what exactly is supposed to be done on this Home – School Connection page. There are spots for writing math problems, but all the spots are blank. So, for example, it might say “____ + _____ = ____” but there’s no explanation as to what problem should be written there.
I wonder if the intention is for parents at home to give their kids problems that go along with the work that was done in the public school classroom, but I don’t know for sure. I’ve just been skipping those pages altogether – James works the two inner pages and the back page, but we never try to do anything with the front page. I don’t really feel like we’re missing any learning by doing that.
The Two-Page Spread – Across the top of both inner pages is a brief instruction on the lesson. It takes the student step-by-step through the problem solving that is being taught using animal or kid characters and colorful numbers. James and I read through this part together, and I offer any additional instruction that I feel might be necessary for him to understand. So far, we haven’t come across any lesson that is too complicated for me to do this way. If you were using enVision Math for one of the older grade levels, it might be more necessary to have the Teacher’s Manual for instructional help.
Each work-page asks the student to do only around ten problems, and everything is shown with pictures and lots of color. There are no stark white pages with rows of math equations, which is good for those kids who freeze when given such a worksheet. The problems always incorporate visualization, manipulatives, and real life examples. There is a constant thread of “Let’s do math,” instead of just solving random equations.
I like this approach and have been pleased with enVision Math’s way of presenting math topics and of leading kids through problem-solving exercises. I typically have James work on three work pages a day, which takes him about 15 minutes. There is quite a bit of reading on each page – reading instructions, word problems, etc. – and James isn’t yet able/ready to read all of that by himself. This means that I have to stay available to read most of the problems to him.
The book frequently asks students to use cubes that snap together as manipulatives. We don’t have that type of cube, so we use our Math-U-See blocks and that works just fine. Having used the book for just about two months, I can’t speak for its effectiveness over the long term – but I’ve been quite pleased with it so far. James’ enjoyment of it is fantastic, and I appreciate how it uses hands-on teaching and problem solving techniques.
The enVision Math Grade 1 student book can be purchased from the Pearson Education website for $34.47. All of the teacher materials require a public school purchase order, which is unfortunate because I do think the Teacher’s Manual would be helpful in getting the most use out of the student book. As I said, not everything in the student book is readily apparent and useable without further explanation.
© 2011 – 2012, Cindy. All rights reserved.