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s/o - AoPS looks a bit daunting


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Dd is in 6th grade and finishing up SM 6B.  Before 5th grade, I mapped together a plan for what general path we would take through middle school.  At that time, I had spent time looking at the different math choices.  I am a mathy person.  Dd is also very good at math but it is not her favorite subject.  She gets easily frustrated with things that do not come easily to her and tends to get sloppy and pokey when this happens.  I have been working with her through the last two years of SM to get a handle on these issues.  She is better, but frustration still causes trouble.  From the outside, I think she picks math concepts up quickly, but she thinks anything that takes any effort at all is something she is "not good at."  

 

So, two years ago when I was reviewing curriculum, I was drawn to AoPS for the late-middle and high school years.  Now that we are getting closer to when I planned to switch, I just spent a couple of hours on their site and went over it all again.  I am having concerns.

 

My plan was to test dd and have her either start with pre-algebra at a normal pace or algebra at a very slow pace, depending on the test results.  I started looking at the samples for the algebra text.  I attempted to look at it as though I were a 12 year old with a stormy math relationship.  It looked far more daunting than it did two years ago.  No problem, right?  Let's look at the pre-algebra text samples.  Those also seem a bit daunting.  With such limited pages to look at, and not knowing the context from which they came, they just seem like a huge leap form the happy pictures and fun text in SM.

 

I am wondering if I am off-track with the math plan.   

 

We have used SM all the way through so far.  She has always struggled with the CWP but tends to do very well with the regular text, workbook, and extra practice problems.  When she bombs an assignment, it is always due to rushing, sloppiness, or lack of focus.  When required to redo the incorrect problems, she seldom has trouble fixing them.

 

It is too early to tell what career path dd might be interested in.  We do think she is college-bound and I would not rule out a STEM path at this point.  

 

Is AoPS a really bad fit for the non-perfect math student?  Would this be a poor fit for someone who has a touch of math-phobia?  If so, are there other programs we should consider that would still be on track for a potential STEM educational path?  I did this all from scratch two years ago but lack the energy to start all over again!

 

 

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AoPS is a bad fit for my kid who had math perfection/phobia.  Pre-A actually worked very well for him, but he bombed out in A and we changed to another program and then an online course.  (It's been a fun year.  ;) )

 

That said, you don't have a lot to lose, IMO, by trying the Pre-A.  Keep in mind that my boys followed the same progression of SM that your girl has (except my younger son started pre-A after SM 5B).  I would NOT have skipped the pre-A and gone directly to the Algebra in AoPS.  I shored them up in negative numbers the summer before starting pre-A and then we detoured in Ch 2 and Ch 5 of Pre-A to cement concepts that needed more time (for both boys) using different materials.

 

My student who has continued with AoPS Algebra this year is my younger son, who is an outlier in every way.  He tolerates the struggle well and understands the concepts as presented.  This was not true of my other son.

 

I am decidedly NOT mathy, and I had no issues understanding and working through the pre-A alongside my boys.  My younger son is almost completely independent in the Algebra this year, though, which he is capable of.  The size of the book is a bit daunting.  It took a solid calendar year (with the detours) to make it through, and my boys skipped a couple of chapters.  One chapter really eluded them (Statistics, I think...), but I understood it well and settled for having them watch me work through the problems.

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Is AoPS a really bad fit for the non-perfect math student?  Would this be a poor fit for someone who has a touch of math-phobia?  If so, are there other programs we should consider that would still be on track for a potential STEM educational path?  I did this all from scratch two years ago but lack the energy to start all over again!

 

My dd is almost done with Ch. 7 of Pre-A (so half way through the book). She is bright, but math has never been intuitive for her and she did not like it. Thanks to AoPS, math is now one of her favorite subjects. She has a far higher tolerance for struggling through tough problems than she did at the beginning of the year. And even if she gets it wrong, she has developed the patience to learn from her mistakes.

 

We do use AoPS in a non-traditional way, however. We sit at the table with the book between us. We read on our own and work the problems/exercises on our own notebooks, but we stop frequently to discuss. When we started, I read the solutions to her and we did the problems on a whiteboard. We have slowly transitioned to her doing more of the work on her own. I plan to continue to work alongside her when we go into Algebra next year - for my sake as much as hers at this point.

 

I feel the need to share because AoPS has been such a success with a "non-mathy" student here. But heck yes, there are other programs that will work for a kid on a STEM path. MM 7 would be a good place to look at Pre-Algebra if you think it is needed. Foerester has been given positive reviews everywhere I have looked. I have it as my Plan B for Algebra, and would have no problem switching my STEM oriented girl into it if AoPS stopped working for her.

 

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May I ask what you changed to? Thanks!

After 8-9 weeks of AoPS Algebra, I realized he was not only not learning, he was "filling in the blanks" with incorrect ways of approaching problems.  I grabbed Saxon from a friend for a week while I researched and then ordered Foerster's Algebra.  This worked very well for about 10 weeks or so, until he hit a wall in Chapter 5.  He is now in Jann in Texas's (from this board) online Algebra 1 class, and this is an amazing fit for him.  He is an average-ish student with some math propensity, but he needs things broken down, simplified, repeated and practiced to be successful at this level.  My plan for next year for him is Geometry online in Jann's class.

 

I don't regret using AoPS pre-A for him.  I'm glad he was able to wrap up his elementary math career with that program.  It stretched him, and we took rabbit trails that really helped cement important concepts for the future.  I suspected that the Algebra would be a poor fit for him, but he wanted to continue with AoPS so I allowed it.  He would have benefitted from being enrolled in Jann's class from the beginning of the year, but all's well that ends well.  :)

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My daughter is a bright girl who dislikes math, but is actually pretty good at it. I bought AOPS pre algebra after SM 6b (at age 10) and could tell right off it would be like pulling teeth. I sent it back and focused on finding materials for the learner she is, not the learner I am or the learner I want her to be. We went with Galore Park 2 and then 3 and then moved into Foersters Algebra. It worked really well without being frustrating or intimidating looking... It eased her nicely into algebra.

Because your daughter likely needs one, not two years of easing into algebra, I would do a traditional pre-algebra course. There are plenty of good pre-algebra options, but I would not jump straight to algebra or into AOPS with a stormy math relationship. There's nothing wrong with taking the less strenuous path until she's feeling the love. She'll get there in the end.

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It wasn't a good fit here for primary instruction.  DD was frustrated with this extreme version of the discovery method - it frustrated her when she didn't understand why she was doing what she was doing and how it fit in to the big picture.  There were a lot of words, but the explanation didn't always click with her.  The challenging problems that stretch her are what I like most about AoPS, but she needs a good explanation of the concept before she's ready to tackle those.  We use Alcumus as a followup after studying a topic, and that works well.

 

She used Jousting Armadillos and Zaccaro Real World Algebra for PreAlgebra, and has been working through Jacobs this year.  I broke down and bought her the next book after JA, though - Crocodiles and coconuts - because she loved JA so much.  She's taking a break from textbook algebra at the moment doing the Algebra 1 and Geometry classes on edX, but we'll come back to C&C and Jacobs this spring.

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Skimomma, there are other programs out there that are very good, so don't feel that AoPS is the only choice, especially if it doesn't suit your student.  For algebra, there's Dolciani, Foerster, etc.  For prealgebra, perhaps there is little that needs to be added to SM6, I don't know; there's Dolciani, Russian Math 6 (I often forget about that one!), now there's MM7, etc.  Then there's eIMACS Elements of Mathematics on-line, which is newer to the scene, a very different approach.

 

There are multiple ways to add in the AoPS/math-competition-style problem solving.  You might choose traditional texts and then see if she'll take the MathCounts course, for example, or later on, the other problem-solving courses or math competition prep courses.  Or she could join a math club, etc.

 

I often think that, had I been exposed to this type of math back in the day, say with math competitions, my academic career might have turned out very differently.  I hadn't seen math like this before AoPS.  Probably the single thing that I love most about AoPS is the big-picture approach, the most streamlined, efficient organization of the information for the way my kids (and I) think.  Every time we move away from AoPS (and we have hopped around plenty), we come back.  In the past, we have used it along the lines of how Tracy uses it.  (I love the Prealgebra text, much more than the algebra.)  Now we are using the classes after having done a good bit in the books; it will be interesting to see how the fast-paced algebra 1 works out for my relatively reluctant mathy ones, though I wouldn't be doing it if they hadn't already been through a good bit of the alcumus topics and book chapters because the amount of time they'll devote to math weekly wouldn't be enough for all that at the same time.

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My dd is taking AOPS's pre-A class. I was very hesitant to use AOPS because, like your dd, my dd can tend to shut down if she can't figure out the answer right away. She used Singapore through 5B and enjoyed it, but I was still afraid of AOPS.

 

She has done much better than I expected. She loves the online part of it. I think being prepared for class and having to submit work to an outside grader has helped motivate her to try the harder problems. She love Alcumus and turning her progress bars blue. She loves the videos too.

 

I do have her follow up her AOPS work as time permits with problems from Dolciani's Pre-A. I feel that she sometimes needs more practice with the algorithms and cementing the procedures that AOPS gives, although the high-level thinking AOPS teaches is invaluable.

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AoPS pre-algebra is going better than I thought it would for my DD (10.5, 5th grade). I was hesitant because she tends to get frustrated, but she thrived in BA so I decided to give it a try.

 

I'm using it along with Lial's, and I'm not convinced that AoPS will be the right choice for her long-term, which is why I am happy to partner it with a program like Lial's which gives me an alternate long-term route. 

 

I still supplement with lots of things, as is our norm for math, but I do encourage the discovery method in AoPS as our first step. I don't think we're as hardcore as many in our use of AoPS, which might be why it's working for us. I care much more about her getting the conceptual understanding than I do about her discovering it outright on her own.

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my son was ready for pre-a in 5th grade and we tried Pre-A AoPS but it was too daunting with all the reading and discovery required. We moved to Tablet Class and he has done well. He is starting Counting and Prob next week and I am a little concerned with the pacing but I think he has matured enough to handle it.

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The jury is out here on Aops, plus this particular mother has muddled implementation, so I can't even "blame" Aops (not that one blames a curriculum...). I am just chiming in to agree with texasmama that I would not do Aops algebra without doing Aops prealgebra. We jumped into the pre-a book half way (having used a different pre-a program previously) and it has been difficult.

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I still supplement with lots of things, as is our norm for math, but I do encourage the discovery method in AoPS as our first step. I don't think we're as hardcore as many in our use of AoPS, which might be why it's working for us. I care much more about her getting the conceptual understanding than I do about her discovering it outright on her own.

We are not hardcore, either.  We used the pre-A in a different manner, more of a teaching rather than discovery.  I would argue that this is a very legitimate way to use it which opens its usage up to a greater number of students.

 

My older son who used the pre-A quite effectively could not have done it as written. 

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We did Singapore 5a/5b, Jousting Armadillos, and are just about to enter Chapter five of Aops PreA. I liked doing JA first- so Aops isn't completely discovery, but there's enough left to make it still incredibly challenging. My son is a math lover, but it is definitely taking a loonng time to get through. I only help him when he gets stuck on easy problems- when it's the challenge problems all I do is stand there staring at the book bewildered until he has an AHA moment. I am literally no help. He loves puzzles and hates repetition so Aops has been perfect for him.

 

His twin, who is doing Beast Academy 3b right now, is just beginning to love math- she was convinced for k-2 (public school) that she was bad at math and didn't understand it. She did some Singapore 3A, which I will still use, but BA really made her enjoy math and now she's actually reading about it in her spare time. To say I love AOPS would be an understatement!

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We are not hardcore, either.  We used the pre-A in a different manner, more of a teaching rather than discovery.  I would argue that this is a very legitimate way to use it which opens its usage up to a greater number of students.

 

My older son who used the pre-A quite effectively could not have done it as written. 

 

I suspect that this is how we end up using it more and more as we progress. So far it's been review and fairly straightforward for her.

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Thanks so much everyone!  Lots of helpful info here.

 

I am sure that dd's math issues are not 100% due to frustration.  She really dislikes repetition.  And she is not at all good about telling us how she feels about things.  She can say she is "frustrated" but cannot seem to explain why.  This is more than a math issue.

 

Since I cannot really shake it out of her, I can only go with what I can guess from observation.  I think we are dealing with two issues:

 

1.  She gets easily discouraged when new things do not come easily.  This is true outside of math as well.  She is bright and generally picks things up very quickly.  When she does not, she is quick to get discouraged.  We have been working on this for years.

 

2.  She hates drill and repetition.  I think she NEEDS it sometimes because when there is not enough it shows during review work.  But it is really difficult for me to sort out when she actually needs it and when the mistakes I see are happening because she is bored, stops focussing, gets sloppy, rushes, and makes silly mistakes.  In all honesty, I would guess 80% (or more) of her mistakes are not conceptual.

 

Item #2 is what originally led me to AoPS.  It looks like something that would combat boredom.  But I don't want that choice to exasperate item #1.

 

Two years ago I looked at everything.  I have reviewed my notes.  I know there are tons and tons of programs.  At that time (working with our 5th grade situation), I categorized the curriculum into categories based on that I felt would work well for her.  I for sure have other options.  My gut is still telling me AoPS could really be the best choice.  And as someone above said, we really don't have anything to lose.  If it is awful, we switch up.  That along with the suggestions to begin with pre-algebra even if she has covered most of the topics in SM 6 make me pretty confident in going forward.

 

But.

 

Then I look at those samples again.  They just look to "scary" in contrast to SM.  There is every chance int he world that I am overthinking this and that dd will welcome a more mature approach.

 

I probably should have HER look at it.  Duh.  Why did I not think of that?

 

 

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I used the pre-A end of chapter reviews as a gauge for mastery.  It was always crystal clear when my guys needed to branch off to a different curriculum to reinforce the concepts.  This happened in Chapters 2 and 5 of Pre-A.  After my guys flunked the end of chapter review in Ch 5, we went on a six week rabbit trail through appropriate sections of Zaccaro's Real World Algebra and Dolciani.  Then they passed the Chapter 5 end of review with flying colors.  They really enjoyed Zaccaro, particularly my older son.  It is straightforward but kind of silly and gave some fun ways to remember the information.  I am a Zaccaro fan.

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But.

 

Then I look at those samples again.  They just look to "scary" in contrast to SM.  There is every chance int he world that I am overthinking this and that dd will welcome a more mature approach.

 

I probably should have HER look at it.  Duh.  Why did I not think of that?

It is scary.  It's not just you.  But I did it, and so did my kids.  From SM, no less.  :D

 

Yes, I would have her look at samples and also watch a Richard R. video.  They are free on the site.  I heart RR.

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I only help him when he gets stuck on easy problems- when it's the challenge problems all I do is stand there staring at the book bewildered...

 

This made me lol b/c I've done this too! Thankfully, all but once he had the AHA moment during my bewilderment :). That ONE time, I actually had to take the book, study the section, & work the problem so that I could step him through it. Sure enough, about 2 steps into my review of what I had *discovered* his AHA arrived & I breathed a sigh of relief :).

 

OP, I thought AoPS looked intimidating myself. I put my son on Alcumus for a couple of weeks & observed. He wasn't perfect at it, but he didn't back down from the challenges either. I realized he could probably handle what I thought looked daunting. He has expressed to me several times since that AoPS math is *so* much better than his previous math (dull).

 

I was glad I gave him the chance to try it. I have other books on the shelf in case it wasn't a fit :).

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I would NOT have skipped the pre-A and gone directly to the Algebra in AoPS.

 

.

I agree. I have a kid who is bright in math - not savant, more high ability. I would not skip the pre-a. AOPS is so different than other math programs and we are almost done with the pre-a now and feel like he has a really good foundation for the algebra. There is so much good stuff in the pre-a book, plus I think it acclimates them well to the aops "way".

 

Plus, the Algebra book covers more than a standard Intro to Algebra... Some people use it over two years. Ch 1-13, I believe, are considered Algebra I. Without knowing that, I think some people get bogged down.

 

That being said, there are many people who moved into Alg because the pre-a didn't exist:-) so take these thoughts with a grain of salt. I just like them to be able to chew on their aops lessons because they are so good!

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