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AOPS Pre-Algebra-- Does anyone find the explanations a bit over the top?


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Hi Everyone,

We just started AOPS.   My feelings are mixed.   On one hand, the book is NOT as difficult as people make it out to be.  We are not gifted math people.  We are just normal people who like math.   I was REALLY intimidated by these books (remember my freak out post a few weeks ago wondering if my kids were ready?), but they are really not bad at all.  The problems are actually very fun and really great for teaching you to look for mental math "tricks" when solving them.   

However, I find the explanations tend to be WAY more complicated than they need to be.   Luckily, I understand the math well enough (at this level!) that I am able to just re-teach and explain it myself.   The problem is that I don't know that I am always going to be able to re-teach their math every year as it gets harder and harder.    This has me second guessing my AOPS path.  Are all of the AOPS books similar to pre-algebra?    Do we just need to get used to the "AOPS Style"?   

The kids are also on a mathcounts team.   They are working through old tests.  They do as many as they can independently, and then any that they can't solve correctly, we (the adults) jump in and help them at our team meeting.  We keep track of the problems the kids missed....and later (much later after they have forgotten the tests) we have them go through the problems they didn't know how to solve again to see if they can get them correct.   

The kids have a LOT of fun working on the math counts and AMC 8 tests.   There is some friendly competition going on among teammates to solve the problems and to see how many they can get done during the week.    In fact, they feel like AOPS is just taking up time that could be spent working on these old tests.  :)   Part of me is thinking that I could use Math Counts as their pre-algebra curriculum to sort of firm up any arithmetic operations that they are weak on.  Then maybe do an "easy" Algebra book, and then do AOPS Algebra next year.  Do you think this would be a bad plan?  Is it better just to stick with the AOPS Pre-Algebra?   Any advice would be appreciated!   

Thanks!

Cathy

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I have not seen the pre-alg book, so no comment there. But, I feel the same way about the explanations in Singapore and BA2. When my kids took AoPS alg up, I was never involved. My Dd did not like AoPS and moved back to Foerster's. My ds loved AoPS and stayed with it through cal. Do kids need AoPS? absolutely not. If it is a good fit, it is a fabulous option. But, if not, use a text that suits your child's learning style. You can always supplement with AoPS challenge problems without using the text's teaching style.

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3 hours ago, SJ. said:

Have you tried using the videos to teach the lessons?  They are found on the AOPS website. I think there is a video for most sections.

Yes, the videos are absolutely fantastic, and they do not overcomplicate things at all.    However, I think I still have to read the text too...right?   I am not sure if the videos cover everything in the book.   

 

3 hours ago, 8FillTheHeart said:

I have not seen the pre-alg book, so no comment there. But, I feel the same way about the explanations in Singapore and BA2. When my kids took AoPS alg up, I was never involved. My Dd did not like AoPS and moved back to Foerster's. My ds loved AoPS and stayed with it through cal. Do kids need AoPS? absolutely not. If it is a good fit, it is a fabulous option. But, if not, use a text that suits your child's learning style. You can always supplement with AoPS challenge problems without using the text's teaching style.

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See, at our house, we all really liked Singapore and BA.    So I thought AOPS would be a good fit.   And maybe it will be and I just need to give it more time.    I guess I am just wondering if AOPS pre-algebra book is a good representation of the rest of the series.   

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The pre-algebra book had three different authors, so the style of writing greatly  varies throughout. The first two chapters are a slog and with my second kid we just skimmed through the lengthy explanations. By chapter three things get much more streamlined. Definitely don't judge it by the first two chapters! 

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13 minutes ago, SanDiegoMom in VA said:

The pre-algebra book had three different authors, so the style of writing greatly  varies throughout. The first two chapters are a slog and with my second kid we just skimmed through the lengthy explanations. By chapter three things get much more streamlined. Definitely don't judge it by the first two chapters! 

Yes, this! I was just about to ask what section you are working in. If you stick with it, it gets much better!

There are not videos for each section but I highly recommend using them for the sections they exist

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I don't know what age your kids are, but if you are finding the aops prealgebra not difficult, they are more than just gifted. Another possibility is that your children already know this material from somewhere else, and if this is the case, then you are dealing with improper placement. 

We didn't think the explanations were over the top (with the exception of the first chapter). My children all thought the program was super challenging. 

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11 hours ago, Roadrunner said:

I don't know what age your kids are, but if you are finding the aops prealgebra not difficult, they are more than just gifted. Another possibility is that your children already know this material from somewhere else, and if this is the case, then you are dealing with improper placement. 

 We didn't think the explanations were over the top (with the exception of the first chapter). My children all thought the program was super challenging. 

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I'm not saying the problems are easy.  :)  :)    

We have worked a lot of similar problems in MathCounts--and I think that is key.  We are used to the process of puzzling through a problem and learning new strategies to solve something.   Some people will always catch on faster or pick up on patterns easier.   However, I honestly believe that practice really can make anyone a better problem solver.  I've noticed that the first time we see a new type of problem, we need lots of help and hints.  We think about it for a long while, but the problem feels VERY hard and almost impossible to solve alone.   We might not even know where to start.   Or we might start, and end up at a "dead end" and can't solve the problem. Or we might have a clumsy solution that would take us all day long to work through.  The first few times that happens to you can be frustrating.   However, experience will teach you that is all just part of become better at problem-solving.   Because the next time we see a similar type of problem, we find we need less help.  (And that is where this type of math starts to feel fun.)  The kids and I have an "Oh yeah, I remember something like this before."   And after a while, your brain starts to pick up on patterns and the "impossible" problems become a lot less challenging because you have seen things like this before.   You have a tool belt filled with strategies and "tricks" to solve those types of problems.  The problem isn't any easier, you just know where and how to start "digging" into the problem.    And, if you practice this process enough, when you come across a new type of problem that you have never seen before, you start to feel excited instead of frustrated because you know you are about to add a new strategy or pattern to your "problem solving tool belt".  One of our favorite things to do is to mark the problems in the AOPS book (or the MathCounts test or any text) that we can't solve without help and re-visit them later when we have "forgotten" them.  It can really show you that you are becoming a better problem solver.  

 

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I think you will understand why the explanations of the why come into play later when they tie in with why you can use this particular problem solving strategy and why you can apply it is x or y or z situation. It's not about teaching them algorithms or just do it this way...but precisely laying a pretty broad foundation on which to build which makes understanding the why behind higher math topics make a lot of sense. 

When I correct my son's work, I will not tell him how to solve the problem or how to solve a problem more efficiently. I will nudge him and say, what do you remember about how you can apply the distributive property in this situation or what do you remember is true about about squaring any number that could help you write a better equation. It's teaching him how to think mathematically which seems like a huge slog, but it really is worthwhile.

ETA: Had I learned math this way and not the plug and chug/memorize the algorithm, I probably would not have quit higher math in college. Granted I was at a school where you had to be pretty good at math to get in, but I quickly realized there's good at math and the truly good at math. I definitely wasn't the latter, and now that I am older it wasn't that I didn't have the capacity to be good. I just didn't know what to do when I first encouranterd challenging math. I also probably would not have been discouraged away from math when I first encountered math I had never seen before like group and number theory. That essay on AOPS site could have been written about me. I gave up and left math. I do not want that for my son, so here we are working away through AOPS.

 

 

Edited by calbear
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On 8/31/2018 at 8:01 AM, SJ. said:

Have you tried using the videos to teach the lessons?  They are found on the AOPS website. I think there is a video for most sections.

Thank you!! I didn't know about the videos, and am very glad to find them as we are only in chapter 2. ?

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