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What to do for PreAlgebra after Beast Academy for this kid?


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In January 2020, when we started homeschooling, I kept my 4th grader in the same book he'd been using at school, Math in Focus 4.  With 1:1 work, he finished it easily by April.  Since I wanted to keep him busy while his brothers were doing math, I signed him up for the free trial of Beast Academy.  It turned out that he liked it, so I started paying and he kept working on it, even when it wasn't something I was assigning.  He finished the level 4 by the end of the summer, but he just did the puzzles.  I'm pretty sure he didn't read any of the comics.  The few times he hit things he didn't know, he came to me with questions, and I explained them, but since he'd already finished 4th grade math, most of it was familiar enough that he could figure it out. 

Since that worked well, I figured we'd do the same thing this year.  I bought a 5th grade book, and told him we'd work on it every day, and when he had free time he could find things he already knew in BA5 and do them.  That probably would have been fine, but things fell apart here, and so I told him he could just keep doing Beast if he wanted to, and when we got homeschooling up and going again, we'd fill in the gaps, homeschooling into the summer if need be.   His response to the stress in the family has been a very high need to be busy, and so he actually ended up doing a lot of Beast.  Sometimes he'd come to me and ask me a question and I'd show him something.  His brother has a virtual math tutor, and sometimes he'd pop into those sessions too.  My impression is that he's still not reading the comics.  He either just sort of figures it out, or asks for help,  or makes a few random guesses and then reads the explanations, or he uses other resources.  He has all the Math Mammoth blue books available to him, and sometimes he looks there, or sometimes he googles videos, or sometimes he goes to IXL where he has an account.  Whatever he did, it was enough that when I gave him the end of year assessments for Math Mammoth 5 and 6, a few weeks ago, he scored in the high 90's on both.  So, apparently since April, he's taught himself 2 years of math.   

He's almost done with BA5, so I asked him what he wants to do next.  His same age cousin's parents have decided to do preAlgebra with her this spring and summer, in hopes that she'll test into Algebra 1 this fall, and he asked if could do that too.  He's pretty competitive with her, and he likes the idea of "winning" or "being ahead", so the idea of being in the top math track when he goes back to school is very appealing to him.  After making another thread about this, and talking to my DH, I told him that he could study PreAlgebra if he wants, and if he "passes" it, we'll talk to the school guidance counselor and make a decision together about Algebra.  I told him I won't promise that he'll get to Algebra, but even if we don't let him, he can know that he was as advanced as the kids who do take it, and blame me for holding him back.   He was disappointed that I didn't just say yes to Algebra, but still seems motivated to keep working.  

So, I need to figure out two things.  One is what I set as a goal for "passing preAlgebra".  I had thought of the MM7 end of year test, but for reasons related to sibling issues, I'd rather not do that.  Is there another test that would be similar? 

The other thing I need to figure out is what resources to give him that he can engage with independently.  I know that many people go from BA to AoPS PreAlgebra, but I have trouble imagining a kid who goes to great length to avoid the comic books in BA enjoying the AoPS books.   I do think he might like the structure of Alcumus, and wonder if he could just do that, and continue to draw on various resources to learn what he needs to "turn things blue".   If we did that, are their resources I should give him to go with?  We have all the MM blue books, the Life of Fred books, and an IXL subscription.  He's good at finding videos for specific topics.  He's got adults he can ask if he has a question.  He's already done all of the Dragonbox apps, and a fair amount of the Hands on Equations one.  Are there other things I should be buying, or sites I should be bookmarking?  

Alternately, I could put him in a class, although I'd prefer an asynchronous one.  Derek Owens comes up as an option.  

Sorry, this is really long.  

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44 minutes ago, JenneinCA said:

Have you looked at aleks math?  It says it goes by mastery and it would cover the necessary material.  It tends to be algorithmic and some people find it extremely dull.  I believe it has a free trial so you could check it out that way and see if it would work.

https://www.aleks.com/

 

I actually know Aleks really well, because I teach with it at my job, and it works well for me in certain situations.

Aleks has strengths and weaknesses.  I don't think it's the right thing here.  For one thing, it's pretty algorithmic and low level.  I think for me to feel comfortable sending him on to Algebra, I want deeper understanding and more flexibility than he would get from Algebra.  

And while there are explanations in Aleks, they aren't great. They also aren't things he can access as he needs them. You can't see an explanation until you've passed all the previous skills, and then once you pass a skill it's harder to see them.  

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35 minutes ago, wendyroo said:

AOPS has short videos on all the Prealgebra topics, so that could be a good resource if he just works through Alcumus.

That is probably what I would suggest. And if he turns all the prealgebra topics blue, then I would call him done without any other sort of test.

That's what I'm leaning towards. 

Besides the videos, are there other resources you'd suggest?

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55 minutes ago, BaseballandHockey said:

That's what I'm leaning towards. 

Besides the videos, are there other resources you'd suggest?

Not really. It sounds like you already have a lot of resources, and at some point, adding more could just be more overwhelming. If he truly doesn't understand a concept after looking at MM, Life of Fred, IXL, and AOPS videos, then it is probably past time for him to consult an adult.

The good thing about Alcumus is that he won't be held up by not understanding any individual question. If he tries a problem and gets it wrong, then he will be able to read the solution, fine-tune his understanding, and move on. At some point he will get another chance at a similar question...and if he still doesn't understand then he can read that solution. Lather, rinse, repeat, until he has seen enough similar problems to learn what was tripping him up.

That type of learning certainly isn't for everyone, but it sounds similar to what he is doing currently with BA.

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I personally really like Derek Owens. The teaching is excellent, but it also teaches good study habits like taking notes to a lecture. We also have Beast online, and while it’s fantastic in its own way, it doesn’t teach those executive functioning skills in the same way. DO would be a great segway to a more middle-school style of learning. If cost is a concern, you can grade yourself and pay half price. 

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10 minutes ago, Gobblygook said:

I personally really like Derek Owens. The teaching is excellent, but it also teaches good study habits like taking notes to a lecture. We also have Beast online, and while it’s fantastic in its own way, it doesn’t teach those executive functioning skills in the same way. DO would be a great segway to a more middle-school style of learning. If cost is a concern, you can grade yourself and pay half price. 

Thanks! 

 

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6 hours ago, wendyroo said:

AOPS has short videos on all the Prealgebra topics, so that could be a good resource if he just works through Alcumus.

That is probably what I would suggest. And if he turns all the prealgebra topics blue, then I would call him done without any other sort of test.

This is exactly what I was going to suggest. My kid ended up skipping the Prealgebra book altogether, but she did watch the videos and then made it through nearly all of Algebra A on nothing but the videos and Alcumus for learning. It worked really well for her, and she and I were both sad that there were no videos for the rest of the Algebra book or classes past that.

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5 hours ago, BaseballandHockey said:

That's what I'm leaning towards. 

Besides the videos, are there other resources you'd suggest?

I'll be a resource, lol. I've taught that class. Let me know if you need explanations or troubleshooting. 

And the videos are a brilliant idea. I'm sorry I didn't think of it!

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Another resource I'd suggest is Zacarro's Real World Algebra. It's more of a supplement than a full math program, but the practice problems involve higher level/deeper thinking (a lot like the problems in Beast Academy). It was a good next step for us after Beast, but we used other resources before starting algebra.

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9 hours ago, Hillcottagemom said:

Another resource I'd suggest is Zacarro's Real World Algebra. It's more of a supplement than a full math program, but the practice problems involve higher level/deeper thinking (a lot like the problems in Beast Academy). It was a good next step for us after Beast, but we used other resources before starting algebra.

Thanks, I will check this out!

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We talked about it in theory, and he wasn't thrilled with the "and we might not let you take Algebra even if you show us you're ready" part, but he seems to think that he wants to keep going. 

I need to talk to my BIL this weekend and hammer out exactly what we'll make the criteria to be.  I think the best thing, since the kids are pretty competitive and focused on "fairness", is if we use the same criteria.  I'd also like to talk to his brothers' math tutor, but I can't call him till Sunday.  Once we've done all that, we'll talk to the kids.  

We're also in the process of figuring out school for both kids for next year, since it's that time of the year.  The algebra decision, and the school decision are kind of intertwined.

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Just now, BaseballandHockey said:

We're also in the process of figuring out school for both kids for next year, since it's that time of the year.  The algebra decision, and the school decision are kind of intertwined.

You said you wound up trying for the gifted magnet, right? Do you know when you'll hear about that? 

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Just now, Not_a_Number said:

You said you wound up trying for the gifted magnet, right? Do you know when you'll hear about that? 

We went ahead and did the testing, and he did really well.  To be honest, I was expecting him to do well, but he was at least a standard deviation above what I would have guessed for math, so I'm still trying to figure that out.  

So, we'll submit an application.  They're doing a lottery among all the kids who meet some kind of cut off, but they haven't said what that cut off is.  If I had to guess, they'll have a lot of kids qualifying for the lottery, so his chances aren't great.  We're also looking at a private school that's specifically for kids with strong academic skills.   To be honest, I'm not sure how I feel about either option for him.  Clearly, his test scores indicate that he could handle either school, but he's also a kid who uses his free time really really well.  I'm not sure that the trade off of adding a longer commute, and more homework is worth it.  

I also think that it will be a while before we know how covid is going to play into our school choice for the fall.  

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Just now, BaseballandHockey said:

We went ahead and did the testing, and he did really well.  To be honest, I was expecting him to do well, but he was at least a standard deviation above what I would have guessed for math, so I'm still trying to figure that out.  

I'm kind of not surprised. You've indicated that it's easy for him, even though he doesn't love it, and that didn't sound close to typical for me. 

Honestly, he sounds kind of like DD8 -- math comes easy to him, but it's not his great passion or anything. And DD8 is also fiercely competitive 😉 . I can absolutely imagine the kind of set up you're describing as a result of cousin competition! 

That sounds like good news, though, right? 

 

1 minute ago, BaseballandHockey said:

We're also looking at a private school that's specifically for kids with strong academic skills.   To be honest, I'm not sure how I feel about either option for him.  Clearly, his test scores indicate that he could handle either school, but he's also a kid who uses his free time really really well.  I'm not sure that the trade off of adding a longer commute, and more homework is worth it.  

Yeah, I know what you mean. We've always kind of bounced between the idea that having more challenging work is better and the fact that DD8 is an Energizer Bunny of a child and does very cool things on her own time, too. 

I don't know if this is at all useful, but I did feel like I benefited from being at a gifted school. I'm NOT a particularly energetic person (DD4 gets her languid genes from me, lol), but I was also very competitive, and having a peer group that aimed high really focused me in a way that a more relaxed atmosphere may not have. I don't know if this logic applies or not... just my own experience 🙂 . As an immigrant, though, it made a big difference. Having achievements that allow you to get into any college you like is actually really useful when you don't have any money or family behind you. (Again, obviously not your situation. But I remember just feeling more... secure having achieved measurable stuff.) 

On the other hand, one of course does hear of people who burn out due to the high pressure. So that's always a concern, too. And one of the reasons we pulled DD8 out of school was how very tired she got, so I absolutely understand the worry about the commute and the homework and the lack of free time... 

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9 minutes ago, Not_a_Number said:

I'm kind of not surprised. You've indicated that it's easy for him, even though he doesn't love it, and that didn't sound close to typical for me. 

Honestly, he sounds kind of like DD8 -- math comes easy to him, but it's not his great passion or anything. And DD8 is also fiercely competitive 😉 . I can absolutely imagine the kind of set up you're describing as a result of cousin competition! 

That sounds like good news, though, right? 

I think it’s just news?  Not good or bad, just another piece of data as we make decisions for and with him?

9 minutes ago, Not_a_Number said:

 

Yeah, I know what you mean. We've always kind of bounced between the idea that having more challenging work is better and the fact that DD8 is an Energizer Bunny of a child and does very cool things on her own time, too. 

So, right now he doesn’t seem to think of this as work.  It’s been more like “and there’s this game I play on the iPad . . . Where I try to beat my cousin.” 

9 minutes ago, Not_a_Number said:

I don't know if this is at all useful, but I did feel like I benefited from being at a gifted school. I'm NOT a particularly energetic person (DD4 gets her languid genes from me, lol), but I was also very competitive, and having a peer group that aimed high really focused me in a way that a more relaxed atmosphere may not have.

It didn’t really work that way for me.  We moved a lot when I was a kid, and I attended both regular schools and schools with admissions criteria that prided themselves on being rigorous.  I remember doing a lot of my own thing when I was in schools with less pressure, reading a ton, and writing a ton, and doodling math thoughts in the margin of my work.

9 minutes ago, Not_a_Number said:

I don't know if this logic applies or not... just my own experience 🙂 . As an immigrant, though, it made a big difference. Having achievements that allow you to get into any college you like is actually really useful when you don't have any money or family behind you. (Again, obviously not your situation. But I remember just feeling more... secure having achieved measurable stuff.) 

On the other hand, one of course does hear of people who burn out due to the high pressure. So that's always a concern, too. And one of the reasons we pulled DD8 out of school was how very tired she got, so I absolutely understand the worry about the commute and the homework and the lack of free time... 

I am not really worried about him burning out, I’m worried about standing in the way of him discovering who he is meant to become and what his passions are.  

It will be a while before we hear from either school (if we decide  to apply to the private option) and longer before we have to make decisions.  Covid will probably weigh in too.  So, we’ll see. 

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11 minutes ago, BaseballandHockey said:

It didn’t really work that way for me.  We moved a lot when I was a kid, and I attended both regular schools and schools with admissions criteria that prided themselves on being rigorous.  I remember doing a lot of my own thing when I was in schools with less pressure, reading a ton, and writing a ton, and doodling math thoughts in the margin of my work.

Got it. Just relating my experience. It may not be super relevant, since I don't think an immigrant's perspective is the same one you're coming from. 

Good luck figuring out what to do 🙂 . Please let me know if I can help out in any way. 

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3 hours ago, Not_a_Number said:

Got it. Just relating my experience. It may not be super relevant, since I don't think an immigrant's perspective is the same one you're coming from. 

Good luck figuring out what to do 🙂 . Please let me know if I can help out in any way. 

I'm sorry, I'm in a lousy mood tonight. I think your experience helps me clarify mine in my mind.

I'm stressed out by the suddenness of this decision, it kind of came out of nowhere. 

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1 hour ago, BaseballandHockey said:

I'm sorry, I'm in a lousy mood tonight. I think your experience helps me clarify mine in my mind.

I'm stressed out by the suddenness of this decision, it kind of came out of nowhere. 

No worries. I get it. You don’t really need more stress and more decisions!!

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  • 2 weeks later...

This is a spendy option, but I finally signed my dd up for AOPS's self-paced prealgebra.  She is loving it, and with the immediate feedback is moving much more quickly through the material than she was when she was just working through the book and alcumus, with me inconsistently available to help.  I wish they had a self-paced option for Algebra.

ETA: It is not comic booky like the BA guidebooks, and with the way it is built you really can't skip the instruction, as it comes in the form of pointed questions given one at a time that each build on the understanding provided by the last one.

Edited by Condessa
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1 hour ago, Condessa said:

This is a spendy option, but I finally signed my dd up for AOPS's self-paced prealgebra.  She is loving it, and with the immediate feedback is moving much more quickly through the material than she was when she was just working through the book and alcumus, with me inconsistently available to help.  I wish they had a self-paced option for Algebra.

ETA: It is not comic booky like the BA guidebooks, and with the way it is built you really can't skip the instruction, as it comes in the form of pointed questions given one at a time that each build on the understanding provided by the last one.

Let me know if you want to do any of the non-self-paced options 🙂. I’ve coordinated with one boardie and a few parents I know IRL already and I know they’ve found that helpful.

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3 minutes ago, Not_a_Number said:

Let me know if you want to do any of the non-self-paced options 🙂. I’ve coordinated with one boardie and a few parents I know IRL already and I know they’ve found that helpful.

This is something I'm stuck on if we need to homeschool next year.  My dd11 will be ready for Algebra and does very well with AOPS, but I have heard so much about the intense pace and workload of the online classes, I am concerned it will be too intense for her.  But just having her do it from the book with me not consistently available to help as I am taking ds6 back and forth for medical appointments doesn't seem like a good option, either.

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1 hour ago, Condessa said:

This is something I'm stuck on if we need to homeschool next year.  My dd11 will be ready for Algebra and does very well with AOPS, but I have heard so much about the intense pace and workload of the online classes, I am concerned it will be too intense for her.  But just having her do it from the book with me not consistently available to help as I am taking ds6 back and forth for medical appointments doesn't seem like a good option, either.

I think the classes ARE intense, but they do provide a lot of interaction and feedback if you choose to use it. Knowing how swamped you are, I would absolutely use this option. They are good classes.

Want me to try to sign up for an Algebra class? When would you want to start?

ETA: sorry, that sounded way too pressured!! Just let me know if you’d like coordinate. Sorry to sound pushy. 

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11 hours ago, calbear said:

@CondessaThere are two other options for classes. Royal Fireworks and WTMA. With WTMA, it is less intense than AOPS online courses.

This is WTMA's philosophy about AOPS. https://www.wtmacademy.com/questions/how-are-your-aops-classes-different-from-those-offered-by-the-art-of-problem-solving-website/

I do not think this is a fair summary of AoPS classes. It’s simply not the case that kids have to do the reading to follow a class in general. They are certainly not enrichment for kids teaching themselves.

And while it’s true that we often have 60 students per class, I’ve found that the set up is much friendlier to gauging to how individual kids are doing than any other one I’ve taught in.

I spend plenty of time complaining about AoPS, but that paragraph is misleading.

Edited by Not_a_Number
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15 hours ago, calbear said:

@CondessaThere are two other options for classes. Royal Fireworks and WTMA. With WTMA, it is less intense than AOPS online courses.

This is WTMA's philosophy about AOPS. https://www.wtmacademy.com/questions/how-are-your-aops-classes-different-from-those-offered-by-the-art-of-problem-solving-website/

 

 

4 hours ago, Not_a_Number said:

I do not think this is a fair summary of AoPS classes. It’s simply not the case that kids have to do the reading to follow a class in general. They are certainly not enrichment for kids teaching themselves.

And while it’s true that we often have 60 students per class, I’ve found that the set up is much friendlier to gauging to how individual kids are doing than any other one I’ve taught in.

I spend plenty of time complaining about AoPS, but that paragraph is misleading.

Thank you both.  It's always good to know more about all options.

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