Practical Arithmetics (Strayer-Upton)

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  • Reviewed on Saturday, December 4, 2010
  • Grades Used: 3
  • Dates used: current
I cannot believe there are not more reviews of this curriculum. This 3-book series is fabulous. It provides math instruction the way it used to be, back before math instruction got all fuzzy and inventive. The word problems in these books are top-notch, far superior to anything I have seen in any other curriculum.

Ok, these books take you from grade 3-8, although you could start them in 2nd assuming the child is ready. This is what I did, and we took the first year slowly, and it was no problem. The approach to math is similar to Rod and Staff, however there are a few advantages (and a couple disadvantages which I will also list). Please note with this review that I have used R&S, Horizons, Singapore, Saxon and viewed MathUSee, and I teach/tutor high school and college math, so I am a bit picky when it comes to math instruction.

1. Superior approach to math. Not quite mastery, yet not quite spiral either. Everything builds upon what is previously learned, but there is no flip-flopping of topics to "maintain interest".
2. Like I said before, the word problems are top notch. They really cause a child to think, yet they aren't trick word problems which I would have to describe Singapore as.
3. Cheap. Really, these 3 books, which provide 6 years of math instruction, are about $40 total, including shipping. How can you beat that?
4. They are small and take up almost no space, unlike most other programs that have huge separate TMs and test booklets, etc. Also, there are no separate components to buy, the answer key is in the back, and you can feel free to easily implement manipulatives if you want, or you don't have to. And you can use anything for manipulatives: beans, coins, etc.

Ok, disadvantages:
1. This book is self-teaching, so there is no TM available. Some might find this problematic, I think it's fabulous, but if you are looking for a complete layout of the lesson and hand-holding, then this is not for you. R&S might be a better fit.
2. Again, minor, but there is no color in these books, they are black and white with a few old-fashioned drawings. I like it, but some might prefer color/more graphics.
3. These are non-consumable, and some prefer workbook format.

I will say this: these books are heavily used by the Amish in their parochial schools. Since their schooling goes only to the 8th grade, these books provide the vast majority of their math instruction. I think that says something about their effectiveness, that an entire culture of people choose this (secular) program for their children's schooling. Another thing, since these books have been in print since the 1930s I believe, and at one time were the standard math curriculum in much of the country, to say that these are time-tested methods I believe is an understatement, especially compared with the math abilities of the generations who have come after these books were abandoned by the school system in favor of "newer" materials.