If you're looking for a math curriculum your kids can do while you're cleaning the house this isn't it. BJUP's math series was designed for use in Christian schools; while it has been modified for use by homeschoolers, it is still very teacher-intensive. The student and teacher texts are very dependent, making it difficult or impossible to use one without the other. This isn't a teach-yourself-math curriculum, but if you favor teacher-led programs, it is a very good one.
For all grades, the approach is hands-on and skill-based. Manipulatives are used all the way through grade 6, and even the high school texts are practically rooted with word problems designed to show how the concepts taught are used in every day situations. Student texts are colorful and attractive, but not too cluttered or confusing. Teacher's Editions are straightforward and easily navigable.
The curriculum is built on a logical approach—concepts are introduced in a natural progression and taught in full before moving to the next topic. Emphasis is not placed on review, though there are practice sheets and a review book is typically available separately. The goal is for students to think mathematically, understanding why answers are reached and not only how they are reached. The use of manipulatives and practical problems is intended to help students internalize concepts by seeing them in their proper context.
For each level there is a student text, a Teacher's Edition, tests, test key, manipulatives packet, and review book. Grades 1-6 emphasize the use of manipulatives (which can be bought, or constructed from items around the house using instructions found in the Teacher's Editions) to teach basic math concepts. This is standard elementary math, slightly faster paced than some programs (like Saxon) and slower than others (like Singapore or Horizons). The manipulatives (cardstock counters and plastic building blocks) are fun and appealing; some children play with them outside math time and familiarize themselves with basic principles on their own. The second editions (slowly being revised) also offer teaching visuals in the form of flipcharts and home teacher's packets which we find largely unnecessary.
For grades 1-4, the student's text is a workbook. The workbooks cannot be used without the teacher's manual for these early levels; there is no explanation or instruction, just drills and exercises. For grades 5 and 6 the student text is a hardbound textbook containing more information but still not enough to use independently of the Teacher's Edition (the student transfers his work onto a separate paper). Again, lessons are meant to be taught, not simply read by the student.
Teacher's Editions contain complete lesson plans with suggestions for how to teach concepts to kids with different learning styles and abilities. Each lesson in the student text is presented in reduced form and includes answers. Some parents find the amount of text overwhelming, but since this is such a teacher-intensive program, most are grateful for the extensive content.
For grades 2-6 there are supplementary activity/practice books for kids at different levels. Spread Your Wings is for remedial students or students who have a hard time learning concepts. Spring Into Action is appropriate for average students, neither too slow or too fast. Stretch Your Mind was designed for students who need more challenge. These books are not usually necessary for homeschool families (as a result, we don't keep them in-stock); the Reviews Activity book tends to be sufficient for review and practice.
BJUP's elementary math courses are designed to give students a solid foundation of basic math skills and to get them to think as problem-solvers and not just memorize processes by rote. These levels require more teacher involvement than the later grades, and lessons can take a long time to prepare and teach, but if you have patience, it is a good course.
Junior High/High School:
For each of grades 7-12 there is a student textbook, a Teacher's Edition, a test book, test key, Student Activities book and Student Activities Teacher's Edition. Some of these grades require scientific and graphing calculators which must be purchased seperately. Fundamentals of Math (grade 7) provides a good review of topics from earlier grades and sets the stage for more advanced branches of arithmetic. Grades 8-12 cover algebra, geometry (Euclidian), trigonometry, statistics, precalculus and consumer math. Consumer Math can be used in addition to or in place of any of the high school texts, though the publishers strongly suggest it be preceded by Algebra 1. Teacher's Editions are still necessary, though there is more the student can do on his own. The Activity Book and its complementary Teacher's Edition are not necessary for most families, so you can keep the cost down by buying only the four main components for each level.
BJUP has been making curriculum for a long time. They've had many years to work out bugs and find what works. This is a very good math course, but not necessarily for the homeschool setting. This series was not designed for home use; it was designed for classroom use and was later adapted for homeschoolers. This presents a problem for many parents who have several kids and can't afford to spend 1-2 hours per child each day on one subject. Of course, younger kids need more instruction anyway, so a good option might be to teach BJUP math for early levels, and switch to something more self-taught like Saxon in the later grades.
Many parents complain that there is no solutions manual. While the Teacher's Editions do include exercise answers, they don't show each step of the process. This is odd for a curriculum that places so much emphasis on understanding why an answer is what it is. Another common complaint is the amount of time it takes to complete each lesson. While this is not ideal for many families, BJUP makes no secret of the fact that this is a teacher-led program or of the time required.
For those who want to spend a lot of time on math with their children, this is a good course. Many parents whose children previously hated math testify that after using this curriculum their kids grew to like and even excel in math. For those who want to hand their kids a textbook and tell them to learn, this isn't a good choice. It really depends on how much time you have, how many students you're teaching at different levels and how confident you feel presenting information.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.