NOTE: Availability is limited. We are currently not able to carry this product, though we hope to change this in the future.
The brothers Sabouri (Greg and Shawn, both Harvard grads) designed Teaching Textbooks specifically for home school students. Because many parents don't feel fit to teach math themselves, they often opt for a self-directing course for their children. Unfortunately, this leaves a lot of kids confused or hating math.
Teaching Textbooks attempts to remedy this situation by offering a full course of interactive lectures on CD-ROM, in which kids listen to the authors explaining math concepts and answer problems. The authors have also provided contact information, and are happy to answer any questions you or your kids might have.
Currently the series begins at third grade and ends with pre-calculus (for grade 12). Each level includes a workbook and answer key/test bank, as well as a number of CD-ROMs. For the first five levels (grades 3-7) there are just four CDs; as the series progresses there are more. The workbooks are consumable, though you could easily have students write their answers on a separate sheet of paper. The early grades and upper level 2.0 versions allow the student to enter the problems directly into the program for automatic grading.
Each grade includes 95-130 lessons, to be covered over a normal 36-week school year. The workbooks are fairly plain—just text and problem sets (although they include a nifty "highlight" feature emphasizing main points). Students listen to/watch the lecture for each lesson on the computer, answering problems as they go along. In the early grades, lectures and solutions are included on the same disc, while in later grades there are separate discs for lectures, problem set solutions, and test solutions.
Every problem students face in the course of lectures or in the workbook are accompanied by full solutions. For problems on the lecture CDs, students write or choose their answer and are immediately told whether they answered correctly or incorrectly. If they answered incorrectly, the right answer is provided along with a narrated solution. If they answered correctly, they simply go on to the next problem. The solutions CDs are included with the rest of the course, and are an invaluable asset.
The authors have adopted a conversational tone for the lectures. Some kids will find them slightly condescending, but they are clear and thorough speakers. A little animated "buddy" icon (usually an animal, in one case a brain in a jar) accompanies kids through each lecture, and they can click on him at certain times for extra information. The greatest strength of this curriculum is these lectures, because an expert is leading the kids through the material, rather than having them struggle through it alone.
Because lectures and solutions are all self-contained on the CDs, students get the benefit of "in-class" instruction, while parents have relatively little to worry about. There is a record-keeping function on the CDs for entering grades, which is really all the parent needs to do (other than to supervise). This is especially useful in the upper grades, since a lot of parents either haven't had advanced math training, or don't remember it if they did.
A common complaint about Teaching Textbooks is that it is too easy. Some argue that the arc is too gentle, especially for the upper grades. Others counter that math doesn't have to be hard to be good, or that it only seems easy because the instruction is so clear and understandable. We agree with the first assessment. Some students using Teaching Textbooks in the upper grades will find it difficult to move to a comparable text in another program. For instance, after completing the Sabouris' Algebra 2 text, some students who have then switched to Saxon Math have had to retake Algebra 2 rather than simply moving to Advanced Mathematics.
Probably the most compelling argument against the program is the price. If you buy all the elements you'll be spending $120-$185 for each grade (this is similar to the Saxon program with Teacher CDs). To get the full effect of the curriculum you need to buy all the elements. You can use the same CDs for multiple students, but you may want to get new workbooks for each.
Overall Teaching Textbooks offers a great alternative to self-taught courses. The format is intuitive and engaging, and there is little work involved for the parent. It isn't quite as fast-moving as Saxon or Singapore, but this is good news for kids who struggle in math. Right now availability is limited and we are not currently a certified vendor, but we hope to rectify this in the future.
For descriptions, FAQs, product demos, and sample lessons, see the Teaching Textbooks website.
With the release of the 2.0 and WIN/MAC hybrid versions of the Teaching Textbooks products, there are, of course, a lot of used materials on the market that will be the older versions (usually what we have). This currently only pertains to the Math 5 through Algebra 2, as they are the only ones with multiple versions. Math 3 and Math 4 only have one version and their serial number starts with a 2. Geometry will come out in August 2013 and Pre-Calculus has only one version and does not have a serial number.