Though ACSI's elementary math program is relatively little-known, the publishers are confident their approach and colorful texts will make the series popular among both Christian and home school educators. This is definitely a teacher-intensive program, not suited for self-guided learning. ACSI (Association of Christian Schools International) designed this course primarily for classroom use, though it can be easily adapted for home use if you're willing to plan and actively teach lessons.
Because of this teacher emphasis, the teacher editions are the cornerstone of the curriculum and some of the best-designed we've seen. Everything you need to plan and execute a lesson is included in these extensive guides. Students will be attracted to the worktexts/textbooks by the colorful illustrations and engaging activities. Each year is built around a creation theme (Life in the Sea, Life in the Air, etc.) to show students how God has used mathematical concepts in creation and how man has applied those principles.
This is an elementary and junior high math program (grades K-8). All the basics are here (shapes, money, time, addition and subtraction, etc.), as well as elements usually not covered in lower-level math curricula. Some of the less common concepts include (but are not limited to) basic algebra and geometry, graphing, statistics and probability. Each student text (softcover worktexts for grades K-3, hardcover non-consumable texts for grades 4-6) is designed to be used over the course of one standard schoolyear and is organized by chapter and lesson. Chapters cover broad subjects, and each lesson within the chapter relates to some aspect of the overall topic; there are 13-14 chapters and 176 lessons per book (sixth grade only has 170 lessons).
Lessons begin with an introduction to the concept, putting it in a concrete/practical context (why is it important to know this?) and moving to an abstract explanation (how do we get the right answer?). For grades K-3 there isn't much text or explanation in the student books so teachers will need to make sure students really grasp the material before letting them do the problems. In the later books, students read fairly thorough descriptions of concepts, but these still need supplemental teacher instruction. There is no proper "solutions manual," but underlying principles are well enough outlined in the teacher's editions that you shouldn't need one.
The teacher editions are essential. Each two-page student lesson is reproduced with answers and notes in reduced form on a single page of the teacher edition, and there are extra pages of information for each lesson. This information includes a wealth of suggestions for presenting each lesson—the authors deliberately included more material than any teacher could use in a single class so each instructor can pick the activities and presentation methods most suited to their students. Extra notes outline how particular principles relate to other disciplines like history and language arts. The emphasis is not on math as an end in itself, but as an important element in the Christian understanding of the world around us. Letters to parents/teachers at the beginning of each chapter in the student texts outline the goals for each chapter with brief suggestions for achieving those goals.
Topics are arranged in logical order. There is consistent review, and new topics build on previous ones. This is a much faster-paced course than many we offer for elementary grades. Students are introduced to algebra-type problems as early as first grade, and there is a chapter in the third grade text specifically dealing with algebra. The idea is that students have at least an introduction to the concepts they will encounter in junior high and high school so they aren't completely confused and frustrated when they get there. This approach makes ACSI Math a good choice for kids who can't get enough of math and need consistent challenge; it also aids the development of strong logic skills.
The junior high texts (Mathematics Intermediate Courses A and B) step up the instruction considerably. Algebra, geometry, even statisitics are covered, providing a solid base for high school study. Since the basic set-up of the earlier books is maintained, if your kids do the K-6 program moving to these books will be no problem. If you intend to switch to ACSI junior high math from another curriculum, however, be aware that these texts are much more difficult than many comparable series.
These books are visually engaging, far more than most math curricula, with lots of pictures and drawings throughout the student texts. This tends to make many of the pages seem overly busy, but there is still a lot of good content.
This is not a self-guided program. The parent/teacher must take an active role in the presentation of material or students will be completely lost. The authors suggest 15-20 minutes of teacher preparation for each lesson; if you're willing to take that kind of time for math, this is one of the best programs out there—if not, you'd better look elsewhere. There is plenty of teacher support, but you'll have to review it carefully (you can't just read to your kids from the teacher edition).
Because of the content covered in these books, it is conceivable that math-oriented students could move straight from the grade 6 book to Harold Jacobs's Elementary Algebra. Most students would find it useful, however, to move to something like Bob Jones Fundamentals of Math before tackling Harold Jacobs. Saxon's Algebra ½ could also be a good choice after sixth grade, though the instructional approach is significantly different.
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.