The Christian belief that "all knowledge is God's knowledge" seems to be the central idea on which all Apologia curriculum is based. Kids don't just learn dissociated facts—they are taught to understand every subject in the context of God's creation. Exploring Creation with Mathematics is their latest offering for elementary students, presenting math as one of the primary lenses for studying the world. Grades 1-3 are currently complete and available; when completed, the course will cover Grades 1-6.
Author Kathryn Gomes utilizes a mastery approach very similar to that used by Singapore Math. Children perform a number of hands-on activities with an array of household items and math manipulatives, learn new concepts visually, expand knowledge of those concepts by looking at them abstractly, and solidify their new knowledge with practical application activities. Parents are expected to take an active hand in instruction, with students working through activities and lessons under direct supervision. Unlike Singapore, this series is specifically designed for use in a home school rather than a classroom, and content is all geared to a single child.
How Do These Work?
There are two books for each level—a spiral-bound consumable student worktext, and a "Teaching Guide & Answer Key" for parents. The teaching guide is technically consumable as well, as the back half of each one contains tear-out pages for activities. The teacher book is a necessary component as it includes lesson plans, teaching tips, answers to all problems on reduced student pages, teaching tips, and a scope and sequence for completing every lesson in one year. Grades 1 and 2 include enough lessons for 28 weeks of study; Grade 3 has enough lessons for 30 weeks of study.
Each level is divided into units, chapters, and lessons. Units cover larger concepts like place value and division, while chapters break those into manageable size, and lessons build chapter ideas step-by-step. Students are expected to do math four days per week as laid out in the scope and sequence. Because this is a mastery approach, there is a lot of emphasis on practice and review. Each lesson (usually two pages) begins with an activity, proceeds to new skills and terminology, and ends with practice problems. Every unit ends with a project designed to cement what students have learned.
Students are not expected to read the lessons by themselves. First graders have the lessons read to them, while older students read as much as they can of each lesson with help from the presiding parent. Parents will guide students in activities and problems as well, and will need to do prep before each lesson. Most of the activities require household items (there's a complete list in the teacher book), but you will need linking cubes, base ten blocks, a set of 3D shapes, and pattern blocks.
In order to help students master math facts (the whole purpose of elementary math instruction), the author suggests using flashcards as well as playing math games. Exploring Creation with Mathematics does require a significant time commitment from parents, though lessons should not take more than about 30-40 minutes in general. Some of the activities may take a relatively long time to complete, especially depending on how much of the work you want your kids to do themselves. Parents wanting or needing more content can access resources directly from the Apologia website using the included access code in the student book.
The student worktexts are filled with full-color photographs and illustrations, which combined with the activities should be sufficient to keep most kids' attention. There are periodic call-outs in the text connecting a math concept to some aspect of God's creation or a biblical principle, though these are much fewer and further between than readers of Apologia's science texts are used to. Each level has a theme (space for 1st grade, plants for 2nd grade, and birds and butterflies for 3rd grade) which informs both the worldview call-outs and the lessons themselves.
Our Honest Opinion
Exploring Creation with Mathematics utilizes a proven method for teaching math to elementary students. The mastery approach, along with a hands-on visual→abstract→concrete technique, have long been used by publishers like Singapore Math with excellent results across all grade levels. Kathryn Gomes' curriculum moves at a similar pace to Singapore Math, with content moving from less complex to more complex as students add to their knowledge base.
The two books, available separately or together, are $81 per level, making this comparable in price to other options. The fact that there are just two books per level (one for the teacher, one for the student) is also appealing. On the downside, the fact that there are only three levels currently means students will have to switch to something else after third grade. More books are in the works for Grades 4-6, but are not yet available (as of September 2021).
Since this is a new version of an old concept, the real question is what you get from this one that you don't get from other options. The only thing we can see is that Exploring Creation with Mathematics provides some biblical and Christian worldview elements that other options don't. If that's important or crucial for you, by all means choose Gomes' program. If Christian worldview is something that already permeates your home school, we'd recommend sticking with the proven standard, Singapore Math (either U.S. Edition or the new and improved Dimensions Math).
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