Master Books has made a concerted effort in recent years to present a complete curriculum for grades K-12 and covering all the major subjects one would expect in a Christian home school setting. The goal is not simply to educate children in math, science, language arts, etc., but to do so in the context of a broad Protestant Christian worldview. There is no official connection that we know of, but the folks at Master Books are strongly influenced by the approach and philosophy of Ken Ham.
As part of their strategy to provide a complete curriculum solution, Master Books has also been purchasing smaller companies and curriculum lines, reprinting the older material under the Master Books imprint. Newly acquired series titles include many classic home school courses, including Jensen Grammar, Knowledge Quest geography and timelines, Harold Jacobs math, Writing Strands, God's Design science, and many others.
These added titles are gradually being assimilated (often with tweaks and edits) into the complete Master Books curriculum, with varying degrees of success in maintaining consistency. The math in particular seems a bit cobbled together, with a previously published elementary series leading into a two-volume middle school course, then on to Harold Jacobs for grades 9-10 (which seem a little out of place in the bigger picture), then back to a Master Books original for 11th grade. Math Lessons for a Living Education and Principles of Mathematics are pretty basic and focus on imparting a Christian worldview through math, while Harold Jacobs Elementary Algebra and Geometry are more challenging and not specifically worldview focused.
How Do These Work?
Math Lessons for a Living Education are a series of seven worktexts for grades K-6 held together by a slim Teacher Companion with some teaching tips, placement tests, a scope and sequence for the entire course, and math game instructions. The emphasis for teachers is to use math instruction as a tool for Christian discipleship; students read the lessons (which follow the adventures of siblings Charlie and Charlotte in all seven volumes), do the exercises, and are guided in any hands-on activities. Because author Angela O'Dell is a fan of Charlotte Mason, there are periodic narration and copywork assignments throughout. The program is gently paced and not as challenging as many others we've seen.
For grades 6-8, Master Books offers Principles of Mathematics, a two-volume course by Katharine Loop which goes much further than the previous course in tying mathematics to an explicitly Christian worldview. As much a presuppositional apologetics course as an intermediate math course, Loop's main emphasis seems to be that mathematics proves the existence of God. The course does cover the necessary material for 7th and 8th grade, and is suitably challenging. It offers a solid stepping stone to the Harold Jacobs books for high school students, but students coming directly from Math Lessons for a Living Education may have some difficulty.
Master Books now publishes two Harold Jacobs textbooks, Elementary Algebra and Geometry, for high school students (grades 9-10, though older students can use them, too). Master Books also publishes the teaching DVDs and solutions by Dr. and Cassandra Callahan for the Harold Jacobs books, which are invaluable additions to the textbooks themselves. Harold Jacobs math has long been among our favorites—it's challenging, thorough, and similar to the Saxon spiral approach in methodology. However, there is also a strong review component in Harold Jacobs that Saxon does not have, thus bridging the gap between the spiral method and the mastery approach. It also isn't a specifically Christian course, which is a bit surprising given the flavor of the previous two programs for elementary and middle school students.
To follow the Harold Jacobs Geometry textbook, Master Books now offers Principles of Algebra 2 by Katharine Loop-Hannon (presumably the author of Principles of Mathematics). There is a student worktext, a solution's manual, and a teacher's guide. We have not been able to look at the material ourselves yet, so we don't have an opinion or know specifically how it works, but in the video introduction the author makes it clear she uses the same approach as her earlier series.
Our Honest Opinion:
While we certainly approve efforts to instill a Christian worldview in children, we also believe it's important to teach subjects in their fullness, not just as vehicles for Bible study. Students working through Master Books math will learn fractions and algebra, but there is a definite imbalance in the ratio of actual math education to worldview instruction. The exception would be the Harold Jacobs books which we heartily recommend, and which do not have an explicit worldview bias.
One of the downsides of Harold Jacobs has always been that there are no books leading up to Elementary Algebra or following Geometry, making it hard to use those two texts in the midst of another series. The fact that you can now use these two volumes in the context of a complete math curriculum is a benefit, though again, the Master Books originals are quite different from the Harold Jacobs books, thus undermining that benefit to some degree.
While we think Harold Jacobs is superior to Saxon Math, you don't need to use his textbooks—if you're looking for a similar approach that remains consistent throughout all grades (K-12), we do highly recommend Saxon Math.
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