Q: What's white and black and blue all over?
A: A Modern Curriculum Press math worktext page.
Just because there isn't much color doesn't mean MCP math books are boring. They have plenty of cute pictures of furry animals and smiling flowers to make homework more interesting. Don't let those fool you either, though—there is real content here to teach kids math concepts and facts they will need for more advanced study. The key is review, review, review, thoroughly hammering home key ideas before introducing new ones.
MCP Mathematics is an elementary curriculum (grades K-6) intended to give kids a firm basis in the primary elements of arithmetic. The K-A books cover counting, numeral identification, time, money, and basic geometry; B-F cover addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, etc. (see scope and sequence).This is a teacher-directed program; the authors assume the teacher/parent will more thoroughly explain many concepts.
How Do These Work?
There are seven student worktexts and seven accompanying teacher's guides for grades K-6. Each book should take one year to complete, and has 15 chapters that include several 2-page lessons, cumulative review, and end-of-chapter tests. The later texts also include problem solving lessons and occasional calculator drill. All worktext pages are perforated to make both homework and grading easy. Each lesson in the worktext offers simple text and examples that illustrate new ideas to students; this is not in-depth information, and will often need to be explained more fully. The teacher's guides offer fairly extensive notes and suggestions for teaching important concepts; there are solution notes for some of the problems.
These are the best-designed teacher's editions we've seen for a reasonable price. Each lesson is presented in a clear 2-page spread that includes answers on reduced student pages, instructions for teaching content, and additional tips and aids. Because of the program's design, there's no need for a second curriculum manual or teacher's guide, and this helps keep the price down. Most parents probably won't need the teacher's guides (this is pretty basic math), but they are inexpensive, easy to use, and do provide some good supplementary content, especially for those who have no experience teaching math.
This is a very drill-oriented curriculum. The idea is that students should not learn new material until they have thoroughly mastered what they have already learned. Students who are good at math may get frustrated by the slow pace at which new material is introduced and/or be bored by the endless review; students who have a difficult time mastering concepts will benefit from the repetition. In a homeschool setting it's easy to modify the course and just skip some of the busy work.
We should be plain here: there is virtually no review of any given topic once it has been thoroughly covered. If your child has a hard time retaining information without consistent reminders, this isn't the program for you. If, however, your student thrives on new information and feels held back by review of old concepts, this could be a very good choice.
Our Honest Opinion:
Many math curricula have a gimmick they claim sets them apart from other courses and that appeals to kids on some level other than an educational one. MCP doesn't really have a gimmick; it's just a good old-fashioned math curriculum that presents the basics to kids in a no-nonsense format that will prepare them for upper level math courses. While it isn't ugly or drab (as in, anti-engaging), it doesn't go overboard trying to get kids' attention; it is simply a straightforward introduction to math.
One of the hardest things about elementary math courses is that parents can feel disoriented when their kids get to junior high or high school and need a brand-new curriculum. While this can certainly be an issue, the plain fact is that there just aren't that many courses that remain consistently good from first to twelfth grade. Part of this could be that teaching young children and adolescents take such different approaches that a curriculum attempting to be consistent in teaching method won't allow enough for age differences.
MCP teaches as much as it needs to, and lets others tackle the more complex material. If you're willing to spend time every day teaching math to your kids, we recommend moving from MCP Mathematics F to Bob Jones Fundamentals of Math; for those looking for a self-taught approach, we suggest Saxon 8/7 or Teaching Textbooks Pre-Algebra.
If your child needs constant reminders of past concepts, you should look elsewhere. It might seem like MCP spends a lot of time in review, but it's only immediately following the introduction of a topic; after that, you won't see similar problems. For those who appreciate this approach, this is an excellent curriculum for the student just beginning his study of arithmetic.
Scope & Sequence
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.
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