The following review is based on grades 1-8; grades 9 and 10 were unavailable for review.
Rod & Staff's math curriculum is a review-based program designed to introduce students to the essentials of arithmetic. There's nothing flashy here, but if your kids do all the review and drills they'll definitely know the material—with all the repetition they won't be able to help it. This is a teacher-friendly course; though you will have to actively instruct, the teacher manuals are helpful and lessons are easy to teach.
How Do These Work?
At the core of each level is a teacher's manual and the consumable student worktexts. All the teacher manuals are two-volume except those for grades 1 and 3 which are one volume each; there are between one and five student worktexts per level. Blackline masters are available for a variety of worksheet pages, though between the worktext exercises, speed drills, and in-class review you shouldn't need them. Flashcards are integral to classtime instruction in grades 1-5; these are available from Rod & Staff, though the teacher manuals also show you which ones you'll need so you can make a set of your own. There are also tests for grades 4-8.
Each lesson is scripted in the teacher manuals, from preparation before class to the actual class period to after-class assignments and wrap-up. There isn't a whole lot of background information, but you will find everything necessary to teach each concept. Every page of the student worktexts are reproduced in full and include answers to all exercises. The teacher manuals also tell you when to use specific flashcards, blacklines and drills.
Not until grade 6 do the student workbooks contain much text for students to read. In grades 1-5 the emphasis is on direct teacher instruction; grades 6-8 still rely on teacher instruction, but because concepts are more complex, students will also need to study the material on their own. All student texts are black and white with very little illustration. There are also small speed drill workbooks for each level that simply provide reinforcement exercises.
This is a teacher-intensive course. While the teacher manuals include everything you need, you will still have to walk students through each concept and in many cases explain the exercises to him. The main emphasis is repetition—a lot of material is introduced and re-introduced several times to make sure students have actually grasped it. This can be frustrating for both student and teacher, though it would be fairly easy to skip some lessons and/or exercises if the instructor is confident the student understands the material.
Grades 1-5 cover basic math from counting to addition and subtraction to fractions and decimals. There seems to be a lot of attention devoted to division, especially in the exercises. Grades 6-8 introduce geometry, graphs and basic algebra. While this is the flow you would typically expect from an elementary math program, Rod & Staff's course moves slower and isn't as in-depth as other curricula.
All of Rod & Staff's curriculum is written from a biblical perspective. While this is true of the math program, it isn't as noticeable (except when you get to word problems) in that students aren't constantly required to memorize verses that may or may not have anything to do with the material. Still, you won't have to worry about your kids encountering any inappropriate content here.
Our Honest Opinion:
This program will give your students the basics of math education they need to pass the standardized tests and to get most jobs. The review-oriented instruction ensures that each concept is thoroughly grasped before moving to the next one, and past material will turn up in review exercises for quite a while.
For those whose primary interest lies in math or science, you will want to find another math program. This is basic practical- and skill-oriented math that will get students by, but won't prepare them for advanced mathematics. If a student plans to major in math or science at college, he will need to be further advanced by high school than this program can prepare him for.
It would be difficult to move to Saxon Math (for instance) at high school from Rod & Staff not only because students wouldn't be as advanced as those who'd used Saxon straight through but also because the repetition-for-mastery and incremental approaches are so different. It would make more sense to switch programs around sixth grade so kids can get a taste of more complex math at an easier pace before making the change. But if math isn't your chief concern and you don't want to force more than necessary on your kids, Rod & Staff will give them the basics they need.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and 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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