Math programs designed for traditional schools generally are too expensive for home educators because teacher editions can cost more than $100 each. Pearson has developed affordable grade level bundles of the enVisionMATH program (from their Scott Foresman/Addison Wesley division) by providing teacher’s editions on CD-ROM along with print editions of the student textbooks.
enVisionMATH is a new series (2011 copyright) for grades K-6 that reflects the current math standards. This program is especially good for visual learners and those who benefit from having concepts thoroughly explained. Student books are heavily illustrated with lots of color, graphics, and photos. New concepts are shown visually, sometimes with real objects and sometimes with illustrations of math manipulatives. For example, when long division is introduced in grade three, the lesson first shows trays of sandwiches, then models the problem using place-value blocks in place of sandwiches. It continues to show visual models of each step of the process through three pages of the four-page lesson. Manipulatives are not required, but you could easily use place-value blocks (e.g., Base Ten Blocks, Cuisenaire Rods) and other types of manipulatives along with the lessons.
In most lessons, new concepts are presented visually, across the top of a two-page spread. This is followed by Guided Practice with problems based on the new concept. Next is Independent Practice where all problems still relate to the new concept. A Problem Solving set wraps up the lesson with problems on both the new concept and previously learned concepts, almost presented as word problems.
Word problems and practical application situations pervade this program, which means that students have to move beyond computation skills to understand which mathematical functions to apply in different situations.
In each course, lessons are divided under 20 topical units (only 16 for kindergarten) with a number of lessons presented in each unit. These courses develop each topic throughout a unit rather than mixing topics as is done in Saxon Math. Each unit begins with a short review set of problems and concludes with a test, all included in the student book. While the amount of work in the student text might be sufficient for some students, there are extra worksheets that may be printed from the teacher’s edition CD-ROM.
The teacher’s edition CD-ROM actually has an amazing number of resources. Each one has the complete student text with answers overprinted along with teaching instructions. There are vocabulary cards you might print out. “Center Activities” are printable pages for games and hands-on activities; some of these require two or more players but many can be used with a single student. In addition there are alternative assessments, “Daily Spiral Review,” “Problem of the Day,” “Quick Check,” “Enrichment,” “Reteaching,” and “Practice” worksheets that I mentioned above. You will probably want to use one or more of these with most students. At the younger levels, there are also interactive math stories to use. While it is a bother to have to load the CD to see each day’s lesson, that is offset by the availability of all of these easy-to-print resources.
Little to no lesson preparation is required. Independent readers can complete most of their lessons on their own. You might want to do some of the games, mental math, and other activities that provide more interaction, but students at least fourth grade and above might be able to do most everything else independently since lessons are so clearly explained.
Student books for grades 3 - 6 are hardcover. For grades K - 2, student books have a very unusual design called a “tear-‘n-take tablet.” These are 11” x 17” bound books with pages that tear out at the top. Each lesson is on a single large page which is removed and folded in half to form a four-page lesson. Tests are presented in the same format. This means that the student book gradually disappears over the school year. You might want to keep completed pages (or maybe just the tests) in a folder or binder through the year.
A MindPoint® QuizShow program disk comes packaged with each bundle. This is actually a fairly good game program that requires students to answer math problems to score points. There is only one type of game but there are variations in how it is used. It may be played either in single player mode or with more than one player competing. Sections in the program correlate with topics in the course so students can be assigned games that reinforce current lessons. Teachers or parents can access information on each student’s performance if they wish. Like many similar programs, it moves rather slowly between problems with announcements and praise before and after each problem. Graphics and production quality are excellent.
enVisionMATH is a secular program. Since it features many, many word problems it is possible that you might encounter some content with which you disagree. However, in reviewing three of the courses, I did not come across anything I thought objectionable.
The brightly colored format, visual presentation, emphases on both conceptual understanding and practical application, and solid math instruction make this series a good choice for home educators. Homeschool bundles make it surprisingly affordable.