Progress in Mathematics is a classroom-designed math program that reflects the national math standards. I generally don’t review many such programs since their publishers are usually not set up to deal with homeschoolers and because the classroom design makes them cumbersome and expensive for homeschoolers. In addition, adherence to the national math standards often skews such programs so that they skimp on basic computation skills in favor of all the other concepts that are in the standards.
I’m making an exception for Sadlier for a few reasons. Some families are looking for a non-sectarian math program that thoroughly implements the new math standards and is more similar to what is used in “regular” schools than are some of the most popular programs among homeschoolers. Sadlier has always published solid academic materials since their primary market has been parochial schools. Thus, basic computation skills receive plenty of attention along with coverage of all the other topics in the standards. (They supply the math program for William Bennett’s K12 program.)
Primary components for each level are a teacher’s edition, a student textbook, and a student workbook, although the workbooks might be optional. Student textbooks for grades K through 2 are softcover while third grade and up are hardcover. Workbooks are softcover.
Teacher’s editions for the textbook are hefty, spiral bound volumes that include detailed lesson plans with reduced pictures of student pages surrounded by instructional information. Answers are overprinted in red on student pages. They also have reproducible tests and blackline masters for both essential and extended activities. These manuals are loaded with information, even though some of it is targeted at larger classes. There are valuable helps here for teaching to different learning styles, addressing difficulties, and assessing progress. These manuals also indicate when you might use pages from the other program components.
It might be possible for parents to use the kindergarten through second grade student books without the pricey teacher manuals. You will be missing mental math exercises and some reproducible masters from the teacher manual as well as the very detailed lesson plans, answer keys, and extra helps. However, many parents should be able to figure out how to use the student books without missing essentials.
Student textbooks are beautifully printed in full color. Books for grades K through 2 include punch-out pages of heavy card stock to use as manipulatives. These substitute for coins, a ruler, geometric shapes, and manipulative blocks. Classroom sized sets of manipulatives are also available, but they are prohibitively expensive for most families. Of course, you can purchase other manipulatives on your own to use with this program if you decide you need more than the punch-out pages.
The student textbooks provide adequate practice problems, including computation and word problems. Lessons each cover a single topic rather than using a spiral approach such as Saxon’s. This is true for both the student textbook and student workbook.
The student workbooks mirror the lesson content, often with a brief explanation at the top of the page and problems similar to those done in the textbook. Think of the workbook pages as homework pages (one single-sided page per day) that students complete outside school time. While the workbooks provide additional practice and reinforcement, use your own judgment as to how much each child should complete. Separate teacher’s editions for workbooks serve as answer keys.
The supplemental Spiral Review Practice Books that come with all but kindergarten level provide continual review of this sort that helps keep students up to speed on previously taught concepts. However, in the first few levels the Spiral Review books tend to stick with the lesson topic rather than reviewing. The Spiral Review Practice Books have only half a page of problems per day, so these might be used as warm-up exercises before beginning a new math lesson.
Also available for each of grades one through six is a Skills Update Practice Book that reviews concepts and skills taught the previous year. However, this is a fairly thin workbook. Using both the Spiral Review and Skills Update books will help students retain what they have learned. Both Skills Update and Spiral Review workbooks have separate, relatively small teacher editions that serve as answer keys.
Grades four through six have another optional component, an Intervention Workshop student workbook and teacher’s edition. The substantial teacher’s edition targets key concepts with scripted, step-by-step lessons to use when children need remediation on particular topics. I suspect that most students will not need this component.
While there might be more in the Sadlier program than most students will need, all of these components provide everything that you might need to help children of different abilities and learning styles.