Exploring Creation with Mathematics is a new series from Apologia. So far, only Level 1 and Level 2 (for first and second grades) are available.
These courses were designed for homeschoolers and require one-on-one instruction with a combination of worksheets, manipulatives, games, and projects. There is a strong emphasis on mastering both math facts and conceptual understanding. Religious content is almost completely isolated into introductory pages at the beginning of each unit.
Each course has a large (more than 300-page), plastic-spiral-bound All-in-One Student Text and Workbook that is the primary resource for both student and teacher. The Teaching Guide & Answer Key for each course is also essential. In this review, I will refer to these two course components as the student text and the teacher guide for the sake of brevity. An added bonus with each course is a password to a dedicated "Book Extras" web page with extra helpful tools such as printable pages for games and activities. Access information is in the front of each book with the course instructions.
Level 1 is divided into five units, and Level 2 has six units. Each unit is divided into chapters, and each chapter has a number of lessons. These courses each have just over 100 lessons, and one or two additional days are scheduled as project days at the end of most units. The teacher guides have lesson plan charts showing lessons for four days per week. The intent is for students to complete one lesson per day other than on project days.
On most days, the lesson time will begin with the Daily Skills Practice—activities that might involve hands-on work, worksheets (downloaded from Apologia’s website), or games. Instructions for the Daily Skills Practice for each unit are in the teacher’s guide. For some units, students will do only one type of skill practice each day, although there might be various levels of difficulty from day to day. Other units have more than one type of skill practice. The Daily Skills Practice is used to reinforce what was taught in the previous unit. For instance, in Level 2, in the fourth unit (which teaches addition and subtraction with three-digit numbers), the skill practice is on counting coins and telling time, the concepts that were taught in the third unit. About ten minutes a day should be spent on skill practice.
The lesson itself is then taught from the student book which is printed in full color with lots of images. The parent will read the text and guide students through the activities or written work in the student book.
These courses teach each math concept in many different ways, including hands-on activities to ensure both conceptual understanding and mastery of the math facts. Some of the hands-on resources used are "ten frames" (grids of ten squares on paper), LEGO® bricks, linking cubes, base ten blocks, dominoes, playing cards, dice, counters or beans, and play dough (recipe included). You will also use lots of household and craft resources like foam cups, M&M’s®, coins, dot stickers, brads, beads, poster board, pipe cleaners, colored pencils, tape, and glue. There are separate supply lists for each unit in the teacher’s guides, as well as a comprehensive list at the end of each guide.
These courses use concrete, representational, and abstract instruction. That means that new concepts are introduced with concrete objects, they are taught again with visual representations (images), and students learn concepts abstractly using numbers and mathematical symbols. That's the overarching approach, but lessons don't always use the steps in that order. For instance, Lesson 15 in Level 2 is about place value. Students use base ten blocks to model three-digit numbers (concrete). They use the numbers 3, 6, and 7 to write their own 3-digit number (abstract). They model their number with base ten blocks (connecting the abstract to the concrete). And they draw a picture to show the base ten blocks for their number (connecting representational to the abstract).
Problem solving is done in numerous ways. While there are sometimes rows of problems to solve, the lessons use a variety of formats to present problems including word problems, problems within puzzles, and problem solving within games. Pages are never overcrowded.
The teacher’s guide has reduced images of student text pages with overprinted answers, and these images are sometimes accompanied by tips or special instructions for teaching the lesson. At the back of each book are more than 30 pages that will be used for games and activities throughout each course. These pages include ten frame charts, game boards, cut-and-fold pages, cards to be used for games, and much more. Parents should check the teacher guide before each lesson for information they might need and to pull out any pages from the back that will be used. (These pages are also available to print directly from the textbook’s Book Extras webpage.) Otherwise, parents just work together with their student from the student text without going through the lesson ahead of time.
Level 1 begins by teaching numbers from 0 to 20 and beginning addition. The second unit continues through addition and subtraction with numbers up to 20. The third unit concentrates on the concept of place value with numbers up to 120. Students also learn to compare numbers and to add two-digit numbers. The fourth unit covers two areas: first measurement (including telling time), then data and graphs. The fifth unit introduces both two- and three-dimensional geometric shapes along with concepts such as vertex (and vertices) and the fractional parts of two-dimensional shapes.
Level 2 continues addition and subtraction up through 3-digit numbers (with regrouping). It teaches numbers up through 1,000. It continues at a higher level of difficulty with telling time, measurement, data and graphs, geometric shapes, and fractional parts. It also introduces money with coins and one-dollar bills.
The Exploring Creation with Mathematics courses require parent involvement most of the time, as well as some preparation work in gathering and preparing resources. But that investment of time to create hands-on, interactive lessons should make the courses effective and enjoyable for both parent and student.