Rod and Staff's math program is black-and-white, straightforward, no-nonsense traditional mathematics with an emphasis on drill and memorization as well as practical application through word problems. Previously taught concepts are continuously reviewed. Conceptual teaching is weaker than in programs such as those from Math-U-See and BJU Press. Sometimes teachers are told to visually illustrate a concept on the board, and there are some illustrations. But manipulative activities are rare.
Lessons are presented by the teacher using visual aids to teach concepts. Each lesson is divided into class time, seatwork time, and "after class" time. (Remember the program is designed for the classroom.) Most of all three parts of the lesson actually occur during what would be considered math class. The main lesson is presented during class time.
Students complete speed drills every other day at the end of class time, then complete the lesson page in their workbooks during seatwork time. They might also complete some of the blackline pages. The "after class" time, which is directed by the teacher, is intended for practice, review, or introduction of a new topic.
The amount of seatwork is similar to that in A Beka Arithmetic or Alpha Omega's Horizons Math programs, but there is a larger amount of math fact drill and less variety in methodology than we find in most math programs.
The extra Speed Drill book emphasizes speed and accuracy, but it should be optional since there is already so much drill within the textbook itself.
Student workbooks for the first two grades are illustrated but printed in brown ink on white paper. Hardcover student texts for third grade and up are printed in black and white. You will almost certainly want the blackline masters for each level since those pages correlate with the lessons.
The teacher's manual has complete instructions for lesson presentation, patterns, reduced student pages with answers, and explanation of the design of the program.
The program's Mennonite background is evident in the illustrations and word problems dealing with farming, canning, building, etc., but none of this limits the program's effectiveness for all children.
Beginning Arithmetic, 1991 edition (Grade 1)
A flannel board and flash cards are essential to teach the lessons as presented in the teacher's manual, with other visuals playing minor roles. Rod and Staff sells a set of large flash cards to be used along with the lessons, although we might choose to make these ourselves. (The only difficulty occurs with the number order flash cards. Some flash cards have particular numbers arranged out of order; these are used to help children identify the proper order for numbers.) We are told to create a small set of flashcards for each student for some of the drill practice. You might let a single small set serve for lesson presentation and student practice.
The teacher's manual lists blacklines for each lesson in descending order of importance, so we need not use them all. Some dot-to-dots and more interesting pages are found in the blackline set. The scope and sequence is slower than some of the other Christian publishers; first grade covers double-digit addition and subtraction but without any carrying or borrowing. Rod and Staff directs the teacher to handle and manipulate objects to demonstrate concepts. At home it should be practical to have children do more of the handling themselves, increasing the hands-on dimension for those learners who need it.
Working Arithmetic, revised edition Grade 2
Rod and Staff's second-grade arithmetic program is packaged differently from most others. Student work is divided into five units, each a tear-out workbook. Then there are two teacher's manuals, the first covering the first two student units and the last covering units 3-5. Teacher's manuals give directions for class-time drills, coordinate blackline sheets with lessons, and have reduced student pages with answers. The blackline pages reinforce lessons taught throughout the program and also introduce multiplication and division, which are not taught in the rest of the second-grade program. Carrying and borrowing are covered at this level. Continuous review is built in throughout the year with the last ten lessons of the program providing a systematic review of the course. The course leans toward memorization and drill rather than experiential learning.
Exploring Arithmetic Grade 3
The third-grade format changes to a single hardbound student text. There are fewer blackline masters than at previous levels. Students copy problems from their text to solve on paper, but, curiously, there are rarely any instructions in their book. Most of the exercises are obvious; the first lesson page is always computation practice. A good part of the second page of each lesson is also obvious, but occasionally students will need an explanation of what is expected. The scope and sequence remains on the slow to average side with multiplication and division facts through the 9s introduced in the last three-fourths of the course.
There is also an inexpensive set of worksheets and a worksheets teacher's edition (with answers). However, these are supplemental problems to solve rather than a repeat of the problems posed in the hardbound textbook. Milestone Books says, "The worksheets booklet has tear-out sheets that provide additional concepts beyond those taught in the textbook, as well as advanced practice to help better prepare third-grade students for grade four. (Free when purchased with pupil textbook.)”
Progressing with Arithmetic Grade 4
Student books include brief instructions on new concepts. While it is possible to provide adequate math instruction from only the student text, the teacher's editions (two volumes) are extremely useful for more complete lesson presentation, more comprehensive review, oral drill exercises, answers overprinted on reproduced student pages, and coordinating instructions for use of drills. Supplementary drills are at the back of the student book, and speed drills (to be used with every other lesson) are in a separate book. Tests are in a separate booklet, and answers for tests are in the teacher's editions. You should also purchase or make flash cards for addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division to use with this course.
This course is about average in pace. It reviews addition and subtraction, then focuses primarily on multiplication and division skills and fractions. It takes multiplication up through three-digit multipliers; division through two-digit divisors; fractions through addition, subtraction, and the introduction of multiplication; and decimals through addition and subtraction. It covers unit conversions, Roman numerals, time, measurement, money, graphs (picture and bar), perimeter, and area. Time/rate/distance problems are also introduced. A "Handbook of Terms and Rules" can be found at the back of both student and teacher editions.
This course stresses mastery of arithmetic skills as well as mathematical thinking such as estimation, choosing mathematical functions, and mathematical vocabulary. It isn't exciting, but it builds a solid foundation in math.
Gaining Skill with Arithmetic Grade 5
Identical in format to Progressing with Arithmetic, this text continues with multiplication and division, then concentrates on fractions, decimals, ratio, percent, graphing, measurement, unit conversion, and geometry (shapes, perimeter, and area). While it might be possible to work with only the student text, the teacher's editions are valuable for lesson presentation, oral reviews, mental drills, and answer keys. Tests are available in a separate booklet, and test answers are found in the teacher's editions.
Understanding Mathematics Grade 6
New concepts at this level are decimal/fraction equivalents, greatest common factor, lowest common multiple, multiplication and division of decimals, work with percents in practical applications, metric conversions, and geometry (perimeter, area, circumference).
Mastering Mathematics Grade 7
New concepts at this level are algebraic expressions, the order of operations, exponents, square roots, signed numbers, advanced work with decimals and percents, angles, and triangles.
Applying Mathematics Grade 8
This text reviews basic operations, while also addressing applications of math skills. Students learn complex percentage topics, computation with signed numbers and exponents, extracting square roots, base twelve and base two systems, scientific notation, surface and volume calculation, the Pythagorean rule, double-line graphs, ratio and proportion, statistics, profit and loss, and other business math. The text introduces algebra, simple equations, and plane and solid geometry. A separate booklet contains worksheets (including some business and checkbook forms) and tests. You need all three components for the course.