The Good and the Beautiful has completely redone their math program to make it more efficient and less expensive. Simply Good and Beautiful Math K through Math 5 are available as of August 2021, and Math 6, Math 7, and Math 8 are in the works.
For each level, both instruction and student activities are included in one coursebook. Separate answer keys are available for all courses except Math K. Just as The Good and the Beautiful does with some levels of its language-arts program, they offer downloadable PDF files for the math coursebooks for grades one through five for free. Pre-printed coursebooks are also available for purchase. (Math K is not free.)
Math K through Math 3 need to be taught by parents. Simply Good and Beautiful Math has streamlined math instruction to make it easy for both parents and students to use in a reasonable amount of time. Kindergarten lessons should take 10 to 12 minutes per day, with the time required for each level gradually increasing up to 30 to 35 minutes per day for Math 3. Math 4 and above are designed for students to work independently for the most part, with instruction provided through online videos and the coursebook. Students working through Math 4 and Math 5 should spend 35 to 45 minutes per day.
The videos can be watched online or downloaded. Many of them run close to ten minutes, so downloading might not be practical. The course books for Math 4 and Math 5 have mini lessons that present the same concepts covered in the videos in very abbreviated presentations that students can read for themselves. If students already know the concept or can grasp it easily with the mini lesson, they do not need to watch the video. However, the videos cover more ground than the mini lessons, so be careful that students are not missing something important. If they struggle with the problems in the Lesson Practice section of a lesson, they should go back and watch or rewatch the video. (Lesson pages include QR codes to help you quickly access the video you need.)
The coursebooks are beautifully illustrated with full color throughout the lessons. If you get the PDF coursebook, there are a number of reasons why you'll need to print out many of the pages in color. First, students sometimes have to identify images by color in some of the lessons in the books for younger students. Second, color printing helps the reader distinguish images and details that might not appear as clearly in black and white. And finally, the books are beautiful, and children will love the color. If you don’t have access to inexpensive color printing, you probably should buy the printed book.
Math K through Math 3 each requires the use of a set of manipulatives that comes in a wooden box with a sliding lid—a different set for each course. Many of the items in the Math Boxes are constructed from wood to make them durable and easy to handle. You can gather or make items to create your own set of manipulatives if you prefer. Instructions and templates for doing so are included on the publisher’s website. (Click on “How do I make my own Math Box?” to watch a video that explains how to put together your own sets of manipulatives for all four levels.) The prices for the boxes are so low, that you might save by buying the boxes ready to go. You will need your own whiteboard and markers to use along with many of the courses.
The educational approach of Simply Good and Beautiful Math is very eclectic. It helps children master basic problem-solving skills and math facts, while also teaching conceptual understanding and mathematical reasoning. It uses a spiral approach, teaching a concept, then revisiting it and expanding upon it bit by bit. The spiral approach also helps build in continual review of previously taught concepts. In addition, the last section of most lessons beginning with first grade is labeled as review.
All courses have 120 lessons, and the lessons are divided into either three or four units. The lessons have lots of variety, incorporating many different methods of learning, such as work with manipulatives, viewing visual representations of manipulatives, games, brief stories, and puzzles. No two pages in the coursebooks look alike. Game mats and instructions are within the lessons where they will be used, so there’s no flipping around or searching for what you need. Assessments are included within each coursebook at the end of each unit. For Math 1 and above, answer keys are a free download under the "FAQs and Extras" for each course on the publisher's website.
The coursebooks are illustrated mostly with drawings of children, with a lot of attention given to diversity. The stories within the lessons stress positive character traits and virtues. There is very minimal Christian content. When Bible references or verses are included, they are from the King James Version.
The Simply Good and Beautiful Math program is unusually creative and interesting. It is an excellent option for a hands-on program. On top of that, even if you purchase the printed book and box for a course, it’s a bargain.
Following are details about the courses I have reviewed. Preview samples of other levels are available now on the publisher’s website.
Math K is presented in three units. It covers the recognition and writing of numbers; counting to one hundred by ones, twos, fives, and tens; even and odd numbers; addition to 10; introductory subtraction; writing simple equations; word problems; greater than and less than; measurement; telling time; the calendar; patterns; shapes and symmetry; graphs; and coins. This sounds like a lot for kindergarten, but the interactive, experiential approach used at this level makes it very workable for the average student.
The Math Box for Math K includes four custom dice, two wooden game pawns, three very small wooden cars, and 15 counting sticks. You can create your own box with comparable items. For the custom dice, one has the numbers 1 to 6, another has numbers 7 to 12, and two dice have equation symbols. The other items need to be the correct sizes. Students will move the cars on tracks on their lesson pages, and the counting sticks need to be a specific length to work for the activities.
An assessment is at the end of each of the three units. Students are not expected to master all of the concepts that have been taught, since they will all be reviewed again in first grade. So the assessments test children only on concepts they are expected to master, and they do not require that children are able to either read or write. The assessments let parents know what they need to reteach rather than serving as tools for grading. There is no answer key since answers should be obvious to the parent.
Math 1 reviews concepts taught in kindergarten, often in the review activity at the beginning of each lesson. The coursebook tells you to skip an activity if your child has already mastered it. From the very first lesson, it begins to introduce what are likely to be new concepts, such as left and right, place value, and the concept of subitizing. The course covers basic arithmetic skills plus many other areas such as counting by 2s, 5s, 10s, and 100s; measurement; telling time; counting coins; number bonds; and writing fractions. It teaches addition and subtraction but does not introduce carrying and borrowing. The course often suggests optional YouTube™ videos on The Good and the Beautiful Kids YouTube channel, such as “How to Spell Numbers 4, 5, 6,” and “Months of the Year Song.” (It might be worth paying for YouTube to avoid the ads.)
The Math 1 Box has a clock face with movable hands on the lid and a whiteboard on the reverse side of the lid. Items inside are plastic coins; play money bills; two custom dice; seven wooden boat figures; and six, double-sided wooden clock faces.
Math 2 lessons are divided into four units. A Review Box at the beginning of most lessons offers students the opportunity to review concepts and skills. Students solidify their skills with addition and subtraction, including regrouping. They are introduced to multiplication, division, and fractions but in a gentle fashion. For instance, it introduces multiplication with skip counting and visual arrays (showing rows and columns of objects) rather than rows of problems to solve. The course also covers many other concepts such as telling time, counting money, rounding, estimating, writing numbers in expanded form, imperial measurements, metric measurements, weight, word problems, Venn diagrams, tally charts, graphs, geometry (polygons, lines, angles, perimeter, symmetry, congruence, and transformations), and identifying locations on coordinate grids. This course covers so many topics that it probably meets or exceeds all state standards.
The Math 2 Box has a clock face with movable hands on the lid. The items inside are plastic coins, play-money bills, a ten-sided die with numbers 1 to 10, two fraction dice, four metal figures (helicopter, jet plane, rocket, and biplane), and 10 three-quarter-inch wooden squares with numbers and colored stars. You will need to supply a magnetic board.
Math 3 reviews regrouping and other addition and subtraction skills then spends a lot of time on multiplication up through multiplying three- and four-digit numbers by one digit numbers with regrouping. A multiplication chart is included near the front of the book along with a page for keeping track of the child's mastery of the multiplication facts. It introduces division along with concepts such as place value to the millions, perimeter, area, order of operations, the coordinate plane, Roman numerals, different types of measurement, fractions, congruent shapes, similar shapes, rounding, graphs, and elapsed time.
The Math 3 Box has one six-sided dice, two custom dice, a 60-inch measuring tape, 16 magnetic shapes, two game pawns, and an array mat. It also has a magnetic whiteboard on the box lid.
Math 4 has four components: the Math 4: Course Book, the Math 4: Answer Key, Math 4: Mental Math Map Mysteries, and online videos. The first three items are available as free, downloadable PDFs or as printed items that can be purchased, and the videos are available free online (for streaming or download).
This course reviews addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Then it continues with larger numbers for all operations, long division, rounding, estimation, multiples and factors, fractions, conversion of fractions to decimals, addition and subtraction of fractions, all operations with decimals, geometry (e.g., rays, angles, perimeter, area, types of triangles), elapsed time, many types of measurement, prime numbers, composite numbers, data, graphing, probability, and word problems. The lessons frequently review the basic math facts.
Unit assessments are included in the course book at the end of each of the four units. Lessons 117 and 118 are set up as additional reviews for the first two units and the second two units, respectively. These two "lessons" both use a theme of traveling through Italy, with math problems and a puzzle to solve. Answers to lessons, reviews, and assessments are in the answer key.
Math 4: Mental Math Map Mysteries is used apart from the lessons, but students should complete one per lesson. Each day's mental math is in a small box, with five boxes per page. While Math 4 is designed primarily for independent study, someone has to work with the student for about five minutes as they look at the mental math problems and respond orally. The "supervisor" can check the answer key that is on the reverse side of each page. This works most easily with the printed book since it has a comb binding on the side. The student can be looking at one side of the page while the supervisor can see the other. If you use the PDF, you can figure out how to display what you need or you can print out student pages. TGATB has added an interesting incentive. After every four or five lesson boxes (one page), "the student is directed to place a sticker from page 71 onto a designated space on the map on page 69. At the end of the course, the student will have a completed picture of the map." This is an actual sticker in the printed book, but the PDF has all of the sticker images on page 71, and students can cut and paste the appropriate images. Pages 49 through 68 in Mental Math Map Mysteries is a "choose your adventure" story. The map created with the images shows places in the story.
Like Math 4, Math 5 has four components: the Math 5: Course Book, Math 5: Answer Key, Math 5: Mental Math Map Mysteries, and online videos. The first three items are available as free, downloadable PDFs or as printed items that can be purchased, and the videos are available free online. Math 5: Mental Math Map Mysteries works exactly the same as for Math 4, so please read that description above. Unit assessments are included in the course book at the end of each unit. Lesson 118 helps students review the entire course in preparation for the final assessment that is identified as Lessons 119 and 120. Answers to lessons, reviews, and assessments are in the answer key.
Math 5 covers all four arithmetic functions with fractions, decimals, and percents; geometry (area, perimeter, angles, congruency, computing the measurements of a circle, and the use of a protractor and ruler); the conversion of fractions, decimals, and percents; probability; graphing on a coordinate plane; the distributive property; exponents; square roots; many types of standard and metric measurement; negative numbers; beginning algebraic equations; and more. This course should exceed the Common Core State Standards for fifth-grade math