The Good and the Beautiful plans to publish math courses for kindergarten through eighth grade. Math K, Math 1, Math 2, and Math 3 are available as I write this review.
These courses were designed with homeschoolers in mind and are most practical for teaching one-on-one. The approach is traditional with its emphasis on learning the basic math algorithms and mastering math facts, but the program also teaches conceptual understanding and mathematical reasoning, skills that are sometimes shortchanged in traditional programs. In addition, the program incorporates some newer learning strategies such as subitizing, a concept that has come into vogue relatively recently. (Subitizing is the ability to quickly visually identify the number of items in a small group without counting them one by one.)
The publisher says, “Though our math curriculum is extremely thorough and academically strong, it is not considered advanced.” You can view their scope and sequence for yourself, but it does seem more academically challenging than many other programs used by homeschoolers. For example, the K-3 Pre-Assessments for math page on their site says that students should already be able to do the following before beginning Math K: recognize and name numerals through five, count to ten, and know basic shapes and colors. Before beginning Math 1, students are expected to be able to count to 100, count by twos to 20, count by tens to 100, recognize odd and even numbers, solve simple addition and subtraction problems such as 3 – 2 =, and identify their right and left hands. This is not a Common Core program, but it does align with those standards in regard to the grade levels where it introduces key concepts.
Each course has two full-color course books that are labeled Part 1 and Part 2. The Math K through Math 2 courses are designed to be taught by the parent through interactive lessons presented from the course books. The attractively designed activity pages are included in the course books. There are no separate student workbooks in the usual sense, but students will do some work in companion workbooks such as the My Planner book used with Math 1 and Math 2.
A parent teaches the lessons, following the step-by-step instructions in the course books. Lessons incorporate direct instruction, discussion, and pencil-and-paper work. But they also address different modes of learning by including work with manipulatives, stories, songs, games, puzzles, and other activities. The variety of learning strategies will make this program very engaging for many learners, but it might not be a good fit for the child who needs a familiar and predictable format.
Student activity pages are not intended to be removed from the course books, and they are not to be reproduced. Consequently, if you have more than one student, you'll need a set of course books for each one.
These courses require the use of hands-on resources that come in The Good and the Beautiful Activity Boxes. The Level K Math Activity Box is used with Math K, the Levels 1-2 Math Activity Box is used with both Math 1 and Math 2, and the Levels 3-4 Math Activity Box will be used with both Math 3 and Math 4.
The Level K Math Activity Box includes items such as beads to create your own Rekenrek (a device with beads mounted on rods for counting), ten-frame cards, flashcards, dice, a laminated place-value chart with pockets, wooden cubes, a My Calendar book, pattern blocks, and pattern-block picture cards. The Levels 1-2 Math Activity Box has items such as a clock face with movable hands, chipboard manipulatives (e.g., for tangram pieces, base ten pieces, and shapes divided into fractional parts), game boards with instructions, game cards, a laminated place-value chart with pockets, a set of domino cards, and 3D geometric shapes. The Levels 3-4 Math Activity Box includes the 102-page My Math Journal, 22 gorgeous game mats, a Multiplication & Division Activity Book (with instructions for the games), chipboard pieces for games, pentomino mats and pieces, cards, dice, and pawns. You will also need to have on hand basic school supplies such as scissors, crayons, pencils, paper, a dry-erase board and marker, a ruler, paper clips, and glue, plus just a few other items that vary for each course, such as a cookie sheet and a ball.
In most cases, each child will need his or her own activity box. Two children can use the same activity box if they are not taught at the same time. However, an additional student using the Level K Math Activity Box or the Levels 3-4 Math Activity Box needs his or her own copy of the My Calendar book or My Math Journal (respectively) that is included in the boxes.
Free PDF answer keys and MP3 songs (e.g., “Days of the Week” and “Months of the Year”) can be played or downloaded from the publisher’s website. Free downloadable transition lessons are also available for students shifting from another program into The Good and the Beautiful’s math program.
All courses divide each day's lesson into four sections: the Daily Dose, direct instruction, completing the student worksheet, and "bonus independent activity." All of these sections have detailed instructions for what the parent is to say and do unless the worksheet or activity is one the child can work on independently.
The Daily Dose section of the lesson is for teaching math principles that need to be taught incrementally or through repetition. During the Daily Dose, students will learn concepts such as place value, recognizing patterns, writing dates, identifying numbers that come before and after in sequence, learning to identify and count coins, and mastering multiplication facts. They will sometimes write directly on the Daily Dose pages in the course book. Every day, students will also use the My Calendar (for Math K), My Planner (for Math 1 and Math 2), or My Math Journal (for Math 3 and Math 4) to learn about months and days of the week in the early grades, and to create a reference notebook for third grade and beyond.
The direct instruction lesson time is for introducing new concepts that are taught using a three-step process the publisher calls a “To, With, and By” teaching style. This means that new concepts are first presented to the child, usually with manipulatives or visual aids. Then the parent works with the child to practice the concept. Finally, the child works on the concept without assistance.
The student worksheet part of the lesson is an opportunity for practice or reinforcement of the concept taught in the lesson.
The bonus independent activity usually reinforces previously learned concepts in fun ways. Children might do something like work with tangrams, solve a puzzle, do a cut-and-paste activity, or play a game. They might use resources from the activity box, a page from the lesson, or resource pages from the appendices of the course book. These bonus activities are occasionally omitted from a lesson when other portions of the lesson are likely to take more time than usual.
The teaching time required varies, but each child at the kindergarten level should have about 20 minutes of interactive teaching time, and first graders should have about 25 minutes. Children will also spend some time working on their own, but most of the lesson is generally completed with the parent. For Math 2, children should be able to complete the Daily Dose independently in about ten minutes, then direct instruction will take 15 to 20 minutes. Students should be able to complete their worksheets independently in about ten minutes, but if they need help, parents should work with them. The bonus independent activities vary in the time required. Some parental involvement is still required for third and fourth grade, even though students can complete more work on their own.
Parents need to do a little advance preparation for lessons, especially familiarizing themselves with the resources from the activity box and knowing how they will be used in the lesson presentations. Otherwise, lessons are open-and-go.
The stories and illustrations in the courses are wholesome and supportive of traditional values. There are occasional mentions of God as creator, such as on p. 128 in Math K: Part 1 where it says, “Winter, spring, summer, fall. God gave us four seasons.” But such instances are rare.
Courses for grades four through eight are also in the works, but no information about those is available yet.
The entire program is beautifully put together, from the colorful illustrations in the course books to the well-constructed manipulatives. The Good and the Beautiful has done a superior job of creating a program with lots of variety and plenty of hands-on activity while keeping it easy for parents to use.