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 should be available by August 2, 2021, and Math 6, Math 7, and Math 8 are planned to be released in the summers of 2022, 2023, and 2024, respectively. I wrote this review based on Math K, Math 2, Math 4, and information from their website.
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 plan to offer downloadable PDF files for the math coursebooks for grades one through five for free. You will also be able to purchase pre-printed coursebooks. (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 textbook. 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 present the same concepts that are covered in the videos in what they call mini lessons--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 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 require 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 their 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.
The lessons have lots of variety, incorporating many different methods of learning, such as work with manipulatives, 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.
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.
I’ll add some comments about each level as it becomes available. Samples of other levels are available now on the publisher’s website.
Math K is presented in 120 lessons divided into 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 course's 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. To administer an assessment, the parent needs to read instructions aloud for the child, and many assessment items include colorful illustrations as visual aids. The child might circle items, draw hands on a clock, draw lines between items, or write a number as the answer to a problem. 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 2 has 120 lessons that are divided into four units. Students solidify their skills with addition and subtraction and are introduced to multiplication, division, and fractions. 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.
A Review Box at the beginning of most lessons offers students the opportunity to review concepts and skills. There is an assessment at the end of each unit. The answer key for the entire course is a free, downloadable file.
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 4 has four components: the Simply Good and Beautiful Math 4 Course Book, the Simply Good and Beautiful 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 unit. Lessons 117 and 118 are set up as 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 might be 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.