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Math
The Algebra Survival Guide
An Exciting New Option for Algebra

By Josh Rappaport, Singing Turtle Publishers

Algebra …

• Does the mere word send shivers down your spine?
• Are you glad to have forgotten those Xs and Ys?
• Might you possibly be thinking: “Why do I have to teach this now?!”

If so, you’re in good company.

From what I hear, a fair number of homeschooling parents worry about teaching algebra. Why? Because it’s the first branch of math that they’ve forgotten — in whole or in part.

So, what ‘s a homeschooler to do?

OPTION 1:  Find a curriculum that teaches algebra in a way that’s both fun and clear.

OPTION 2:  Get a tutor.

OPTION 2:  Enroll your child at the local community college.

But each of these options comes with a problem. Finding a great algebra curriculum is difficult as most curricula are dull and don’t explain concepts clearly. Getting a tutor who works well with your child can be difficult and expensive. And with the community college option, the school may not even offer the entry-level algebra course your child needs.

In this brief article I’d like to present a few options for algebra that you may not have considered, options that can really work.

First — and why does this sound like an ad? — you can get MY products, the Algebra Survival Guide and Algebra Survival Guide Workbook. The two books, used together, offer an Algebra 1 program that is fun, easy to use, and clear as a silver bell on Sunday morning.

I know this sounds like an infomercial, but keep in mind that I am genuinely enthusiastic about my products — because so many people have told me how much they like them. So please allow me to explain what makes these books perfect for the task at hand. 

The Algebra Survival Guide is written in a Q&A format: question in the voice of a befuddled student, answer in the voice of a kindly tutor. As a result, reading the book is like stepping into a pleasant dialogue, not getting blasted by a boring lecture. Secondly the pages are designed in such a way that they present just one concept at a time. This format keeps students from feeling overwhelmed  — a major problem in math education. To help students nail down the concepts and skills, the pages offer short sets of practice problems at the bottom, with all answers provided. Finally, the book is written in a conversational style, very much like the way a teenager might talk to a friend. Nothing fancy, and no textbook-ese. To round out the program, the complementary Algebra Survival Guide WORKBOOK provides thousands of additional practice problems, gently nudging students along the path from awareness to competence to mastery! In short, the Algebra Survival Guide and Workbook are inspired, cover to cover by the recognition that students are human beings, not math-learning droids, and they need to be treated as such.

Using the Guide and the Workbook, students will learn the following topics in a standard Algebra 1 curriculum:  Properties of Numbers / Sets of Numbers / Positive and Negative Numbers / Order of Operations / Like Terms / Absolute Value / Exponents / Radicals / Factoring / Solving Equations / the Coordinate Plane / and (even the dreaded ) Word Problems.

What’s more, the Algebra Survival Guide offers stories from everyday life that help students make sense of algebra’s tricky abstractions. Examples:  the book offers a tug-of-war story to help students grasp the rules for positive and negative numbers; a detective story to demonstrate the process of solving equations. As “icing on the cake,” the book offers cartoons to bring algebra’s abstractions to life, a, fold-out “Emergency Fact” poster to display algebra’s key rules and formulas — and even a board game that turns practicing lessons into playful fun.

To check out the Algebra Survival Guide and Algebra Survival Guide Workbook, click on over to Amazon.com and read the glowing reviews, many written by homeschoolers.

Another approach to the algebra dilemma is to purchase a standard curriculum, and use the Algebra Survival products as a supplement. If you take this route, I recommend textbooks by McDougal Littel or Prentice Hall. I’ve found that these two companies’ upper-level math textbooks are logically organized and well edited.

While these texts are well written, students do at times get confused by certain concepts. Not to fear, though. You can use the Algebra Survival Guide like an algebraic life-preserver. For example, suppose your child gets stuck in the chapter on rules of exponents. Switch for a while to the Algebra Survival Guide, turning to the exponents chapter. Once your child grasps the explanations in this book, switch back to the textbook to continue with the curriculum.

A third option is to do some online learning. There are many companies that now offer online instruction, and I have jumped onto that bandwagon too. I now offer live online instruction through SKYPE. Working this way, I either tutor students struggling with another curriculum, or teach students directly from my program.  I can even do classes with a number of students. If either possibility appeals,  shoot me an email —   josh@SingingTurtle.com, — and I’ll help you explore the possibilities.

No matter which path you pursue, there are a variety of ways to teach your children algebra without giving yourself a year-long headache. Please keep in mind that I, a published math author, am available to help homeschoolers in whatever way I can.

Josh Rappaport, former homeschooling father, lives, writes, and tutors in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Josh is the author of several math books, including the Card Game Roundup series and PreAlgebra Blastoff! In addition to the Algebra Survival Guide and Workbook. Josh tutors and teaches online — and also offers math workshops at homeschooling conferences. Josh can be reached at
josh@SingingTurtle.com or by calling 505-690-2351. Or visit Josh through his blog:  mathchat.wordpress.com

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