Do you know what it feels like to struggle with trying to teach your children a subject in your homeschool? I have a feeling most homeschool parents could answer "yes" to this question. What if it was a subject you actually really loved when you were in school, but through the years the information has slipped from your mind? This is what I have been dealing with when it comes to math. Not knowing for sure how to explain concepts that once came easily to me. I mean, I had made it all the way to college-level calculus (though I admit, I didn't do very well in that class), yet now I am struggling to explain such concepts as fractions and lowest common denominators to my daughter, figuring she would have to understand them for her standardized tests. So, you can imagine my excitement when I was chosen to review Math Refresher for Adults from Math Essentials.
Just what is Math Refresher for Adults? Well, it is a math book which is "the perfect solution" for those who desire to strengthen their math skills. There are many reasons someone might need this book. One listed on the cover states "You want to be able to help your kids with their homework." For us, all work is of course "home" work. Yes, my children have their math curriculum they are using. But there are just times, as mentioned above, when mom still needs to come to the rescue and be able to help explain what is being taught. Another of the reasons is "You have forgotten most of the math that you learned." I may not have forgotten everything I had learned, but I was shocked when I struggled trying to explain simple things to Tabitha, such as how to turn mixed numbers into improper fractions. Or that I couldn't remember that flipping a fraction upside down meant I was finding the reciprocals.
Math Refresher for Adults is a 270-page, softcover book which is a combination workbook/textbook. What I mean by this is that you can feel free to work in it to figure out the solutions or you may copy the problems into a notebook to work them out that way.
The book begins with a Preface, About This Book page, and some tips for using the book and helping our kids enjoy math. The majority of the book is focused on General Math and then it concludes with a section on Pre-Algebra and Algebra. In the General Math section you will find the following topics:
- Whole Numbers
- Charts and Graphs
- Word Problems.
You will find the solutions in the back of the book, along with a six-page glossary and helpful charts. The charts you will find are:
- Important Symbols
- Multiplication Table
- Commonly Used Prime Numbers
- Squares and Square Roots
- Fraction/Decimal Equivalents
Each of the workbook/lesson pages follow the same format. At the top you will find room for note-taking and four review exercises
In the middle of the page you will find a Helpful Hints section. You will find step-by-step instructions along with a couple of examples on how to work out the problems. Remember, this is a math "refresher" book, so you aren't going to find full lessons here.
The bottom of the page contains the problems that go with the lesson. There are always two sample questions so you can practice before working on the other ten questions. To the right there is space to write your answers. Then there is a Problem Solving word problem that gives some extra real-world practice. This problem may be related to the current lesson or one taught previously.
If you come to a page where you don't understand the instructions, you can find corresponding video lessons on the website.
These videos technically go with different Math Essential books, as you can see from the picture. However, we were able to find the correct videos for the sections we needed. These videos actually have someone teaching a lesson off-screen while the information is added digitally to the screen. The following screenshots show part of a lesson on expressing fractions in their simplest form.
How did I use the book Math Refresher for Adults?
Well, originally I planned on being the only one in my family utilizing the book. I wanted to make sure I understood forgotten concepts so I could better explain them to the children. After I received the book, I realized I could have Tabitha use the beginning chapters of the book to make sure she understood certain concepts before she had to take her standardized tests. I figured, even though I knew she could add and subtract, a little bit of basic math practice would be helpful. Also, the Problem Solving questions at the bottom of each page gave her some practice with word problems. I did only have her work on the sample problems, checking for skills she needed to work on. I have to say, I'm glad I had her do this. I discovered that even though she knows how to multiply bigger numbers, she was making silly mistakes.
She spent quite a bit of time working on fractions, as this wasn't something she had been focusing on with her curriculum recently. The video lessons really helped improve her comprehension of such things as changing improper fractions to mixed numerals, finding the least common denominator, and adding/subtracting fractions with unlike denominators.
I was also using the book during this timeframe. I noticed the tips section in the front of the book recommended copying the problems onto a piece of paper to work on them. It is stated that "copying a problem down and then working it . . . seems to help in accuracy as well as understanding." Which I can definitely agree with. I decided to use my notebook to work out problems on topics I felt I could use that refresher in.
I have been taking the books up to bed with me. Sometimes I would work on my math before I went to sleep, other times I worked on it after I woke up in the morning. I would do anywhere between 1 and 4 pages at a time, depending upon how tired I was or how early I woke up. I started out working with fractions. I appreciated being able to practice working with fractions with unlike denominators. And I learned something I either completely forgot or was never taught. Did you know "if the numerator of one fraction and the denominator of another have a common factor, they can be divided out before you multiply the fractions."? That was an interesting "lightbulb" moment.
I've also spent time working with decimals and percents. I have just been going page by page, reading the information, looking at the problems and sometimes working on them, only if I determined it was a skill I needed practice in. Though, I did try to work on the Problem Solving example on each page as word problems never were my strongpoint.
Personally, I've always loved math, so this has actually been quite an enjoyable time. Yes, you read that correctly. I'm actually having fun working on math. No stress as there are no tests or people to compete with. Just me having fun playing with math and improving my knowledge. And of course, I am making sure I can better help my children from here on out.
So, what do we think of Math Refresher for Adults from Math Essentials?
I think it is a wonderful book! The instructions given are clear and concise. However, if more thorough instruction is required, it is only some keystrokes and mouse-clicks away. I like that there are review questions on each page so topics can continue to be practiced. And there are only 12 problems to solve, in addition to the word problem at the bottom of the page. This is something that can be worked on here and there throughout the day or in one sitting. It won't take up a lot of your time, but you get to improve your math skills. I also appreciate that I can work in my notebook, so when my children need to work on some of these topics they won't have to worry about seeing the answer. It also helps to know you aren't limited in the space needed to work out the problem.
If you are looking to improve your math skills, or if your children need some help, I can highly recommend this combo workbook/textbook. It is thorough and orderly in its approach, with lessons building on the ones before. However, if you have specific skills you want to work on, it is easy enough to skip around. All you have to do is look for the specific topic in the Table of Contents. It is also very helpful that the solutions can be found in the back of the book.
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