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Wednesday, May 13

Prevent Summer Brain Drain with Math Essentials

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.
Once finishing up our regular math curriculum for the year, we switched our 6th grader to Mastering Essential Math Skills Book 2 Middle Grades/High School from Math Essentials.  He struggles with math, and so we like to have him continue working on skills learned over the summer.  This helps to prevent brain drain, or the summer slide, and is a great strategy for any student…public or homeschool!

This particular book, Mastering Essential Math Skills Book Two -Middle and High School Grades, contains about sixty days worth of work if you do two pages a day (which is what we did).  That’s less work than a typical math lesson, and it’s all review work, so it doesn’t take very long, but it does help to keep those skills sharp.  The table contents shows where particular skills are covered, in case you want to jump around to focus on specific struggles, but we opted to work straight through the book.  Our son has issues with memory, so working on just a few problems each day helps him to continually process the skills, making those basics cement just a bit more in his brain.

The book covers:
  • Whole Numbers: addition, subtraction, multiplication, division and many different types of math problems 
  • Fractions: Changing improper fractions, subtracting, adding, least common denominator, multiplying, reciprocals, dividing and much more 
  • Decimals: changing words to decimals, changing fractions and mixed numbers to decimals, comparing, adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing decimals 
  • Percentages: Changing tenths and hundredths to percents, decimals to percents, percents to decimals and fractions, finding the percent of a number, finding the percent in word problems 
  • Geometry: Points, lines, planes, parallel, measuring angles, types of angles, polygons, triangles, perimeter of polygons, circles, circumference, areas 
  • Integers: addition, subtraction, multiplication, division 
  • Charts and Bar Graphs: bar, line, circle, picture 
  • Word Problems: whole numbers, fractions, decimals, 2 step whole numbers, 2 step fractions, 2 step decimals, multi-step word problems 

Each Lesson has four review sections, including a speed drill, helpful hints, ten math problems, and one word problem.  The pages are laid out cleanly, without a lot of distraction, which can be an issue for many students.  Each lesson also includes a bonus video content section (found online) of math instruction for that skill.  The teacher uses a whiteboard to cover the concepts for students who may need a bit extra help.  His style is appropriate for older kids (and even adults), as he keeps it straightforward, doesn’t do anything really cute with balloons or animals or the other things often used in math basics, and speaks as though he’s talking to a peer.  For the parent who has trouble breaking down the basics, this is a very nice addition to the book!

One thing I’d note is that while the book says it is for middle and high school students, I think it’s more appropriate for 6th-8th graders.  It could be helpful for the high school student who is really struggling, but I would be more likely to recommend the No Nonsense Algebra book for high school students.
If you wanted to use this as your base math curriculum, you’d probably finish the entire book in about a month, but I really think that it is best utilized as a supplemental resource.  You could use it at a younger age to introduce students to concepts that are going to be coming up in the next year…get a jump start with some one-on-one video instruction….or you can use it to review concepts from the previous year and help cement those skills.  This helps to prevent brain drain and gives students a leg up upon beginning the school year because they haven’t forgotten the essential skills from the previous year.

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