Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Make Algebra Visual, Hands-On, and EASY {An Algebra for Breakfast Review}

Lately, math time in our home has centered largely around Grades 3/4 and 5/6 Lessons from Algebra for Breakfast.

If you've never heard of
Algebra for Breakfast, you are not alone.  I hadn't either until I was offered a chance to review this online video-based math enrichment program with my children. 

As soon as I began listening to the introductory video at the
Algebra for Breakfast site and heard that even a first grader could learn algebra with Bob Hazen's method,  I knew I wanted to try the program with my children.

Mind you, I did not want to try
Algebra for Breakfast, because I am a momma that wants to push her children hard and early.  Rather, I was excited about the program, because I am in a season of homeschooling where I need an "easy button" for math - something all three of my children can use and succeed with that takes minimal prep time from me.  So, once I heard that even six-year-olds could learn with the principles Bob Hazen teaches and saw that the Algebra for Breakfast program uses video teaching, hands-on manipulatives, and games, I was fairly certain the program would be a good fit for us. 

My oldest child likes online learning.  My middle child benefits from hands-on exercises.  My youngest loves learning games.  And me?  I like when "easy" and "math" can honestly be spoken in the same sentence.  Through experience now, I can attest that
Grades 3/4 and 5/6 Lessons from Algebra for Breakfast are easy for Moms and kids to use!

So What is Algebra for Breakfast?

Algebra for Breakfast
is the brainchild
of Bob Hazen, a credentialed math teacher who created a Summer Algebra Institute after spending years working with young children teaching them how to do algebra using specific principles that move away from the typical disjointed rules-based math many are taught in school and work, instead, on a more unified approach using an  incremental learning method with hands-on activities, music, manipulatives, and games.  He then took the methodology of his institute and made it available online through Algebra for Breakfast.This math enrichment program is available for children at Grades 3/4 and 5/6 levelsFor my family's review, we received 6 months access to both levels of the the online program and a download of 10 skip count songs.

This program also requires Math Dice, which I already owned, the use of special manipulative blocks, which I did not receive, but can be purchased through the Full Membership Pack.

Each level of lessons contains a number of brief videos for parents and 40 online student lessons with accompanying PDF worksheets and keys available for download. The video lessons are quite short - most ranging from about 5 to 10 minutes long - and are often recordings of Bob Hazen teaching a group of actual students.

Working through the Level 3/4 lessons with my children, I admittedly wondered at first how all the "first name, last name" stuff Bob teaches the children and the playing with blocks was going to become hard algebra.  Soon enough, though, I realized it was not going to be hard algebra at all.  Rather, it was incrementally building to easy, solid algebra that presented and practiced all of the following concepts even if the actual terminology was not always used with students:

• Countability
• Single Variable Expressions
• Known vs Unknown Values
• The Meaning of Variables
• A Multi-Sensorial Approach to Algebra & Mathematics
• Operation Sense
• The FNLN Principle: Identifying Like Terms and Unlike Terms
• Single Variable Polynomials
• Equivalent Amounts
• The Skip Counting Principle
• Quadratic, Linear, and Constant Expressions
• Polynomial Identification
• The Rectangle Principle
• Quadratic Factoring
• Number Sense & Mental Math
• Mental Imagery for Mathematics
• Multiplication & the Skip Counting Principle
• Monomial and Arithmetic Factoring
• Perfect Squares
• Place Value & Mental Math
• Factors, Multiples, & Skip Counting
• Problem Solving
• Addition & Subtraction with Like Terms
• Primes & Composites: Arithmetic
• Primes & Composites: Algebra
• Algebraic Substitution
• Division: Symbols, Reading, Meaning, Skip Counting
• Skip Counting & Algebraic Factoring
• Two-Digit Mental Multiplication
• Goldbach’s Conjecture on Primes

Checking in with my oldest on the 5/6 level, I saw similar concepts being used, but at a slightly more advanced level and with some additional concepts, too.

Once I understood how easy Bob made things, I began wishing he'd create an entire series of homeschool math programs for all ages and types of math!  For, each of my children learns math differently, but all of them have taken things away from
Algebra for Breakfast already.
The Kids' Take

My youngest, at six, is actually two grade levels below the target age for the
Grades 3/4 Algebra for Breakfast Lessons, but I had him work with his sister and me on the program anyway, because I thought he might get something out of it.  I was right! 

Between the brief, incremental lessons that Bob Hazen clearly presents in the videos and the hands-on practice that downloadable worksheets prompt,
Algebra for Breakfast was  accessible for my youngest son.  When I asked him for his thoughts for this review, he said:
I have been using Algebra for Breakfast a few times a week with Mom and my sister.  It is teaching me easy Algebra.  I use blocks. I have done the fastest way to get ten.  You get the ten bar, not two five bars, or five twos...  I like it.  It is easy.

Did you get that?  My six-year old said algebra is EASY!

My daughter, at nine, said:

Algebra for Breakfast has been okay so far.  I like that the teacher uses blocks and teaches a little at a time.  I am learning Algebra, like squares.

To use the program, my brother and I sit down with my mom and the computer.  We watch the videos, then click on the worksheets and use them.  Sometimes, we do the worksheets orally online using the blocks at our table.  Sometimes, we print the worksheets out and do them by hand.  I prefer doing them orally.

My oldest, at eleven, used the Grades 3/4 Algebra for Breakfast Lessons independently as his siblings and me used the lower level together.  He had this to say: 
I like that the teacher uses other people's materials to teach math - like the blocks and the Math Dice...  The blocks are very easy to understand. I don't like the Math Dice as much. They just aren't as fun and easy as the blocks...

I learned about x-squared and x and how to do factoring.  I did not know any of these things before and now I understand them.  The teacher's method of teaching made it easy.

Again, that "easy" word!  I loved hearing my children call this program easy, since I do not like when math is hard.  Plus,
my son learned squares and factoring without me having to do a thing!  How's that for an "easy button" for math?  It was just what I was looking for when I decided to introduce Algebra for Breakfast to my children, and, since my oldest likes being on the computer, it was just what he was looking for, too, it seems. 

In fact, my oldest went on to say:

I liked that the lessons were online and that I could do them by myself and finish them fast.  I did all 40 lessons already, but, to be honest, I only did the videos for all of them.  Sometimes, I did not do the worksheets, because, when I get something, I don't like to waste time practicing it a lot. 

I don't think all kids would go through it fast.  I think most would do one lesson a day.  Sometimes I did more, because I did not do every part.

And this is where I'd like to put a word in about
Algebra for Breakfast's customer service.  I wrote to the folks at Algebra for Breakfast on a couple occasions, and, each time they got back to me promptly and positively.  One thing I wrote was a suggestion for student worksheet packets that parents could quickly and easily print out prior to giving their children free reign to progress at an independent pace with the program.

Currently, each lesson's worksheet is accessed on
Algebra for Breakfast from links within each individual lessons.  This works for most, I am sure, but, I also know that it was part of what contributed to my son blowing by so many worksheets.  He is not proficient yet at downloading and printing things and I am not ready to have him master these computer skills 100% yet.  So, I thought it would be helpful to have a link that allowed me to print a set of worksheets all at once, rather than downloading and printing each separately  This would have saved me time and ensured my son had easier access to a printable version each worksheet - encouraging him to complete more of them before going on to next lessons.

Since parent answer keys are already provided in sets, I figured that an option to provide sets of blank worksheets might not be too difficult for
Algebra for Breakfast to include.  They agreed and said they hope to roll out such an option this summer.

Even if they do not, I am still a fan of
Algebra for Breakfast as it truly has made algebra easy for all three of my children to grasp.  My oldest wrapped up his comments to me about the program by saying:

Algebra for Breakfast was different than other programs, because it uses blocks which make it really easy.  I did not have to think much about the problems, I could just do them with the blocks.

With the base of what he - and his siblings - have done with the blocks, I can already see paper-and-pencil and in-your-head algebra becoming easier for them.  

Learn More

Algebra for Breakfast

Algebra for Breakfast packages sell from a bare bones online program access only package for $22 to combined grade level packages with Math Dice and manipulatives for $144.  So, if you already have manipulatives or dice, or if you have children at different levels, you can find an appropriate package.

Bob Hazen's Algebra Lessons {Algebra for Breakfast Reviews}

We were one of thirty-nine Homeschool Review Crew families that tried out
Grades 3/4 and/or 5/6 Lessons from Algebra for Breakfast.  Click on over to read reviews about how the program fit each of our families and how it might work for yours, too.

You can also find
Algebra for Breakfast on Facebook  

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