Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Algebra for Breakfast {review}

Algebra for Breakfast review

Do you teach your elementary kids algebra?  It wasn't something I had thought about much, but then we had the opportunity to review a math enrichment program called Algebra for Breakfast.  I was definitely intrigued by the concept, so we thought it would be fun to try it out!

What is Algebra for Breakfast?

Created by teacher Bob Hazen, Algebra for Breakfast is an online math enrichment program that teaches algebraic concepts for 3rd-6th graders, and contains three primary components.

Physical Tools - These include specific math manipulative blocks that are used to demonstrate numerous concepts throughout the course.  Math Dice (two 12-sided dice and three traditional 6-sided dice) are used to play math games that reinforce algebraic thinking.  The Skip Count CD is used as an aid throughout the course.

Online Video Lessons - Most lesson contains a short video of Hazen in a classroom teaching elementary students a concept that is reinforced with the physical tools and worksheets.

Printable Worksheets - The lessons usually contain a worksheet that allows the students to practice and review.  They are short and require minimal writing, and although computation skills are sometimes required, the focus is on algebraic concepts.

For the purpose of this review, I received six months online access, Math Dice, and Skip Count songs.  The blocks used in the course were not provided, but are part of their purchase options.  There are different purchase options depending on your needs, and the subscription is available on a monthly basis.

The course is offered in two levels.   One level is for 3rd/4th Grade and one is for 5th/6th Grade.  According to the website, some content repeats in each program, but the topics and the lesson plans are specifically designed for each age group.

Therefore I placed my 4th grader in the 3rd/4th grade level, and we were excited to get started!  Initially, there were some "prep" activities for me, which was mostly assembling and learning how to play some of the games that will be utilized throughout the course.  There are currently 45 lessons available, with 53 total listed.  The website indicates that content is released incrementally so that you can't rush through it.

How Does it Work?
Algebra for Breakfast is an enrichment program, and the welcome letter I received said it's best used twice a week as a supplement alongside a traditional math program.  It is specifically designed as a scaffolded, incremental program, not an immersion course.  Working slowly through the course allows children time to see the connects between algebra and arithmetic.

Once you log in, you click on the button for the lessons and when the lessons open, you click on the appropriate link.  Within each lesson, you will see one, sometimes two videos.  Usually there is one video to watch, which is almost always Bob Hazen in "teacher mode" with a classroom full of students.  This makes it realistic and shows my kid that other kids his age are doing this too.
Occasionally there is an introductory video giving little more information about what the upcoming lesson entails.  The lesson is usually a concept being taught with specific manipulatives.

As you can see, immediately beneath each video is a button to download the current worksheet.  The Worksheets are a fun reinforcement for the lesson, and we've not found them to be tedious at all.  They require minimal writing, and although some do require basic computation, the focus is on the algebraic concepts.  Not pictured is a "Parent's Corner" button that has the answer key for the worksheets, if necessary.

Sometimes we're told to listen to the skip count CD so the tunes and the skip count patterns are familiar, and later we're working with the skip count songs to visually identify the patterns.  Other times, lessons have us playing Math Dice Games.  My son loves games, so any lesson that involves dice is a fun "lesson" for him.

Since the course is interactive, composed of videos, hands-on activities and worksheets, there is nothing to input into the computer.  This means it does not track progress.  It is the responsibility of the parent, tutor or parent to assess for understanding and mastery.  This is fine with me, because I am pretty involved with their lessons still anyway.

What Do We Think?
I can think of so many uses for this program.  Obviously, it's a great enrichment program for 3rd-6th graders as designed.  I think it could also be used as a summer course for families who don't want to take the whole summer off from learning, or who want to do some "non-traditional" math between finishing one level of their math curriculum and moving to the next.  I could see it being used as a special math class for co-ops or math clubs.  I think it would also work for a review or supplement for older students who need a confidence boost before getting back into Pre-Algebra or Algebra coursework.  Because it utilizes videos, worksheets, manipulatives, and music, it has the ability to engage different types of learners.  Algebra for Breakfast is a versatile program, and I feel confident recommending it as a math enrichment program.

There are some minor things with the website that could make make it easier to use.  I would prefer the student worksheets were all in one PDF file, to make printing easier.  Also, it seems like everything you click on almost always opens in a new tab, which can get cumbersome.  These are convenience issues though, and aren't a deal breaker.  I really like the program as a whole.

We came into this program with a kid who is very good at math conceptually, but isn't particularly enthusiastic about it.  I don't know if it's following a traditional scope and sequence that he doesn't enjoy, or if he just hasn't realized his potential.  Algebra for Breakfast, however, lets him look at "math" in a different way.  He engages with the material and finds it interesting.  We will be keeping this on our rotation until completion.

Algebra for Breakfast

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

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