Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Balance Math - A Review
The Critical Thinking Co. - Winner of more than 100 National Awards
Some of Critical Thinking Co.'s Top Sellers - Some amazing products.
Brief Description from the website:
(Level 2) The Balance Math™ & More! activities sharpen students' critical thinking skills, computational skills, and develop algebraic reasoning. The second book (Level 2) focuses on multiplication and division of whole numbers, but has a few problems involving fractions. The spiraling difficulty level is designed to scaffold a child's conceptual understanding of the targeted operations from beginning to advanced. Try one of these intriguing puzzles—and then try to stop!
(Teaches Algebra) Understanding algebraic equations and solving algebra word problems has never been easier or more fun! This visual approach uses balance scales to teach algebra. The balance scales provide an intuitive, visual, and entertaining way to master fundamental algebraic concepts. The puzzle-like problems ensure students are cognitively involved while they hone their techniques of simplifying, substituting, and writing proofs to solve simultaneous equations.
Balance Math™ Teaches Algebra is designed to move from simple to complex, with lessons scaffolding on earlier learning. And like all the Balance Math™ and More! books, these problems involve critical thinking and computation. To students, these problems are more like puzzles, with just enough challenge to forget they are doing math!
I absolutely love The Critical Thinking Co. We have used several products from this company and I have loved every single one. I highly recommend this company's books.
So, when I saw their company come up for review, I definitely wanted to be a part of it. And thankfully, I was chosen to review a great new concept in math workbooks.
I am using Level 2 with my 4th grader and Algebra with my 7th grader. They have been working their way through the books for several weeks now.
The concept is simple. So simple in fact, that it actually works. Keeping in mind that in an algebraic equation, both sides must remain equal. That is where the visualization comes in. Balance Math uses a scale as you can see in the examples above. The scale starts out equal, so it is your job to keep it equal. If you multiply by 2 on the left side of the scale, you must also multiply by 2 on the right side. If you take away a circle on the right, you must take away a circle on the left.
Speaking of circles, that is another neat concept. The workbooks use shapes, along with the standard algebraic letters (such as x, y, and z). Sometimes when a child is new to the concept of algebra, seeing "x - y = 2z" can just make their head spin. Something about mixing letters of the alphabet in with computations just doesn't make sense. That is why the shapes are helpful. I can visualize taking away 1 circle from 3 circles, way better than I can visualize taking 1 "X" away from 3 "X".
As I mentioned, I am using Balance Math & More Level 2 with my 4th grader. This is her first introduction to algebraic equations. She is finding it a bit overwhelming and is having a hard time understanding the concept. But I am fine with that because I know she is just in 4th grade. So I have decided to continue on through the book, working side by side with her. She is getting a great introduction into algebra and some wonderful practice in critical thinking. It isn't overwhelming to her since we are working on it as a team. And in a few years, when she is re-introduced to algebra, it won't seem so new and foreign to her. Just maybe, this will all click then and it will be much easier then because of her hard work now.
As I also mentioned above, I am using Balance Math Teaches Algebra with my 7th grade daughter. She has been working on pre-algebra in her studies this year. So this book was a good fit for her. I worked closely with her the first few days to help her get a feel for the new program. Now she works independently on it, only having to come to me on occasion when she has a question about a problem. She, being older, gets the concept much better than my 10 year old daughter. I think this book has helped her a lot, not only with gaining a better understanding of algebraic equations and the all important rule that the equation must stay equal . . . but also with her critical thinking skills. I have a feeling that both of my daughters, as well as myself, have made quite a few new synapse connections in our brains the past several weeks.
In case you can't tell yet, I highly recommend these books. In fact, I highly recommend all the books I have tried from Critical Thinking. I am a big fan of working our children's critical thinking skills and making those synapse connections. :)
Check out some more reviews about this product!
Disclaimer: I received this product free of charge to review, as part of the TOS Homeschool Crew. The above is just my opinion. Please remember that opinions may, and do, vary.