Review: Math Mammoth
One of the difficulties with teaching complex mathematics is that it can be difficult for students to translate the concepts to real-life implementations. “I’m never going to use this!” is a common complaint, as if higher level mathematics was merely devised as a method of torture. Often, the true value of math’s “word problems”, regardless of the math topic, are exposed in how effectively the challenges are rooted in real-life.
We’ve been exploring some new Math Mammoth titles from the Make It Real Learning series that are designed for the explicit intent of helping students understand how the skills they learn can be applied to real-life problems. Make It Real Learning is a series of 22 topical workbooks, designed for grades 4-12. We received Geometry I, Linear Functions I, and Quadratic Functions I.
Each of these three pdf workbooks includes 10 activities designed to make students think and apply what they have learned to actual situations with real data from the world around us. The Make It Real Learning books do not include instruction in the topic area; instead, they’re to be used as a supplement to regular math curriculum.
My 5th and 7th grade students tried out Geometry I. Topics include working with area, volume, and perimeter, the Pythagorean Theorem, and working with cross-sections. They’re familiar with the first three, and my 7th grader has apparently fallen in love with the Pythagorean Theorem, but the explanation of cross-sections totally threw my 5th grader for a loop. No matter how many times she read [what I thought was] the fairly straightforward, simple explanation, the concept eluded her. It took getting out real objects and showing her, on the actual objects, that a cross-section what you get when you take, say an apple, cut it in the manner described, and what you see it what the cut portion looks like, when you look at it straight on. [This particular lesson, I’d HIGHLY recommend having food available you can chop up – it would be great for just prior to lunch!]
My high-school junior was in charge of checking out both Linear Functions I and Quadratic Equations I. Unsurprisingly, Linear Functions I is all about creating and using linear functions, in all sorts of ways that a high school student might reasonably encounter during their near future. Starting off with cell phone plans was an inspired choice on the part of the author, given how many high school students have mobile phones these days – and often, how much they under-appreciate the value of the technology. [Par for the course, I suppose, when they don’t remember a time when you couldn’t “just call”, no matter where you were… but that doesn’t mean they have to be oblivious to the cost!]
Quadratic Functions I is similar, and goes through working with quadratic functions, modeling data, and solving equations. The topics used here aren’t quite as “fun” as those in Linear Functions I, but they’re still intriguing and approachable. Tasks include working with population data, business growth, body-mass index, and even some on objects falling from tall buildings. (Might not want to go test this out in real life – could be hazardous to the health of someone beneath.)
The kids enjoyed the change of pace, using these at the end of the school year as they did, but it would be equally appropriate (and more timely) to add in lessons whenever the students are ready for them as they work through their regular math curriculum. With just ten lessons, it might seem that these books are short, but in reality, each lesson can be spaced out over multiple days. By stretching it out, students could have time to ponder any challenges that they’re struggling with, so that instead of giving up on the same day that it was assigned, they could be encouraged to reconsider. Often, time – and less on-the-spot stress – give the subconscious a chance to work at the task, and alternatives will appear.
As for me, I appreciate the fact that the answer pages immediately follow the assignment pages and include full solutions to each and every question. It’s also very helpful to me that the answers are shown on a page that is a replica of the student page, which makes it *much* easier to correct any work, and consider where the student might have erred, when the problems are right there for review.
Each book in the Make It Real Learning series is priced at $4.99, or they can be purchased in two separate bundles, with 11 books each, for $39.99.
Other Schoolhouse Review Crew members received a variety of titles from Math Mammoth, from the Make It Real Learning series and others, including:
- Blue series, which includes 39 topical worktexts that contain both instruction and a variety of practice problems in the skill area,
- Light Blue series, a full elementary curriculum for grades 1-6. Each grade level includes two worktexts, plus support materials, including answer keys, tests, and cumulative reviews.
- Green series, with topical worksheets for skills usually encountered in grades 3-7. Each book spans several grade levels, due to the focus on a skill. No instruction is included with these workbooks.
- Golden series, which is arranged by grade level (from 3 to 7/8 (pre-algebra), plus algebra 1.
- States By The Numbers, which is a series of 50 workbooks, one per state. Each book includes instruction and about 80 practice problems, using data taken from the 2008 census.