In the last post about math, I wrote about why we switched from Singapore Math to Teaching Textbooks when the kids started Algebra at the request of a friend. We are huge fans of both of those programs. They served us well with both Kelly and Christian who learn in very different ways. We planned to stick with Teaching Textbooks through Precalculus. The kids understand the system, like it, and performed well on standardized tests after using it. At this writing, Precalculus is a relatively new program for Teaching Textbooks. We had previously purchased Thinkwell Precalculus because it was so highly recommended by Sonlight, the company from which we have purchased the vast bulk of our homeschool materials.
The Thinkwell Precalculus program sat on a shelf for about six months while Kelly finished Teaching Textbooks Geometry. Like all the other Teaching Textbooks programs we had tried so far, their Geometry program is stellar. Kelly could listen to a lecture, read the same material in a textbook, and get help with exercises she did not understand well. She knows how to use the system and now has a thorough understanding of Geometry. The Teaching Textbooks system works so well for us that I got to wondering whether or not I should have switched to Thinkwell for Precalculus. The upshot is that I went ahead and bought the Teaching Textbooks Precalculus program, too. At this point, there are no video lectures with the program like in the previous ones. We thought that would not be too much of an impediment.
Kelly started the Teaching Textbooks program several weeks ago. Some of the lessons went very well, but about a third of the lessons required a significant amount of explanation on my part. Kelly and I like to work together and I do math for a living so that is not such a big deal. Still, she was frustrated because she felt like she understood the material when she read the text, but was often unable to answer the exercise questions correctly. Kelly gets math. She performed very well in previous math oriented materials and on standardized tests. Last night she did Lesson 16 and struggled again. This is exactly the wrong time for her to get a bad taste in her mouth for math just because the materials are not well suited for the way she learns.
I did not know what to do because I did not want her to be frustrated with this important material. Then, I remembered that we have a completely different system that is highly recommended by Sonlight. They sell Saxon Advanced Math, the program that covers Precalculus, but say this at the bottom of the page the describes that product:
Sonlight is happy to sell you this product. We want to make sure, however, that you are familiar with the Thinkwell Pre-Calculus, which we recommend as “Best in Category.”
After correcting Kelly’s assignment last night and talking to her about it, I thought we might go ahead and crack open the Thinkwell materials and take a look. We were amazed. It really looks like a wonderful program. Not only did we look at the introductory materials, but we watched the instructional video that describes the material with which Kelly was struggling in Lesson 16 of Teaching Textbooks. It was presented with a level of clarity with which we had previously come to expect from Teaching Textbooks. We decidee to switch systems starting today. I watched her go through the tutorial on how to do the exercises, then do some of the exercise questions. The whole program is very well thought out and has what we believe is a better record keeping system than Teaching Textbooks. The one area where Teaching Textbooks appears to be superior is in the way that they provides such clear explanations on how to work the problems when a student gets stuck. We have not used Thinkwell long enough, though, to make too strong of a statement on that.
Since we have so little experience with Thinkwell to say that it will be better than the Teaching Textbooks in its final incarnation we will reserve judgement for now. Still, the Thinkwell Precalculus certainly looks better for us now than the current state of the Teaching Textbooks Precalculus. I will write about this more when we have a few months experience with the program, and then again after Kelly does some more standardized testing.