Monday, July 23, 2012

REVIEW: No-Nonsense Algebra + Geometry Workbook from Math Essentials

I had the opportunity to review No-Nonsense Algebra as well as the Geometry Workbook by Math Essentials. 

First, let me tell you about No-Nonsense Algebra, which was the main product for this review.  With No-Nonsense Algebra, you get a workbook with lessons and practice and a code in the back of the book that you enter on the website in order to access free online video instruction for every lesson.  This is a complete Algebra I program and costs a mere $27.95.    

 From the Website:

No-Nonsense Algebra

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Necessary Tools for Algebra
Chapter 2 Solving Equations
Chapter 3 Graphing and Analyzing Linear Equations
Chapter 4 Solving and Graphing Inequalities
Chapter 5 Systems of Linear Equations and Inequalities
Chapter 6 Polynomials
Chapter 7 Rational Expressions (Algebraic Fractions)
Chapter 8 Radical Expressions and Geometry
Chapter 9 Quadratic Equations
Chapter 10 Algebra Word Problems

Also included:

*A “How to Use This Book” Section

*Chapter reviews
*Final Exam
*Solutions for all Problems
*Resource Center

Each Easy-To-Understand Lesson Includes:

*       Each topic is clearly explained in a way that the student can easily understand.
*       A Helpful Hints section
*       Examples with simple step-by-step solutions
*       Written exercises
*       A short Review section that ensures that the student will remember what has been learned

free online access to video instruction!
Each lesson in the book has a corresponding video lesson taught by America’s Math Teacher, Richard W. Fisher

*       No Fluff!
*       No Distractions!
*       Short, concise self-contained lessons
*       Each topic is explained in way that the student can easily understand
*       Lots of examples with fully explained step-by step solutions
*       Review built into each lesson to ensure mastery
*       Chapter tests and a final exam allow students to measure progress
*       Dramatically Improves Test Scores!


Use Rick Fisher's Mastering Essential Math Skills for 20 minutes a day as directed. If you don't see what you feel are dramatically improved math test scores, send us a note saying so. You'll receive a prompt, complete refund - no questions asked!


Our Experience:

I simply can’t say enough good things about this program!  My 12-year old son, Hayden, totally bombed Algebra I using another program last year and had planned to repeat it this year.  Right off the bat, we both noticed that No-Nonsense Algebra’s video instruction was more concise, easy to understand, and had a very conversational tone that kept your interest.  Often times, this type of instruction can be monotone and difficult to follow…high on the boring factor.  But not so with this program! 

Each morning, he has gotten up and waited eagerly to watch the online video so he could get right to his math.  Gone are the days of putting off math until the end of the day.  We both found the practice to be just enough to make sure he understood the application fully, but not so much as to become overwhelming.  He even got 100% on 3 lessons in a row!  That did wonders to restoring his confidence in his ability to do his math.  As you can see from this photo, he has a genuine smile of pride while showing off that first 100%!

It has continued to be a great success for him.  Enough so that we ditched the other program and have switched over to this program for the rest of our school year.  He even gladly used a week off to play catch-up on the lessons so it could take the place of the other program we were using.  That speaks for itself!

While he tells me that it’s getting gradually harder, he says he still feels he “gets” the material.  And each lesson offers a set of “practical tips” for understanding and applying the concept.  The tips may be simple, but truly very practical and useful for the student.  One such tip early on was to determine the sign of the answer and write it down before working on the actual computation of an equation with integers.  This happened to be something my son overlooked often that led him to get his answers incorrect.  Marking the sign before doing the computation ensured that he didn’t forget this important step.  It really helped him!

I have already recommended No-Nonsense Algebra to a number of friends who have students struggling with Algebra, including both homeschooled and public-schooled children. 

I can’t honestly think of any negatives to this program.  Its concise but effective layout never devotes more than 2 pages to any given lesson, which in itself appears less daunting to the student before they even begin.  Every lesson includes just a few review problems from previous lessons to ensure mastery and retention.  I did notice one error in the answer key…for lesson 1.7, question 5, the answer should be 625, not 225.  I contacted the company about this error, and they assured me that this was the first printing of the program, and any errors would be corrected in subsequent printings.  Our communication was a positive experience, and the error was duly noted for correction.

The only thing I’d like to suggest to the vendor is to make the answer key a separate document instead of including the answers in the back of the student’s workbook.  I’m ashamed to admit that Hayden was so frustrated with Algebra I last year that he was caught cheating a couple of times.  I’d rather not provide the temptation by having the answer key at his fingertips.  My concern prompted me to separate the answer pages from the rest of his book and make them inaccessible to him.  Beyond that, though, I can’t think of anything I’d change about this program!  It’s literally a success story waiting to happen!  I’d recommend it for children and adults alike!

You can read more about the program on the vendor’s website at   No-Nonsense Algebra includes an unconditional money-back guarantee if you don’t find dramatic improvement in your student’s test scores after using the product as directed for 20 minutes/day.  There is no risk involved!  You just can’t go wrong with a guarantee like that!

 The Geometry Workbook:

Now let me tell you about the supplemental Geometry workbook. 
This product is intended to be supplemental practice.  There is no online or DVD instruction available for this product.  It’s priced at $11.95.

From the Website:

This book will provide students with all the essential geometry skills. Vocabulary, points, lines, planes, perimeter, area, volume, and the Pythagorean theorem are just some of the topics that are covered. There is plenty of practical, real-life problem solving that shows students the importance of geometry in the real world.

You can view the table of contents here.  You can view sample lessons here

Our Experience:

This is a super thin workbook containing 29 lessons plus final review and tests with answer keys printed in the back of the book.  The "helpful hints" section of each lesson is essentially a couple of lines of extremely concise instruction and examples.  This is the only included instruction, and this is why I would say this book is supplementary material only.  It addresses the heart of the concept very briefly with no video instruction and no additional written instruction beyond that tiny "helpful hints" section.  These are generally 1-page lessons.  While the workbook addresses the essential geometry concepts, it certainly isn't enough material to be used for a high school credit by any means.  However, it is great practice in geometry.  My plans for this product are to schedule it in at the end of our school year when we've completed No-Nonsense Algebra, as there will be sufficient weeks remaining in our schedule to complete this workbook, as well.  Personally, I'd like to see a year or a semester of Geometry material offered with accompanying video instruction like with the algebra program, but that's probably because we were so spoiled by the excellent instruction included with the algebra!

Read more of the Crew reviews of these and other great products from Math Essentials by clicking the banner below:

Math Essentials provided me with these products free of charge for review purposes, but all opinions expressed are my own and reflect my family’s honest use of these products.