Category Archives: high school

Code For Teens ~ a Crew review

learning coding with Code for Teens

A while back, Miss E had opportunity to do some computer coding. She realized that she really enjoyed it. Code for Teens then asked for the Crew to review their new book on writing JavaScript – Code For Teens: The Awesome Beginner’s Guide to Programming (Volume 1). This has been a great book to get to use and learn some new skills.

Code For Teens is the brainchild of Jeremy Moritz. Mr. Moritz and his wife (the illustrator) have extensive home education knowledge, as they educate their own six children. Mr. Moritz has been a software engineer and developer for over a decade. Thus, this book comes straight from his knowledge and background. And, with his experience of working with children (he also coaches chess and has directed lots of musicals), he knows exactly what will catch the student’s attention.

Code for Teens

Written in a conversational and humorous style, the information is clear and easy to follow. It is written directly to the student so that she is teaching herself. Each chapter has plenty of explanation and exercises to help gain experience and understanding. The student is encouraged to type the exercises right along with the book, being given the exact information to input and the exact expected outputs. Sometimes, the book encourages wrong inputs so that the student can experience how to problem solve the situation. (That’s fantastic since they won’t always have a step-by-step guide telling them where the problems are in the code.) By the time the end of the chapter is reached, the student will have worked with the code quite a bit through exercises and drills, helping cement the concept. There is a quiz, an overview of the key concepts for the chapter, drills, an aggregate review, and a DIY project at the end of each chapter.

If for some reason, you reach the end of the chapter and still don’t quite understand it, you can go back and do it again. The concepts and skills build on each other throughout the book so it is important to understand one chapter before moving on to the next. But with the variety of exercises, and being encouraged to change bits of the code to see what happens, the student should be able to get it figured out. There is no expected pace, so take the time you need to learn it right.

The ten chapters cover all you need to learn JavaScript and you finish with programming a game. The back of the book contains an answer key to help the student if they get stuck. There is also a glossary of terms back there with the definitions for some words that the student might need, as well as the symbol.

Code for Teens - working on the chapter

My Thoughts:

I like this book. It is a nice weight and high quality printing. The glossy pages are not going to tear easily and the print is easy to read on them. The humorous style makes it a pleasant read and easy to follow. The instructions are extremely clear and well written. A lay-flat binding would be a fantastic addition to the next printing of this book, though it worked well with the book stand that Miss E has.

I have a friend who is a graduate student working on a doctorate degree in mathematics. She has quite a bit of programming experience. One day while over at the house, she saw this book and picked it up. She was immediately interested and spent some time reading through the book. She commented quite a bit about how well written this was, how easy to follow, and how much clearer it was than many programming books she has worked with. She was very impressed with this book and hopes that this company will continue to come out with more programming books because there are a couple of language she wants to learn.

Miss E’s Thoughts:

It was really good so far. I like that they had the exact things you are supposed to type highlighted and colored and the responses highlighted and colored differently. At the very beginning, it gave instructions for more than just using Chrome and it is nice to know that those instructions are there for others who might need them.

It is very funny and I like the way it is written. It feels less like a lesson and more like someone is actually talking to me. Some texts are just “blah-blah-blah” and this is written more like a conversation. This makes it easier to understand and also to feel less boring and classroom-ish.

One thing that I didn’t like was that in the first chapter they had me do things wrong that were obviously wrong. I could tell it was going to be wrong before I did it so I didn’t see why I should do it wrong on purpose. There was one thing that I couldn’t find how to do in the chapter, though it was in the quiz, but I had someone here who could help me with that so I was okay. (Mom edit: On the quiz p 24, question 11 – had to do with the single = implies what?)

When a student wants to use a book and they don’t have to that day, you know it is a good product. Miss E picked this up more than once late in the evening just to work some more on learning to use JavaScript. Code for Teens really hit home with her and she has enjoyed it quite a bit.

Blessings,
At Home.

Be sure to visit the Homeschool Review Crew to read what other families thought about Code for Teens and find out how they used this program.

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The Master and His Apprentices ~ a Crew review

themasterandhisapprentices

Art history is something that I am not well versed in but something that I can see the benefit of. Being able to relate history and art can bring an understanding of past cultures, religions, and world events. That is what was sought by The Master and His Apprentices when creating this curriculum.

Authored by Gina Ferguson, The Master and His Apprentices: Art History from a Christian Perspective is a versatile curriculum. When approached as noted in the Teacher’s Guide and the syllabus found there, this program can serve as a full credit for high school. However, it could also serve as a supplemental curriculum for any level, or as a refresher (or first art history) course for adults. The versatility is part of what makes this a nice study, though I might classify this more as a history study than an art study.

chapter 2 start and worksheet

As written, the program consists of a textbook and a teacher’s guide. Included in the teacher’s guide, there is a suggested syllabus or schedule, discussion guides and worksheets for each chapter, and four tests. There are also art history papers to write four times in the course. In addition to these, there are helpful suggestions for teaching the course in different settings (homeschool vs a co-op type setting) and an answer key for the discussion questions/worksheets. The teacher’s guide is available either in a PDF format or a printed softback format.

The textbook for The Master and His Apprentices is where the meat of this program is found. It is a hefty 380 pages of text and full-color images. We received it as a fixed-format PDF that can be printed but it is also available in the printed format. We have been using it directly off the computer and that is really quite difficult, especially with the timelines being so important for understand the relationships of different people, places, and artifacts.

The program goes from an introduction to art history and then into the art of God’s creation. From there, different people and times are addressed.  Included are

  • Ancient Cultures
  • Classical Antiquity
  • Middle Ages
  • Renaissance
  • Baroque Era & Beyond

There is also an appendix containing some articles to further study topics and ideas, a period chart, a timeline, a listing of pieces by location, an index, and a couple of other required elements (like acknowledgements).

Working through the text, the information covered the history of an era or people and then some of the artwork, artifacts, architecture, and other pieces that represent them. The text is arranged chronologically. Each period is begun with an introduction to the history and place. The setting within world history and Christian history is a significant part of this portion. Then, it features works of art that are seen as important, either for secular or Biblical reasons.

cover and questions

Our Use of the Program

We have worked through about the first 3 chapters. What we have found is that, while interesting, it is necessary to skip parts of the text for continuity’s sake. Sometimes, the author’s attempt to keep God at the center really diminishes the ability to understand the information shared. The text often seems preachy and heavy-handed in the attempt to keep the Christian perspective so visible.

The worksheets that are in the teacher’s guide correspond to each chapter. Each culture basically gets its own chapter. The worksheets are simply numbered questions or statements designed to help the student think. These are great if your student is a worksheet oriented thinker but if you child is a discussion oriented thinker, these don’t really do much for the student. The teacher definitely has to get involved, which then makes for some good discussions.

After having using this program for a few weeks, we are going to modify it for continued use. We are going to go to the end and work forward. We have found is that because so much of the study is history based, you have to have something to tie it together with. If you do not have that timeline in your head to place the new cultures and pieces in, it is just random information that doesn’t really go anywhere or connect to anything. So, we are going to start with pieces that are recognizable and artists that we have studied. This will allow Miss E to connect with the material more concretely. Working backward through time will help her understand where things fit together and will help the material make more sense.

Because I am not a fan of the worksheets as they are designed in this program, we are going to create a project for each chapter for her to demonstrate her understanding and grasp of information. It might be a timeline for the chapter or a crossword puzzle with the names of artists and their works. It might be a drawing or a recreation of one of the pieces of artwork.

worksheet

The other thing we are going to do is print the text and print the large timeline from the appendix of the text. Reading online is just not as brain-engaging as reading from a piece of paper. I don’t know why but we have found this to be true over and over. We will keep the PDF file handy for viewing the pieces in color since we only have a black-and-white printer. Having the printed timeline will also allow her to color code to her heart’s content and mark those connections that she finds and understands.

If you are looking for art history or a history program through art, take a look at this program. Because it is a Christian perspective, The Master and His Apprentices does not contain nudity. It is, however, unashamedly Christian. Each chapter has multiple references to God, the Bible, and Biblical history. There are specific paragraphs in each section reminding the reader to praise God and thank Him for so many wonderful creations.

I don’t mind the bold statements of Christianity and belief. However, there are some statements that are leaps of understanding. There are statements that I don’t necessarily agree with, even being Christian. I see these particularly in the second chapter on the creation account from the book of Genesis in the Bible. I think if we have any additional children use this, we will just skip that chapter.

Blessings,
At Home.

Many other families have used this program in various ways. Please click the banner below to see how they used The Master and His Apprentices.

 

The Master and His Apprentices: Art History from a Christian Perspective {The Master and His Apprentices Reviews}

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Traditional Logic I from Memoria Press ~ a Crew review

Logic I set

As high school approaches (wait! it is here!), additional thoughts crowd my mind about classes that would be beneficial to my daughter to experience. Public speaking and critical and logical thinking are a couple of those classes. Memoria Press has a Traditional Logic course that we have been working with, using Traditional Logic I Complete Set, and I can already see her reasoning skills getting stronger, coming up in discussions at times.

Memoria Press is a classical Christian education company that publishes high quality materials. The company was founded in 1994. They are a family run company.

Traditional Logic I Complete Set, for approximately grade 7 through adults, includes:

  • Student Text
  • Student Workbook (compatible with the second and third editions of the Student Text)
  • Teacher Key (for Student Workbook and Quizzes & Final Exam)
  • Quizzes & Final Exam
  • DVD

Instructional DVDs

The DVD is a set of two discs. They are instructional discs, giving the lecture portion of the lesson. The discs follow the same topic structure as the student text and workbook. The presenter is Martin Cothran and he very clearly walks the students through the lesson concepts and examples. The lessons contain no fluff; they are straightforward and high level thinking. The instructor refers to the topics in the text but it is not necessary to try to follow along with the text. We did find that the page numbers he referred to did not match with our workbook but it was very easy to locate the area he was talking about.

student materials

The student text is a softback book of approximately 100 pages. There are 13 lessons plus and introduction. Each lesson is less than 10 pages, averaging about 5. These lessons are well written and easy to read. Sometimes the concepts are a bit difficult to grasp but reading over it a second time and/or using the video definitely helps in the understanding. The concepts are actually described pretty clearly and concisely. The back of the text contains a glossary and a list of important people to know.

The student workbook is a softback book that is about 8 1/2 x 11 inches. It is  92 pages in length and is a consumable product. Each student will need their own book. The book is intended to be the practice and application of the lesson information from the DVD and the text. There are exercises for four days in each lesson. The student will likely need to refer to the text to work some of the exercises.

teacher materials

The Quizzes & Tests book contains a quiz for each chapter and a final exam. These are not simple answer questions; they require thought and writing from the student to truly explore their understanding of the lesson information.

The Teacher Key is the answers for the student workbook and for the quizzes and tests. Each page is an exact replication of the student workbook, the quiz, or the test. It has the correct answers typed into the answer space for that page. This makes it very easy to be certain you are grading the correct question. Having the answer key is really helpful in guiding the students toward the correct answers when they are struggling with the workbook.

workbook and key

Side by side comparison of the workbook and the key

How We Used It:

On the first day of a lesson, Miss E would screen shot and textwatch the video. Then she would read the text. The rest of the week, she would do one set of lesson exercises per day, refreshing the topic through the text as needed. We did not use the weekly lesson quizzes, as we spent quite a bit of time discussing the information as she went along so I knew how she was doing with it. I do plan to administer the final exam at the end of the course.

The first day of a lesson always took about 30 minutes. The other days seldom took that long, as the information was pretty easy for her to understand.

Our Thoughts:

Miss E has actually enjoyed this course more than I thought she would. She has enjoyed the simplicity of the thinking while still noticing that she is getting better at reasoning some things out. This is not a course with a skill that will highly impact daily life but as she is hoping to participate in debate next year, this is a thinking skill that will be beneficial to her.

Miss E has said a couple of times how much she has enjoyed thinking through the processes and learning to understand some of the words used in this course.

text and workbook

I have been very pleased with her progress and her understanding of this style of logic. I will not pretend to understand it easily but I do know that understanding different ways of thinking logically is helpful in the grand scheme of things. This program is easy to use, easy to understand, and has been a pleasant experience. I believe that if we can fit it in, she will be tackling Logic II following this.

I really like Memoria Press and the products that they present. The current Homeschool Review Crew run includes

New American Cursive,
Traditional Logic I Complete Set, 
Traditional Logic II Complete Set
Classical Composition I: Fable Set
Classical Composition II: Narrative Set.

Our past reviews include:

First Form Latin
D’Aulaires’ Greek Myths set
6th Grade Literature set
Famous Men of Rome
New American Cursive

Blessings,
At Home.

Head over to the Homeschool Review Crew to read more reviews on Traditional Logic or any of the other products I listed above that are being used by the Crew families on this Crew run. Just click below.

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CodeWizardsHQ ~ a Crew review

CodeWizardsHQ review

Writing computer code is not something I really expected Miss E to get interested in but the introductory class she participated in from CodeWizardsHQ created a new interest for her. Reviewing the class gave us a good introduction to their computer programming curriculum, which is a good fit for anyone interested in learning computer programming, whether a homeschool student, a public school student, or a private school student.

CodeWizardsHQ was begun by a dad who saw his daughter struggling to learn to code with the resources that were currently available. So he create the platform and classes that he knew would make it possible for students to really learn how to write computer code, understanding what they were actually doing.

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What Is CodeWizardsHQ?

CodeWizardsHQ is a comprehensive code curriculum. It consists of 9 courses that are 12 weeks each, followed by a capstone project. This curriculum takes the student through real-world programming with project-based learning. The course is a live, on-line course with instructors who have real-world coding experience (read that: a day job in coding) and a heart for teaching others how to write code.

live class slide show

So what makes CodeWizardsHQ different from what is already out there? When taking a course from CodeWizardsHQ the student is working with a small class (8 or fewer students) and an instructor. The instructor can see what the student is doing, as they are doing it and can make real-time corrections when the student is having a problem. 80% of the class time is spend writing code and seeing it work. The real-time interaction between the instructor and students makes this unique in the world of online code education.

CodeWizardsHQ has scheduled classes that you can register for and these classes are beginning in May. If you are looking for classes for a homeschool student, you can register for what they have scheduled or you can get your friends or co-op together and work with the company to find a time that works for you. There is a special homeschool pricing based upon the number of students.

CodeWizardsHQ classes give you a one hour live class per week. The student has access to the code writing platform 24/7, email support (same day), one-to-one assistance when needed, weekly progress updates, and class recordings. In addition to this, the student will have web space to use for their projects, an online student community, and a certificate of completion for each completed course.

There is a Facebook group for parents who are interested in their kids coding.

The Class –

screen with slides and chat

The class Miss E took was a special introductory class. It was only one hour, not a part of their 12 week courses. Her instructor was Ms. Lynn, a front-end web developer who has worked in the field for 20 years. Ms. Lynn talked to Miss E and her classmates about HTML code – what it was and what it did, its value to the internet world. Then she had them look at some code and talked about what each part of it did. After a bit of explanation, she had the students begin to work with the code, writing the parts they needed to, editing where necessary.

The students in the class were creating a comic strip with 9 panels in it. Ms. Lynn walked them through how to manipulate the code. They changed backgrounds, images, and text. Anytime a question arose, the students could use their microphone to talk with Ms. Lynn in real-time, getting a real-time answer, or they could use the chat box on the class to ask the question and get an immediate answer. As they worked, Ms. Lynn could see what they were writing for their code and interact with them on any changes they needed or wanted to make. At one point, Miss E had a question about removing a text box. Ms. Lynn was able to help her make that change quickly and easily. A self-paced or video based course would not be able to do that.

By the end of the one hour class, the students had finished a good part of the comic. If they hadn’t, they could still continue working after the class because they had access to the coding platform. The platform makes it easy to share their finished product as well. It was as easy as clicking a button to share the finished product on Facebook or Twitter. And just copying and pasting the web address meant it could be shared with others.

Comic screenshot

When we first heard about the class, I will be honest – we were not excited. It did not appeal and we did not really want to have to figure out how to manage a live class. But, we did. When the time for class arrived, Miss E had just gotten home from the dentist (not a “fun” cleaning visit – one of those others where fillings had to be done) and so she was already feeling less than energetic. However, we got her logged on and she was ready to participate. What we found was that she enjoyed it. A lot. As the one-hour class time ticked by, she giggled more and was more energetic and excited about what she was doing. She understood more about the process behind the code and how it worked. As she figured out how to place figures or to eliminate lines of code she didn’t need, things clicked and her smile grew (even with half of it being numb). She truly enjoyed it and by the time we finished, she was asking if this was something we could afford to enroll her in and if so, could Ms. Lynn be her instructor (I have not explored the answer to that). Now we are considering this new interest seriously.

back end - or written code - for the comic

The back end – written code – for Miss E’s comic. This is what the class taught her how to do.

Miss E’s thoughts:
It was cool! We could talk to her (Ms. Lynn – instructor) and she could talk to us like a real class. Or we could use the chat box. I didn’t have to rely on you (Mom) to maybe fix my problem or maybe make it worse. It was fun and I’d like to learn more.

My thoughts:
This is not going to be an inexpensive new interest but it is one that would serve her really well in the future. This set-up – the live class with a qualified instructor – is of great value and benefit in the process of learning how to write computer code. The personal interaction will make all the difference between struggling to figure it out on your own (and likely giving up when it doesn’t work) and truly learning to understand how those lines fit together to make something work. CodeWizardsHQ is a company that I will be keeping in mind.

Blessings,
At Home.

Want to learn more about the program or find out the thoughts of other parents? Want to know what other students who took the class thought? Visit the Homeschool Review Crew to read more reviews by clicking the banner below.

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Illuminating Literature: Characters In Crisis ~ a Crew review

A variety of literature is something we want our children experience. Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis provides high school students a thorough study of a variety of genres. Writing with Sharon Watson provided us a fantastic set of materials to use in studying literature and so far, we have been pleased.

Characters In Crisis set of books

Sharon Watson created Illuminating Literature for high school students, though we are using it with our 8th grader (13 years old). Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis is a study that can be used in any year of high school and is the second in the Illuminating Literature series, though they do not have to taken in order. (We have not yet used the first of the series  Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide.) It is a full year study/two semesters and is written from a Christian worldview. The completion of the course is worth a full course credit. Featuring full selections, the course teach over 100 literary terms and devices. Visit the website to get a complete list of the selections and the terms/devices.

The course is comprised of the student textbook, a teacher’s guide, and quizzes/tests. The quizzes and tests can be taken online for free on the Illuminating Literature website.  There is also a free downloadable Novel Notebook that goes along with the study and is optional. It is found on the Writing With Sharon Watson website.

You will need the texts for the literature selections. Several are included in the textbook or available online and others you will need to borrow or purchase. It is recommended that you use a specific version of the texts so that page numbers align correctly and it is easier for the students to follow in the lessons. I highly recommend this.

We have a copy of Frankenstein and I looked at it to see if it was usable for this. One of the questions said to read a particular paragraph on page 38. I looked and looked in chapter 1, which is where that page was in our book. In fact, I looked all the way back to the beginning of the book and about 10 pages farther into the story. I could not find it! When our recommended version arrived, I looked it up. It was in chapter 5 and 20 page numbers different. I am so glad I spent the $6 to purchase the recommended version!

Illuminating Literature: Characters in CrisisStudent Textbook –

The student textbook is written to the student. The lessons are clearly marked, as is which story the lesson accompanies. It begins with an overview of the course and follows that with a lesson on character labels and forces of antagonism. These are pretty big concepts and the student applies them first to a story of their own choosing that is familiar.

learning stitches

After the introductory lessons, the student begins with “A Jury of Her Peers,” a short story. Before reading the selection, which is included in the textbook, the student is given some background on the time period and pertinent information that is helpful for reading the story. After the reading, the student is asked to rate the story for themselves, do some work in the downloadable Novel Notebook, and then apply some of the literary terms and character labels that were learned in the opening section. Students take a quiz on the story and another on the literary terms, then hold a discussion about the story using questions included in the textbook. Finally, the student selects a project to complete as a response to the story.

 

Frankenstein will work much the same way. There are a couple of differences. There is a section that gives the student some information to help in the reading, chapter by chapter. The questions for discussion are also listed by chapter and there are a lot of them. So many, in fact, that it is recommended the teacher pick some. At the end of the lessons on Frankenstein, there is a book list of other titles that are similar.

The textbook is where the student writes their answers and ideas, where the background information is found, and where the introductory and follow up materials are found. There is also a week by week schedule for the student to follow, if you choose to use it. It is an essential part of the course and quite well done. Downloading a sample of the textbook will be very helpful for seeing what it looks like.

student textbook

Teacher’s Guide –

The Teacher’s Guide has been terribly helpful. I struggle, as does my daughter, in applying some of the deeper thinking ideas and answering some of the questions. Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis

The Teacher’s Guide gives me a place to start so that we can delve into some of the ideas and explore their value in relation to the selection. The guide is well-marked and it is easy to find what is needed. The chapters, lessons, and questions are all marked to correspond to the Student Textbook and the Novel Notebook.

The Teacher Guide includes key themes that are specific for each story. Along with the weekly schedule, the guide includes most of the information that is in the student textbook. It gives plenty to know what the focus of each lesson in the chapter is on and to help you guide the students. Each of the discussion questions and the Novel Notebook questions have answers to go along with them. At the end of each chapter, there is a rubric for that particular selection that makes it easy to assign grades.

Illuminating Literature: Characters in CrisisQuiz and Answer Manual –

One neat feature of Illuminating Literature is that the quizzes and tests are all available online. The student logs in and takes the quiz and it is graded. The grade is then sent to whatever email the student logs in with. However, that is not always the best way and so there is a Quiz and Answer Manual available for purchase. This has blank quizzes that can be copied within a single homeschool as needed. The book also has an answer key in the back that includes answers for each of the quizzes in the book.

 

Novel Notebook

Novel Notebook –

The Novel Notebook is available from Writing With Sharon Watson as a download from the site. It is another way to delve into the story. It includes questions that help the student explore the meaning of parts of the story and characters, as well as helping them move through the novels a bit at a time. Throughout there are questions that help the student apply an idea to their own life or to someone’s life around them. It helps the student to personalize the story and ideas. Some of these were pretty difficult to answer but it allowed for good discussions.

working in textbook

My Thoughts –

I really like having a literature program that pushes my advanced reader to think about what she is reading. I also like that this program includes some pretty challenging literature, as well as a good variety. Knowing that something different will be up next on the reading list makes it a bit easier to engage my student in the current selection if she is struggling.

Because each of the selections is so very different, this review has been difficult to write. We have really only used the opening chapter on introducing character labels and forces of antagonism and the chapter “A Jury of Her Peers.” We are just venturing into Frankenstein. With each chapter being a different genre and therefore the types of questions and the application of the ideas being so different, this doesn’t feel like a very thorough review. So far so good, though, and we will be continuing to use this program.

A Student Viewpoint –quilt block

“I still don’t like literature but this is better than the last thing I did. I like the activities that are at the end of each lesson series. I thought the bonus information was interesting. For example, the information about the play that “Jury of Her Peers” was taken from or information on the setting. I liked how we applied the terms and character labels to a book that I was familiar with before trying to use them with the stories that were new. I probably should have chosen a stand-alone book instead of a series and it would have been easier. Most of her writing is easy to understand, though I have had to reread a couple of the sentences before moving on. Overall, I like it because it is different than what I have used before.”

At Home.

See what other families from the Homeschool Review Crew thought about Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis.

Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis {Writing with Sharon Watson Reviews}

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Innovators Tribe ~ a Crew review

Innovators Tribe course

Fridays are a “different school” day for us: we are intentionally giving the girls hands on learning in science, technology, and art. Innovators Tribe had given us a wonderful opportunity with their program titled Thinking Like an Engineer, which we have been reviewing for a few weeks.

Thinking Like an Engineer

Innovators Tribe is an online curriculum designed to foster the thinking skills needed to bring creative thinking from the head to the hands. Created by Wayne Kroeplin, known as Mr. K., students are guided and taught the thinking skills needed to become an innovative thinker and a problem solver. The courses offered by Innovators Tribe are designed for 6th – 12th grade students. Because it is an online program, you will need a reliable computer and internet service as it is not a downloaded program.

We have been using Thinking Like an Engineer  during our Fun Fridays. Each Friday, we log into our course dashboard and click the link that continues us in the course right where we left off previously. The course is a good mixture of online learning with recorded lessons from Mr. K., slideshows, and videos to explain various concepts. There is also a printable unit journal that has questions for the students to complete. These questions help to focus the student’s attention on certain parts of the lesson, highlighting important terms or ideas. In addition, there are research and hands-on challenges that allow the students to put into practice the concepts discussed in the lessons.

tower challenge

Topics that are addressed in Thinking Like an Engineer  include what is an engineer (professional problem solver – I LOVE this description!), types of engineers, types of problems solved or studied by engineers, and real world examples of the application of engineering and problem solving thinking. Hands-on opportunities include things like building tower of books standing on only one piece of paper, making a tower of paper over 5 feet tall using minimal materials, creating a water filtering system, and these are just the ones we have encountered in Unit 1. (Looking ahead there is a bridge challenge and a roller coaster challenge, too.)

The challenges require some basic materials, though if you want to try the water filtration system, you will probably have to go shopping for some things. But overall, it is just paper and tape for the challenges.

book stacking challenge

We have begun Unit 2 and this is where we got to download the 3D software. We are extremely excited to learn how to use this software and find out what it can do to increase our problem solving abilities. The 3D software is used to design models of ideas for solutions. So many possibilities! There are several instructional lessons using this program and also some challenges with it.

As I mentioned earlier, we are using this program for a couple of hours each Friday as part of our STEM learning. This is being used by an 8th grader, a 6th grader, and a 3rd grader. They watch the lesson online together and then we talk through the questions in the Unit Journal related to that lesson. Finally, they tackle the challenges as a team.

research

Though she is below the anticipated age of the program, the 3rd grader is doing really well participating and helping out. She is not doing the writing in the Unit Journals, though we are talking about each question out loud and so she is participating in the discussions. She is also a big factor in the solutions with the challenges so far. She is just jumping right in, paying attention, and having fun with the learning.

Mr. K. really wants his students to learn and does an amazing job of assisting the students in that. For one of the questions in the Unit Journal, Miss L needed to research the engineering related to a topic she enjoyed. She chose dance. Well, let’s just say that is not an easy internet research topic. So, we took Mr. K. at his word about sending an email his way when we needed something and we had a very quick response that was just amazing.

He responded to Miss L with a video message in which he talked directly to her, addressing her need in such a way that she was empowered to go do the rest of the research needed to answer the question. He did not just tell her what to go look up but rather talked to her about how to think about the topic in a way that she could figure out what to go look for.

Innovators Tribe

This is a great example of how he teaches – he doesn’t lecture and tell you everything he wants you to know. Yes, there is some of that because there is just no way around it sometimes. But, he addresses the “how” of the thinking and gives the students the power and ability to think about the problem differently and in a way that allows solutions to be imagined. That is powerful!

I encourage you to find out more about Thinking Like an Engineer by visiting Innovators Tribe.

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Read more reviews by families who have been using both Innovators Tribe classes:  Thinking Like an Engineer and Thinking Like an Architect.

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No-Nonsense Algebra ~ a Crew review

No Nonsense Algebra
As we continue on in our quest to learn the various math concepts, anything that presents in a new or different way is a potential treasure. When Math Essentials was up for review, the No-Nonsense Algebra looked like a very good possibility to assist us with some pre-algebra concept review.

No-Nonsense Algebra is a book that begins at the pre-algebra concepts necessary to be able to learn algebra. From there, it goes all the way through quadratic equations. That is a huge span of material but it is a compact, straight-forward presentation. Each lesson is a page or two long and consists of a written instruction, examples, exercises, and review of previous concepts. There is also an online video lesson to assist in the teaching.

This is more of a text book than a workbook, as there is not a lot of space between each equation or question. Additionally, the student is encouraged to copy down and work each step of the example, as well as showing all work for each exercise and review. The pages are definitely not spacious enough for that and using notebook paper or graph paper allows the student to keep their work lined up nicely and neatly.

video lesson

The video lessons are accessed with a code that is found inside the book. With that code, you just head over to the No Nonsense Algebra website where you will be able to create an account. With your code, you will have access to the videos for each of the lessons. The videos seem to run around 10 minutes in length, some a little more, some a little less. It is a video of a smart board with a voice walking you through the steps as they are shown on the board. It is a no frills video and the voice is straight-forward. The videos are not just a repeat of the written examples; they are an instruction in the concept.

HOW WE USED THIS BOOK

Since Miss E is working in pre-algebra, we asked to use this book as a concept review of the materials and concepts she has covered so far. We knew we would probably only get through the first chapter and a little into the second during the review period since those are the concepts she has worked with. We especially knew we would need additional work with negative integers.

What we found is that the videos confused Miss E a lot. For some reason, the instruction confused an already weak concept when it came to negative integers. With this being the very first lesson, it made the book a difficult one for us, as it brought tensions and tears. We pushed through the lesson over a few days, walking her through every example, exercise, and review.

I then took a look at the table of contents a bit more closely than I had and decided that we needed to work through the first chapter out of order. I found that the number line review was not first even though the first lesson of adding integers teaches and refers to the number line. Some other concepts such as the properties of numbers, greatest common factors, and least common multiples were pretty far down in the chapter yet those concepts were needed to do lessons that came before that in the chapter. This is a definite weakness of the book, in my opinion.number line lesson

Noticing that allowed me to reorder the materials in a way that made sense by concept and we tackled the book again. This time, we worked up through the materials, reviewing items that were the stepping stones to the next concept and it all made much more sense to Miss E. Her confidence grew and when we came again to the integers and dealing with negative numbers, while it still wasn’t easy for her, she didn’t have such a bad time of it.

WHY THIS BOOK?

If your student is ready for Algebra I or higher, this book is right up your alley. There are no frills. It is straight-forward. The videos are designed to help with instructions. No-Nonsense Algebra covers

  • Necessary Tools for Algebra
  • Solving Equations
  • Graphing and Analyzing Linear Equations
  • Solving and Graphing Inequalities
  • Systems of Linear Equations and Inequalities
  • Polynomials
  • Rational Expressions (Algebraic Fractions)
  • Radical Expressions and Geometry
  • Quadratic Equations
  • Algebra Word Problems

Included in the back of the book are the solutions (but no explanation of how to get the correct solution if you make a mistake), a final review, glossary, tables of important formulas and symbols, multiplication table, and squares and square roots.

With all that this book covers, I can imagine that it is a good review for a student who has completed algebra courses and is taking, or preparing to take, college entrance exams. It would definitely provide a thorough review.

All in all, this is a good book that just didn’t fit my girls’ needs. But, I am going to keep it around as I can see it being a lot of help in a few years as college exams approach.

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Read additional reviews of how other families use this book by clicking the banner below.

No-Nonsense Algebra {Math Essentials Reviews} 

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