Stretching math through the summer (part 1)

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Summer is still a few months away but I know many parents are already looking for ways to build or maintain their child’s math learning over the summer. There are several great options that I’ll be discussing in the coming weeks for every age and ability level, but for math-talented students in grades 3-5 my first recommendation is usually Beast Academy from the Art of Problem Solving (AoPS). 
Although Beast Academy is a full year-long comprehensive math curriculum, it comes in an incredibly fun and cute package, which makes it ideal for summer.

Every grade level has 4 parts (A-D) each consisting of a comic book, which serves as the textbook, and also a corresponding workbook.  The Beast Academy characters in the comic books are fun and talk the student through new concepts, while the workbook problems themselves are very puzzle and game-like. True confession – my son has been through the entire available Beast Academy program and still likes to use the comic books for bathroom reading. They are that engaging!

My only word of warning is that Beast Academy is both challenging and unconventional. Art of Problem Solving made a name for itself with advanced high school and math contest prep materials, and Beast Academy carries their tradition of using a discovery based approach to mathematics and deep problem solving to the elementary level. It is ideal for students who love math and love to figure things out for themselves, but I would not recommend the workbook for a student who already struggles with math, as the problems found in the book can sometimes be intimidating.

When using as a summer supplement expect to get through only one book, unless you’re using it a grade or two behind as review, something that I actually recommend as most fifth graders who have been taught conventionally could still get a lot out of the lower grade Beast Academy books. The depth of this series is incredible – in addition to standard fare like multiplication, fractions, and decimals, Beast Academy covers some topics that are seldom seen in elementary school such as logic and basic combinatorics.   At the same time I also wouldn’t hesitate to try these materials with a very advanced math student who is a grade or two younger (my son started 3A in first grade). The fun presentation and packaging make it ideal for a student who is intellectually ahead but lacking the maturity to jump into more serious math texts.

AoPS has full sample pages of both the guidebooks and workbooks for each level on their website.  Materials can be purchased directly from AoPS or through some discount homeschool catalogs like Rainbow Resource.

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