My husband discovered Teaching Textbooks at a homeschool convention many years ago. Frustrated with teaching math I saw it as a way out. Before Teaching Textbooks I had used Bob Jones, Abeka, Horizons, Miquon, Rod and Staff, Life of Fred (see Life of Fred review here), and Chalkdust, Saxon.
Some might call me a homeschool math expert since I’ve used most of the curriculum published for homeschoolers, but in reality I was desperate for something that worked for my family. Except for Saxon, which sent my kids into hysterics every single day, the other programs were all good and I liked them.
But I had a problem. I was homeschooling four or five kids at the time and I needed to find a subject they could do on their own, Teaching Textbooks might be the answer to my math problem.
Before Teaching Textbooks
As my children progressed through the higher levels of math they would go through the book on their own and I would check their work. Inevitably they would come to a point (usually around lesson 75) where they didn’t understand the concept being taught and I would then spend two to three hours looking through all the previous lessons to help explain the current lesson they couldn’t understand. This was frustrating for my kids and for me!
When I heard about Teaching Textbooks it seemed too good to be true. The lessons were on CD’s and for some levels everything was automated including the grade book. I was finished teaching math FOREVER!!! Or so I thought.
Pros of Teaching Textbooks Math Curriculum
Minimal Teacher Involvement: I think this is a positive because you can follow along with your child, but it is not necessary. In the four years I used this program I probably spent less than four hours helping my kids with math. Since I was looking for a hands-off approach to math this definitely worked.
Teaching Textbook Lessons are Easy to Understand: The lessons are easy to understand, especially at the younger levels. The teacher speaks slowly and the graphics are interesting but not overwhelming.
Favorite for Kids: My kids and many others loved Teaching Textbooks. My younger boys asked to do math every day because they enjoy it. After years of crying through math lessons was nice to have a program my kids actually like.
Computerized Grading: Teaching Textbooks offers the entire program online and is totally automated. This includes automatic grading as soon as the child answers the question. The program tracks your child’s progress, lets you know which problems they missed, and even keeps a grade book. This makes record keeping for math very simple.
NonConsumable: There are no workbooks, so more than one child can use the curriculum. Version 2.o can be reused by siblings.
Excellent Customer Support: Teaching Textbooks support staff is quick to respond and solve the problem.
They Sell Single Copies of the Cd’s: If you have a careless child who gets into a fight with his brother and in the process cracks a CD in half, you only need to replace one CD, not the whole set. I wouldn’t know this from experience, of course.
Update: You can now use Teaching Textbooks entirely online. No more CDs!
Cons of Teaching Textbooks Math Curriculum
Expensive: Teaching Textbooks Math 3 is $119 while Saxon Math 3 is around $60. The price goes up and in high school are close to $200, with Pre-Calculus selling for $185.00. Due to Teaching Textbooks popularity, used sets are hard to find and prices are still high. (To their credit, the prices have stayed the same for over six years and they have introduced a subscription model).
Update: Teaching Textbooks now has several buying options. You can still purchase Teaching Textbooks 2.0 which includes workbooks and CDs. However you can also purchase an online subscription which is about $6 a month per student.
Fewer Review Problems: If you are familiar with Saxon (or Abeka to some extent) you know those programs incorporate a mind numbing amount of review problems. 🙂 Teaching Textbooks offers significantly less in the way of review.
For a child who needs concepts reviewed thoroughly and drilled consistently this is problematic. This is one of my biggest complaints about the program. All my kids who used Teaching Textbooks in the younger grades still struggle with their math facts. My children who used Saxon (which we learned to love in later years) have a solid math foundation.
Minimal Teacher Involvement: This is an independent study math program. If you like to closely oversee your child’s work, this is not for you.
My biggest problem with Teaching Textbooks
Low Test Scores: This is my biggest problem with Teaching Textbooks. My daughter starting with Algebra 1, after using several different curriculum from K-8. She scored high on all her Teaching Textbooks tests and had an A average for math over the past four years.
When she took the ACT and the College Placement Test and scored poorly on the math sections of both tests. Now, part of the low score was because she did not prep for the test. This is my fault, she only had two weeks notice. But she aced the language sections of both tests, receiving a perfect on one of them. This tells me she knew how to take a standardized test.
The disconnect comes at this point. Why would a child who made all A’s on the Teaching Textbook’s tests score below average on standardized tests? I researched this a bit on the internet and it seems to be happening to more than a few kids who have used the high school level curriculum.
Part of the problem seems to be Teaching Textbook’s method of teaching. They aren’t teaching to the test and that’s good thing. But, if you have a child who needs above average test scores because they want to go to college, this is a bad thing.
After spending another 5 years teaching homeschool math (since writing this review) I’ve come to a another conclusion about why I believe Teaching Textbooks failed my daughter in regards to test prep and why I ultimately switched to Saxon math and used it for the last several years.
One of the benefits of homeschooling is that kids can work at their own pace. Teaching Textbooks is no different. It allows kids to go back and correct their answers and there isn’t much focus on math drills.
Standardized tests are timed and children must solve problems quickly. Math facts must be memorized in order to complete all the problems during the allotted time. For our family, Saxon had a better mix of review, timed tests, and general problems than any other curriculum we used.
I do not think Teaching Textbooks is a bad math curriculum. Because of the testing issue, I did not use it after middle school. Up to Pre-Algebra I think the lessons are adequate, but beginning in Algebra 1, this curriculum was not the best choice for our family. If you have your heart set on Teaching Textbooks, I would recommend test prep before taking any standardized test.
For me, I would rather spend the money on a curriculum that builds that into the lessons. When your child takes 7-8 credit hours, works, and participates in extra-curricular activities, there isn’t much time left for frequent test prep.
So, while I loved Teaching Textbooks, I was disappointed with the test scores. I’d love to hear your feedback on Teaching Textbooks at the high school grade levels. Has your child scored well on the ACT/SAT/CPT or have their test scores contradicted the scores received on the Teaching Textbooks tests?
Editor’s note: Math is not my daughter’s strongest subject. However, before Teaching Textbooks she always scored above the 85 percentile in math on the standardized tests.
UPDATE: As you know, not every curriculum is perfect for every family. While I explained above why I’m not 100% sold on this curriculum, my managing editor and friend, Linda, loves Teaching Textbooks and wrote a review here explaining her position.