When I first started homeschooling, I occasionally had another parent ask me, "What are you going to do when Addison gets to high school and is studying Algebra?" Thankfully, I always liked math, and algebra doesn't scare me. I've realized lately that there are so many great curriculum options that algebra shouldn't scare any homeschool parent.

Even though Addison finished Algebra 1 about a year ago and Brennan is just now gearing up for Pre-Algebra, I've been taking a close look at Math Essentials' No-Nonsense Algebra program.

The Algebra book comes with an online access code that allows you to watch online instructional videos that correspond with each lesson. Each video lasted 8-10 minutes and included an instructor showing how to work a few sample problems. During the videos, the student is encouraged to work the problem along with the explanation. When Brennan watched the first few videos in the series, he did his work on a marker board.

To get a better feel for the program, I watched the video explanations for a topic I often struggled with -- time, rate, and distance word problems. I found the ten minute explanation to be very thorough. Every step of the problems was clearly explained, and I had no problems keeping up with the instructor as I worked out the examples. I've now regained my confidence when it comes to working train and car problems. Additionally, there were three pages of examples that I could refer to while working the exercises.

Following the instructional video, the student completes a single practice sheet with 10-20 problems related to the topic. Each page also includes a few review problems from earlier topics. The publisher claims that the lesson will take 20 minutes per day, and I agree that a good math student could watch the video and complete the practice page in that amount of time. Our only complain about the practice pages is that the problems are intended to be worked on a separate sheet of paper. I struggle to get Brennan to show his work on practice pages that allow room for his work; it's even more difficult to get him to neatly show his work if he has to use separate paper.

Non-Nonsense Algebra has 10 chapters with a total of 95 lessons. Each chapter has a set of review that could be used as a chapter test. At the end of the course, there is a comprehensive set of 157 review problems. As I searched through the topics covered in this book, I found it to compare favorably with all of the other programs

The answers to all of the problems are included in the back of the book. Unfortunately, there are not full explanations for those problems. I didn't find that necessary at this level of math, but it may be helpful for some students (and their parents).

In addition to the Algebra materials, I also reviewed the Geometry book in the Mastering Essential Math Skills series. These lessons would be a great addition to any upper elementary math curriculum, especially for a middle school student. The book includes thirty geometry topics, including angles, polygons, area, perimeter, and circle calculations. Brennan (sixth grader) has already covered some of the geometry topics, but there are a lot that he hasn't seen before.

The Mastering Essential Math Skills books do not include instructional videos, but the short explanation was usually sufficient for my children to figure out the concept on their own. Again, these lessons are intended to be short and to the point, approximately 20 minutes per lesson.

The No-Nonsense Algebra program from Math Essentials costs $27.95 for the book and online videos. I think that's an incredibly good deal when compared to other higher level math program.

The Geometry review book costs $11.95. The Mastering Essential Math Skills series also offers similar review books covering fractions, decimals and percents, problem solving, charts and graphs, and whole number operations. If you are looking for a more complete program, they offer two levels of essential math skills and a pre-algebra curriculum that include companion DVDs.

When Brennan is ready for Algebra 1, I will seriously consider using this program. (If I didn't have hand-me-down materials from Addison, I would definitely use Math Essentials.) In the meantime, he's going to work through the geometry program and perhaps some of the others, too.

Disclaimer: I received No-Nonsense Algebra and Geometry as a member of the 2012 TOS Homeschool Review Crew, and I received no other compensation. In return, I agreed to give an honest review of the materials and how they worked for my homeschool family.

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