When Beast Academy was first released, I was prematurely confident that my math choices were now settled. Beast Academy might have been tailor-made for Alex: fun, story based, challenging, novel, and not overly drill-heavy. It’s her perfect curriculum, and it would’ve fed us neatly into AoPS at the end of the sequence.
The problem is that we were ultra-early adopters, and they just can’t write math books as fast as we can finish math books. There was a gap of a couple of weeks between when we finished 3b and when they released 3c, and between 3c and 3d it’s been a few months. We’re still planning to buy the BA books as they come out – I think they’ll be great for review and enrichment. But it is increasingly obvious that BA can’t be our main curriculum.
The early transition back to our old curriculum, MEP, was rocky – Alex resented doing “traditional” math again, and seemed to have forgotten a lot of the things she’d learned. But she’s settled down nicely and is making steady progress. I’m not as impressed with 4a as I was with level 1 – it seems like a good, solid program, but not nearly as innovative and unusual. Maybe I’m missing BA too.
A couple of weeks ago, I picked up The Book of Perfectly Perilous Math. It’s not a curriculum, either – just a collection of 24 math puzzles focused on death and destruction. For example, the first puzzle finds you bound to a table under a slowly lowering pendulum, while a rat chews through the ropes to free you. At given rates of progress, will the rat free you before the pendulum slices you in half?
On Alex’s least favorite day of the week (Wednesday), we’re planning to do a chapter of Perilous Math instead of MEP. There is typically one problem, a worked solution, and a “math lab” hands-on activity (sometimes valuable, sometimes pretty stupid) for each chapter.
It’s aimed at middle school level, so we’ll see how far we get. This week we hit the third problem, and the first one that was really challenging for Alex: she had to figure out how many days it would take to spend a million dollars at a rate of 50 cents per second. That was tricky because there are a lot of steps to organize, and because she hit a point where she had to divide 1,000,000 by 43,200 – when she’s never even faced a two-digit divisor before.
She was awesome:
I was impressed with the way that she made a plan and followed through the steps without losing track. I gave her some advice along the way, suggesting that she label the answers to her intermediate steps and showing her that she could do the multiplication step of a long division problem off to one side if it was too challenging to do in her head. But she did a fantastic job of jumping in and generalizing from single-digit divisors to a multi-digit divisor. Most importantly, she didn’t back away from trying to find a solution even when it obviously called for math she hadn’t been taught yet. That makes me so happy.
(She had to, of course. The story behind the problem had her at risk of annihilation by lasers if she didn’t. Which is just the sort of thing that keeps Alex happy.)