For better or for worse, even though I'm a writer and a word person, I'm also a math person. I have always loved math and found it relatively easy to learn. However, even among math people, there are divisions, especially between the algebra people and the geometry people.
I'm an algebra person. I like numbers and letters and making things equal on both sides and plugging values in and having it all work out in the end. Numbers are my friends.
Geometry, though - well, I sympathize with Anne of Green Gables, of whom it was said, "In geometry, Anne met her Waterloo." Proofs and shapes and lines and points in space hurt my brain in a way that numbers and letters never did. I struggled with geometry in high school, and I haven't been looking forward to teaching it to my children either!
That is, until now, when I discovered an approach to geometry, Classical Mathematics One, that has me excited both to learn it myself and to share it with my children!
A bit of background - we have been homeschooling for seven years, and we have used Saxon math the entire time according to this schedule:
Kindergarten: Saxon 1
Grade 1: Saxon 2
Grade 2: Saxon 3
Grade 3: Saxon 5/4
Grade 4: Saxon 6/5
Grade 5: Saxon 7/6
Grade 6: Saxon 8/7 (including Pre-algebra)
My daughter is in seventh grade this year, and we pressed forward with Algebra 1, even though that is typically taught in ninth grade, or sometimes in eighth. She is doing well with it, which made me get online and research other high school math a bit earlier than I had planned.
At the same time, toward the end of the summer, I read an amazing book, The Liberal Arts Tradition. I'll share more details on that in another post, but suffice it to say that it revolutionized my understanding of classical education and what is important at different points in a child's learning. One intriguing section of the book focused on the Quadrivium, the four "mathematical" arts, including the value of Euclid geometry in helping to shape a student's ability to learn how to clearly reason. In fact, the authors recommended tackling geometry first, as preparation for higher math classes. I decided not to push that, since my daughter was already enjoying Algebra and also because Saxon Algebra 1 and 2 contain a good bit of geometry, but I did want to find something in addition to Saxon that would use Euclid's Elements as a primary text. And that is where Classical Mathematics comes in.
Classical Mathematics One is available for $59.99. For this price, you get:
- Student book - spiral bound book of 31 weeks of lessons
- Exam book with four exams included
- Video lessons - one for each week, to be watched at the conclusion of the week; these are available on the Polymath Classical Tutorials website
- Teacher guide - this is currently being upgraded and is scheduled to be completed by July 2021; Cycles (weeks) 1 through 16 are currently available for download.
- The Elements - Euclid
- Introduction to Arithmetic – Nicomachus* ($8 purchased from Polymath Classical Tutorials)
- Mathematics for the Nonmathematician - Kline
- A quality bound blank journal (I am using something similar to this, but I found it for half the price at Walmart; I strongly recommend either blank or "dotted" pages.)
- A straight-edge and a compass.
Since we are still a year off from using this with my daughter, I decided to take this year to go through the class myself! I am currently in Epicycle 6, and very much enjoying it! While I would like to finish it before my daughter begins it, as long as I stay several weeks ahead of her, I think I'll be okay.
Here are my initial observations, based on my own experience thus far.
- Classical Mathematics One is marketed as a high school math course that is a classical alternative to modern geometry textbooks. I plan to use it with my daughter in eighth grade, and I believe she will be able to handle it. I'm not sure she could have handled it this year, in seventh. It is not a simple curriculum, but neither is it beyond the reach of teenage learners, especially considering that Euclid's Elements was the standard geometry textbook for centuries, until the earlier part of the twentieth century. Remember how geometry was Anne's Waterloo? She was a young teenager at that point in the story. It could be done before Algebra, as classical educators suggest, but right now I don't recommend it before 8th grade unless you have an exceptional math student.
- The first four cycles are heavy with reading about the history of mathematics and then playing with the relationships among numbers, as seen by Nicomachus, a Greek mathematician from the first and second century AD. As such, there is a bit of philosophy and more essay-writing than you might expect in a math course. It is tempting to skip over some of that, but I encourage you to see it through, even it if means reading some of it together. I had never given much thought to the way math developed over time, and found it more interesting than I had expected! For myself, I replaced an assignment to write an essay about the history of mathematics with a detailed timeline, and I may do something similar for my daughter, but I won't skip it. Grounding her in the history of the things we study is an important part of our classical education. (Another book I found in Sam's Club, that will be available on Amazon in March 2021, is An Illustrated Guide to Mathematics, by Anne Rooney. It is a bit more colorful than Kline's book. It would not be a substitute for it, but could be a nice supplement.)
- The videos are meaty! As the course goes on, these are forty- to fifty-minute lessons digging into what the student has done for the previous four days. Again, don't skip them. I would suggest watching them with your student to make sure all points have been understood before moving on. Euclid's ideas, definitions, and propositions all build on one another, so if earlier points are not mastered, later ones will be difficult to follow.
- Customer service is superb. I wrote to Daniel Maycock several times with detailed questions and he responded promptly and with helpful answers.