Teaching Textbooks Math Curriculum Review

As promised, my review of Teaching Textbooks math — with big thanks to Kathryn, our resident expert, for her assistance in making sure I covered all the important points in this review!

Teaching Textbooks Review

Teaching Textbooks is a full-year math curriculum that includes a consumable workbook, an answer booklet, and four CDs with step-by-step audiovisual instruction — plus a digital gradebook that instantly grades answers and calculates scores for each assignment.

Teaching Textbooks helped alleviate math stress.

First, since I always find reviews most helpful when I know where the reviewer is coming from, let me tell you a bit about us. I have home educated Kathryn since kindergarten, and we have used several of the math curricula I most often hear about: Saxon (1st and 2nd grades), Horizons (3rd and 4th grades), and Singapore (kindergarten, and beginning of 5th grade). They have all had their good and bad points. Somewhere along the way, though certainly not entirely because of curriculum we were or weren’t using, Kathryn began to hate math. Our homeschool days became stressful because of all the difficulties surrounding our math lessons. Clearly, I couldn’t just do away with math entirely, but we had to have something significantly different. She had become frustrated, and began to feel as though math was hard and she was bad at it — which was far from the truth.

I hesitated in trying Teaching Textbooks because of the cost. I don’t mind paying for a good curriculum that really works, but not for one we’d briefly use and then set aside. Finally, I took the plunge, deciding that even if it only succeeded in getting us over this difficult math-malevolent hump, it would be worth every penny.

Before starting this program, we took a couple of weeks off from math so we could have a fresh start. I talked it up favorably, as I often do with any new thing we’ll be trying. Kathryn enjoys playing educational games on the computer, so I told her that in many ways, this would be like that.

TeachingTextbooks CDs

How the program works:

Kathryn puts in the current Teaching Textbooks CD into the laptop. She clicks the desktop icon to open the program, which we easily installed before the first lesson. Once the program opens, she logs in, then chooses the lesson she is to do. She can also view her gradebook at any time, and usually does so at the end of her lesson. The gradebook shows the score of each lesson, and any problems missed. Teaching Textbooks comes with a workbook, but we have not used that at all. She keeps a piece of scrap paper nearby to work out problems she can’t do in her head. The workbook is good to have for reference purposes, and some families might use it often.

Each lesson is taught orally, along with animation demonstrating what is being taught. (You can view a sample lesson on the TT site.) The narrator has a pleasant voice, and every time the student enters a correct answer, the narrator offers some positive encouragement, such as Great job; You got it; or Awesome! Once the lesson has been explained, there are a few practice problems before the “real” assignment begins. Some of the questions in each lesson are true/false; some are multiple choice; some are fill-in-the-blank.

I’m not sure what options there are for older kids in the upper-level programs, but this level allows the student to choose a “buddy” for each lesson. These buddies show up in the top left-hand corner of the screen, and change slightly as the child answers each question correctly. For instance, a robot is built a little at a time, until it’s complete and a new one starts. Same with paper airplanes. Or a kitten changes outfits and adds accessories, or a mouse climbs higher to reach a piece of cheese. The buddies can even be changed mid-lesson. They also offer occasional hints throughout the lesson. It’s fun, and if I’m not close by, Kathryn calls me over to see what the buddy is doing.

A student’s thoughts:

In preparing to write this review, I asked Kathryn for her input. As a homeschooling mom, I can give my opinion about it, but I think the student’s opinion is just as important!

  • She told me her favorite thing about Teaching Textbooks is the buddies; her least favorite thing is the T/F questions because they can be tricky.
  • When compared to the other math curricula we’ve used, I asked if she likes this one better. When she said yes, I asked if it’s just a little better, or a lot; she enthusiastically said it’s a LOT better!
  • She had this to tell the kids: “It’s easier than the other math programs. Well, it’s not really easier, but it explains things really well, and helps you whether you learn best with your ears or with your eyes.”
  • To the parents: “It doesn’t take up much room because you only need the cd’s, as long as you already have a computer to use. It is easy for you because it does most of the teaching.”

Mom’s perspective:

From my perspective, the lessons are easy. No preparation on my part is required, and if I follow along with the lesson, I can easily clarify any questions Kathryn has — which are infrequent. It even does all the grading for me.

In the beginning, she was very frustrated that she couldn’t go back to change an incorrect answer (except with fill-in-the-blanks, where the student gets two chances); she has perfectionist tendencies, and having a “wrong answer” on the grade book upset her. But I used that as a teaching opportunity in itself, and pointed out that a “wrong” answer is just a tool to show that we might need a little more practice on that type of problem. Once we worked past that, I’ve heard no complaining, and that is a DRASTIC change from what math time had become before starting Teaching Textbooks.

Teaching Textbooks and cookiesAround here, math time is accompanied by a little chocolatey goodness — what we call “math motivation.” (Note: cookies not included with purchase of curriculum.)

Besides the improvement in our lessons, Kathryn’s natural enjoyment of math has returned, too. She doesn’t love every aspect of math, but she has always astounded me with the math she can do mentally (since I have to write down everything), in pointing out things like math problems on the clock (for instance, 4:28 is a math problem because 4 multiplied by 2 is 8). She ponders things like what pi really is, and where infinity ends, and how far you could count if you just kept counting. She is a math-minded child, which is why I knew there was something seriously out of whack when she started disliking it.

Is this the perfect math program? No; I don’t believe there is one. And of course, we must keep in mind the individual learning style of her child, as well as many other factors. I don’t know how long we’ll keep using Teaching Textbooks, but it has proved itself invaluable in our home this year.

More questions? Kathryn and I will do our best to answer them in the comments!

{Note: this post contains affiliate links but I did not receive compensation for this review, and paid for the product myself.}

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  1. says

    Thank you, Jamie. I have been hoping to read a thorough review by someone like you (a person I can trust, virtually speaking, that is:)

    The cost is a great deterrent for me, but I understand now why so many people like it. Perhaps if it DID come with cookies…………:)

  2. says

    I’m new to your blog and wanted to pop over from reader and tell you that I appreciated your review. I’ve seen this program around and have been curious. I’m going to take a closer look at a convention coming up in a couple months- math isn’t dd’s strong suit and therefore is an area we are constantly tweaking for better teaching, better learning, etc. So thank you for this- it was very helpful!

  3. says

    We switched to TT this year with our 7th grader (12 years old). She has never liked math and always fought me about it. We have used Singapore since the beginning, which I really liked, but once we hit 6a & 6b they became much more time intensive for me. She would do a good chunk into a chapter and then have problems. Forcing me to go back and try to learn what she had been doing so I could correct and teach her.

    We are using TT Pre-Algebra and loving it! She doesn’t need me at all! Which I really like because there are so many others things that she and her siblings do need from me. This subject has gone from an angst, to an after thought! It is so nice to have her not complaining about math. The program does a great job of explaining each thing and giving ample practice and reinforcement. I do not believe, although I haven’t really paid attention, that there is a “buddy” in this level. It does have the helpful hints and positive reinforcement along the way though.

    I am not sure it would be worth the money to me in the lower levels of math, but as we get higher up it is so wonderful not to have to try and fill my brain with all the math!

  4. says

    We used Saxon for 1st, 2nd, and half of 3rd. My son started slowing down with his math problems, things he’d been doing already not with new concepts. Then came the tears and angst. The 5 minute timed sheets turned into 45 minutes if I let him go at his pace. He is very visual and HATES worksheets with a passion. At Christmas time we switched over to TT. We did the placement test and it put him in level 4. I have heard from a few people that it seems to be a year behind Saxon, but I can’t confirm that. So we started with level 4. The first month he did up to 4 lessons in a day for the hour we had set aside for math. Now he does 2 lessons a day. He has been caught giggling during math now. It explains the math concepts really well. We have the “consumable” that our charter school has asked us to treat as a non-consumable to cut the cost. We really don’t use it, or see the need in having it.

    • says

      Sounds very much like our story! I’ve heard that about it being a year behind Saxon, too, but if my child learns to like math and master the concepts, I don’t mind!!! And I’ve also read that kids doing TT do score well on standardized tests.

  5. says

    Hi, Jamie,
    Thanks for a great review, and please pass my thanks to Kathryn, too! I appreciate the heads up about changing answers, because my little man would be the same way. I am at a point where I’m trying to decide what to start him in math, so this has been helpful. Think I may have to go see a demo. Thanks!

  6. says

    Nice review! We love TT, too. And Kathryn’s papers look like Sprite’s! Makes me crazy — diagonal on the paper, random,not numbered, etc. :-( Does it bother you?

    • says

      Jimmie, your review was one of the final deciding factors for us trying this curriculum! And yes, the chicken-scratchy paper drives me a little bit bananas!

  7. says

    We switched to TT this year too, and I have been amazed at the difference! M (roughly the same age as your daughter) likes it so much that we have decided if homeschool budget gets tighter, this is the one thing we will make sure to keep. She does her math willingly and often with enthusiasm! She also voluntarily discusses the new concepts with her grandfather, a retired math teacher, much to his delight.

  8. says

    I, too, have a reluctant math learner, but he is 16! I have tried Saxon, Abeka, Keys to Algebra as well as Teaching Textbook (Algebra I). I invested in Teaching Textbook this year because I was hoping it would be almost like having a private teacher–put in the CD and presto! there’s the lesson. Except that my son decided he didn’t need the CD, that it was the same thing that was in the book and that the teacher was boring. So, I figured why not just go back to a regular old textbook since the whole brilliance of TT wasn’t even being used by him. So I guess the TT will go into “Ebay sell pile for Fall”, just like most of the other math books. Right now, I don’t know what to do with him for math. I think I’m going to go search for our old Abeka Algebra and see what I can salvage from the rest of this school year!

    • says

      Lisa, I feel your pain! I have a 17 year old that’s the same way. This year she is in public school and struggling through math there, but I would’ve tried TT with her this year if she was at home. Next year, she might be homeschooling again, and I haven’t decided the best approach for math with her yet.

  9. Martha says

    I am concerned that my son who is finishing the 4th grade tt will be ready for 5 th grade standard math level. Any thoughts?

    • says

      Martha, I don’t really know a definite answer to that, but I have heard that TT kids tend to do well on standardized tests, which would indicate that they’d be approximately on whatever “grade level” is. Of course, if you’re talking about switching curriculum, I’d recommend checking into the scope & sequence, because pretty much every curriculum varies, and he might be ahead in some areas but behind in others — no matter what curriculum you use. That even varies from public school district to public school district!

  10. Kerrin says

    Hi Jamie – We love TT. I just purchased Saxon 5/6, 6/5 and 7/6 with the teaching dvds because our Classical Conversations group uses them for the higher levels. My kids absolutely HATED Saxon and begged to switch back to TT! The good thing for us is that I have 4 boys so the investment is worth it to me. I have them actually write in the workbooks and refer back to the written lesson if they still have questions after watching the presentation. If that doesn’t work then we figure it out together! My 9 year old is in Math 4 and hates the T/F questions too. They inevitably are the questions that mess up his perfect score! We are in Math 6 and Math 5 right now. I’m glad that TT is updating their higher level Math programs so that they will be self checking and entered in the computer too! If you know any one who wants to buy brand new Saxon programs, let me know!

  11. says

    I have four kids I am homeschooling and we are thinking that at least a couple of our kids would benefit from this program next year. This year we are using Horizons, and while I love the workbooks, I don’t really care for the lessons and I don’t have as much time as I need to teach everyone. :) Thanks for your review!

  12. says

    Thank you for this review. I have been looking at TT for my 10 year old daughter. I am still undecided but reading your review and the comments has given me some points to consider.
    Thanks again

  13. says

    We have used TT for upper level math and it makes math a breeze even for this math-oriented mom. I have two different kinds of learners and they both enjoy TT. Mr. B is starting TT Pre-Calculus this term and it is going great.
    One point about the cost…you gain most of it back on reselling the package (except for the text of course).
    Nice review Jamie.

  14. Stacie says

    Another great math resource is Khan Academy. I do home teaching for the local school district and use this site a lot…particularly for math (although they have some other great stuff available). It provides a video tutorial and then practice questions. Kids can get hints, and it recommends other videos (tutorials or extension) based on how well the student does on the practice questions. And it’s FREE! A great addition to the home teaching arsenal. khanacademy.org.

  15. says

    Thanks for the review! We have always used Horizons and Carson is not a huge math fan and I was thinking of using Teaching Textbooks in the fall. Your review is very encouraging!

    Oh, I also think I first heard about pin dolls on your blog. The kids and I made some the other day, they were so much fun!

  16. Leilani says

    we are using TT for the first time this year for 4th and 5th grades and we love it! We have used saxon in the past and while I felt that was a good program it was done with MUCH complaining πŸ˜€ The boys enjoy TT and it takes them both 20 min tops to finish their math each day. We will be using it again next year. My K son is doing horizons but I plan to switch to TT in 3 for him too. We use Winter promise and sonlight for our other subjects.

  17. Michelle says

    Thank you so much for this review! You popped up in Google for me :) -I’m considering whether to switch to TT3 next year, after using ABeka Math from K-2 with my son. Like you described with your daughter, he’s a very “math-minded” kid and he amazes me with the types of mental math he can do. We’ve skipped I-don’t-know-how-many lessons when, for example, ABeka wanted me to “introduce” borrowing from both the tens and hundreds place — he is a big concept thinker, and he already intuitively knew how to do it. He gets a kick out of doing something that looks “grown-up” as he puts it. This is a kid who wants me to make up five or six digit addition problems for him to “figure out for fun.” Seriously? That did not come from my side of the gene pool!

    I really love the theory behind AB’s spiral approach and emphasis on memorization of facts — but my son hates drill and has a “block” about memorizing. I have a hunch that he will memorize all the fact families easier if I give up on flash cards and speed drills and just let him explore harder & harder “real math.” Anyway, I really appreciate your review; it gives me a glimpse of how he might respond to it. I don’t want math to become a drag or something he hates because of all the drill/rote stuff – I don’t want to quelch his natural aptitude for it. Now I just need to talk my husband into the price tag! πŸ˜‰

  18. Julie Abell says

    I have used Teaching Textbooks for both my kids. I am curious if anyone can give feedback on how high school students who have used TT have done on state tests.

    • says

      They don’t make it for that age range but K math doesn’t need much structured math. Don’t overthink it. We used Singapore math in the K and 1st grade years.

  19. Becky says

    Enjoyed your review-it popped up on google :). I’m considering a switch to TT for my older 2 children (4th and 6th grades) this year. The price has been the thing that held me back previously, but as I just took another, more serious look at it, I realized that divided over all 4 of my children, the cost is as much as I would invest in workbooks if we continued our current path. Now, my hesitation is that I hate to switch math curricula, yet again. We’ve visited Singapore, Math Mammoth, CLE, Life of Fred (very briefly), before a return to CLE. Now I remember why I wanted to switch from CLE in the first place. Because my kids hate math. Yes, they are finally understanding it, for the first time in our homeschooling journey, but they hate it. In fact, I don’t really blame them. I noticed that you listed several different curricula you had tried, as well. I wondered what your thoughts are on skipping around so much. I believe stability is important in many areas, but especially math, it seems, would be much improved by finding something and sticking with it. But, what about when the only one you’ve found to “work” for your kids inspires them to hate math? Do you feel your daughter has been better off with switching to find something that made math more enjoyable, than she would have been to pick something and stick with it to avoid those gaping holes we seem to find everytime we try something new?! Thanks for your thoughts!

  20. Molly Sturgeon says

    I have four children all using TT this year. My oldest is in 9th grade and has been attending one of the top classical schools in the country, but struggled in math there. This year, here at home, she has been doing TT and made the comment the other day, “Mom, why couldn’t Mrs. Z have explained Algebra like this?!” She is thriving and makes 100 most lessons.
    The only thing about TT that younger students should beware of is that there is not enough math fact drilling built into the program, so you will have to add something to help younger students solidify their facts.
    As for the cost, you can easily get up to half the cost when you resell on ebay, so consider that when lamenting over the cost.
    Overall, it is a wonderful program, but the tendency is to leave the children on their own. Don’t do it! Check up on them; kids will try to get away with as little as possible (skipping practice problems, bonuses, etc.)
    I don’t think TT should be judged in the short-term, but over the long-term. Trying different math programs is problematic, because they all cover things at different times and in different ways. I cringe when I read someone bashing TT who has used it for a couple of months. You really need to stick with a math program longer to see if it works.
    I, for one, LOVE IT!!!!!

  21. maya says

    I was just looking at TT and I think if you have a child who is good at math or even coming from another program you would want to def. do the placement test and would probably be in 1-2 levels ahead. My son was homeschooled and decided to go to ps for fourth grade. I thought there math was behind going over stuff we did in 2nd and 3rd but TT is even worse. If you have a student who needs all that review(place value in 5th grade really?) then TT would be for you and walk them through it. But for someone good at math then might want something more challenging.


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