Math enrichment from Algebra for Breakfast REVIEW

Algebra for Breakfast
Mr. B LOVES Math, but sometimes he gets a bit lost in the logic and processes of math. It's great for him to have a good visual, hands on approach, to tackling the concepts that trouble him. I was excited to learn about a really cool video-based enrichment program called Algebra for Breakfast. Mr. B does really well with online video programs, so I was pretty sure that Algebra for Breakfast would be just what we needed to help us through a few hurdles.

For this review, I'm reviewing 6 months access to the 5-6 level (AFB 56.)
This includes the topics of:

• Countability
• Operation Sense
• The Skip Counting Principle
• Unknown Numbers and the Meaning of Variables
• A Multi-Sensorial Approach to Algebra & Mathematics
• The FNLN Principle: Identifying Like Terms and Unlike Terms
• Variables  and Constants: Units, x, and x2
• Operation Sense and Number Sense
• Order of Operations (This one is the one I am most excited about) 
• Polynomial Identification
• The Rectangle Principle: Arithmetic Factoring
• The Rectangle Principle: Quadratic Factoring
• Countable vs Uncountable Amounts
• Integers: Identifying Positive & Negative Numbers
• Symbol vs Name vs Meaning
• Factoring Analysis: the Skip Counting Principle
• Integer Addition: Multiple Modalities
• Exponents and Powers: Operation Sense
• Square Numbers, Cubic Numbers, & Powers of 2
• Dimensional Analysis of First- and Second-Degree Powers
• Real-World Examples of x, x2, x3, etc.
• Mental Imagery for Arithmetic
• Equivalency & Equivalency Transformation
• GERMDAS and Order of Operations
• Finding and Creating Zeroes
• Analysis of Addition & Subtraction of Like & Unlike Terms
• Problem Solving with Exponential Thinking
• Binomial Multiplication
• Binomial Factoring
• More Multi-Sensorial Math: Pictorial Algebra
• Integer Multiplication
• Mental Algebra: Using the Imagination
• Drawing Algebra: Internalizing the Concepts
• Algebraic Substitution

What is it?

AFB is an online video based math that incorporates visual and hands-on elements. There are the videos that are filmed live with a group of students, worksheets, games, and the use of manipulatives. 

Our Experience

We have been plagued for the last 6-8 weeks with faulty internet service. It seems to be only on my computer. You know, the only one used for school work and such. Mr. B can't use M's computer because it's for his work, and we can't risk anything happening to it. We have done EVERYTHING trying to figure out what is wrong! M is an IT manager, and he's soooo frustrated! We've changed network cards, used signal boosters, changed modems and routers, you name it and it's been tried. With that said, we had some difficulties in that regard that others will not experience with a better connection.

I had a hard time getting started, but again, that's just me. I need blatant in your face billboard log in and interface. I'm not sure if it's the program, or just my internet, but when I sign in we were taken to an odd screen. Then I have to click at the top, click visit site, then click on "Member Login" and that takes me to a list on the side that allows me to choose what lesson and activity I want him to work on.

Lets start with Prep Activities. These are a lot of fun!

 We were really eager to get started. And, in true fashion to my internet woes of late, I needed to upgrade my flash player LOL! Seriously....I am really starting to hate technology in my life lol! So....after that took far longer than it should have because my computer hates me, we were off and running! Seriously, after all of this, I was pretty sure this program at better be worth all the effort I had put into getting it going on my end! And....IT IS!

First things first, you have to make Number Playing Cards.

The video really breaks down how to do this, and the reasoning why. For example, you place dots like you see on dice. He makes it point to reinforce that we don't count those dots. When we see dice, and we see that pattern, we instantly know its five. this will go a long way into reinforcing mental math.

For the Play Cards, I bought index cards. But, Mr. B LOVES index cards and had them out and used before I had a chance to fix them! So I took a few sheets of sturdy cardstock, and cut them down to a more appropriate card size. Then I used clear contact paper to sort of laminate them. That way we can use them longer without them getting damaged.

I really like Multiplication war. You turn over two cards, and the first person to say the product wins that round. The instructor also gives some suggestions about giving the adult, or more experienced student, a handicap when playing with a younger child so that the younger child as a more fair playing experience, and adjusting as necessary. I'm pretty sure Mr. B needed that handicap for me to play... haha!

The videos are very short, and the instructor is pleasant to hear. Mr. B enjoyed the ability to be able to pause for breaks or rewatch for better understanding. I do find flaws with the filmography. I wish was more advanced, and better suited to at home learning. Sometimes there's some camera shake that bugs me, and sometimes the focus is on his face with kids surrounding him and cut off and we can't see what they are looking at on the table.

It then eventually swaps over to where you can see the table, and then it's live picture in picture with the table as the larger video and him talking as the small one in the corner.

I know I'm biased in the photography and video aspects, but I think an already good program could be even better with better video and editing. The video above ends sort of abruptly, and I would have liked to have watched them finish the game.

It is really great to hear the kids asking questions, here him answer, or ask them questions and they will answer. Sometimes they get the answers wrong, and that's great because it's real life. It's not scripted.

It is made clear that you are to do the prep activities first, then proceed through the lessons.

Each lesson as a short video to introduce what is going to be happening. I really do wish the videos showed what was going on as he asks. That would be so beneficial to kids like Mr. B. For example, on Introducing X-Squared, he tells you in the intro video to get out your blocks when he tells the kids to do the same. So in the video he's giving the instructions to the kids after telling them the red square manipulative is x square. But, we NEVER get to see the kids following the directions. We see a brief screen take that shows what blocks a couple have out, but we never get to see them taking them out, or touching anything he says to touch, etc. That makes for a huge disconnect between the video class and the at home student. It's great we see him talking, but we don't need to see him to hear him. We NEED to see the kids and the blocks so that kids, especially special needs kids like Mr. B, can follow suit and see their peers doing the same thing.

This is what we see while he's giving directions and students are getting out their blocks. At one point he says, "Don't stack them like that.....make sure they are laying flat..." I would have found it extremely helpful to have seen what the error was so that I could make sure it wasn't repeated with Mr. B.

Following the lessons there are worksheets and a "Parent's Corner." The Parent's Corner is basically the download for the answer sheet. I really like having those separate so that if I hit print all on the print page, I'm not inadvertently printing answer sheets I may not even need.

The worksheets are not flashy and they are not full of just mindless busy work. They pair very well with the videos so that your child's learning is reinforced on paper and you can get a true sense of their understanding.


Overall, I like this approach. Mr. Hazen's teaching style is calm and easy to follow. But, with this being a video based program, I am not fond of the video aspect here. I think a lot more could be done to expand on the videos and make this program fantastic. There needs to be wider angles, a tripod in use, and maybe some better editing. We don't need to see his face or cut off heads, but rather we need to see what is going on on the tables and desks of the kids. I'd prefer a longer video that showed the whole process of the game or lesson, rather than one that ends rather awkwardly with a fade out while others are still talking. I know they are filmed with a live class, and not scripted, but for teaching purposes a more planned out approach would work much better. For example, during the video that introducing the math dice, that could have been filmed as just an introduction. Something like, "Ok kids, we are going to do a quick teaching lesson to teach our friends at home how to use math dice! Who's ready to help?"Focus on the table and dice, and then go on from there. Instead of fading out while the others are still playing, a switch back to only him (maybe with the kids around him) saying, "And that's how we use the math dice! We hope you have as much fun as we do!" and then a fade out as they go back to playing their game. THAT would be a great video and really build upon his already great teaching style. That is the only complaint I have. Mr. B has done very well with the worksheets, and we will probably continue to use this until our membership expires as a supplemental program.

Does Algebra for Breakfast Pass My 4 Ingredient Test?
1.) Customization: Is it easily adaptable? Can we customize it to fit “us?” Can we modify or set our own schedule? Can we take breaks, jump ahead, or flat out skip?

This is an online based program, so you are at the mercy of your time limit there. You can start and stop where you need. The videos are easily paused, and rewatched. 

2.) Value: Is it long lasting? Will it cover multiple grade ranges? Are you locked in to one specific grade level? Are there hidden fees?
There are 2 level choices. 3-4 and 5-6. There are 3 different packages to choose from. The first one includes all of the physical manipulatives you need. The second one includes the dice and skip counting CD, but no block manipulatives. And the last one is content only, but you do need the physical products to fully use the program. 

3.) Attention span: Is it boring? Is it engaging? Is it varied enough for ADHD? Does it last too long?
The videos are very short, and Mr. B loved the games. It is varied enough, but I personally feel kids with autism and ADHD need to see what is going on in the classroom in the videos. 

4.) Does it tie into other things we already have.
This is only math. 

Please check out the Homeschool Review Crew for more reviews on this level, as well as the 3-4 level!
Bob Hazen's Algebra Lessons {Algebra for Breakfast Reviews}
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