Written by Daniel Greenberg

Every child grasps math concepts in a way that is consistent with his or her personality. Some children are completely engaged by worksheets while others need the hands-on reinforcement that manipulatives and life experiences provide. Because my children too have a variety of learning styles, I am always on the lookout for ways to stimulate and challenge them.

One of the products we've recently utilized is publisher, Weekly Reader's, series of math workbooks called Math Skill Builders. These reproducible books help build essential math skills and concepts in a way that connects math with other curriculum areas, such as science, social studies, health, the arts, geography, and consumer math. They teach critical thinking about math, help the child develop skills in interpreting and using data, and improve problem-solving skills.

Math Skill Builders, Grades 6-8, in particular, challenges the student by presenting real-world math problems, just at the age when students tend to wonder what practical use math has for them beyond basic math facts. There are articles on industry in China, castle building, robotics competitions, pizza, baseball and steroids, and many more. The scope of subjects is broad, and there seems to be something that will appeal to almost every student.

The student reads the article and then answers the accompanying math problems. For example, following an article chronicling the decline of the honey bee population, students analyze data in a bar graph illustrating the value of crops pollinated by honey bees in dollars. They answer questions such as, "For which crop did bees provide the greatest dollar value for pollination?", and "Rank the crops in dollar value from greatest to least."

Math Skill Builders, Grades 6-8 presents a really great opportunity to shake things up a bit if you find your student is dragging his or her way through math this year. I've been tossing a page or two here and there at my 6th grader, and I love the conversations that have come about because of the thoughtful articles. We tend to discuss what he's read and then he sets about answering the math-related questions. It's a welcome break from drills and orthodox math worksheets. The added bonus is that we can call it current events, social studies, reading, and math- all in one!

Product Review by Kendra Fletcher, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, March, 2009