Discover the Basics: Negative Numbers is a stand-alone
curriculum that encompasses adding, subtracting, multiplying, and
dividing using negative numbers. It is suitable for grade 5 and
above. In a sturdy 3-ring binder, this 136 page curriculum provides
a thorough introduction and overview, pre-test, lessons, practice
pages, post-test, and answer keys. The goals of Discover the
Basics are to help children truly understand math
concepts and to develop fluency. The author, Jeff Simpson, takes
great care to make these goals a reality by providing excellent
tips and instructions for the parent/teacher and thoughtfully laid
out lessons for the student.
The introduction text is so thorough. Mr. Simpson even explains
what many students actually think about negative numbers and why
they may become frustrated with certain approaches. This made a
lot of sense to me and is something I have not found in other math
curriculums (and I've seen a few!).
This lesson text begins by defining negative numbers, teaching
children how to read negative numbers, and then developing fluency
through easy addition, subtraction, and story problems. Once this
is successfully mastered, children proceed to owing, having, spending,
and earning. This section involves defining negative numbers as "money
owed," adding as "earning", and subtracting as "spending." Comparing
integers, matching verbal descriptions with equations, easy story
problems, missing addends are some of the tools used here.
The next section treats negative and positive numbers as penalties
and rewards. Children learn how to combine several rewards and
penalties and also how to use the plus and minus signs together.
Next, thermometers are employed to help develop understanding,
with positive amounts being above 0 degrees and negative amounts
being below 0 degrees. Children get the idea that this math topic
actually applies to real life! As you can see, negative numbers
is approached from a variety of angles in this text. Multiplying
and dividing with positive and negative numbers are covered later.
A review of multiplication and division concepts is also included.
In Discover the Basics: Negative Numbers, each topic
is presented in an easy-to-understand manner. Children develop
fluency through lots of reinforcement and repetition. Fun practice
pages, where the child strives to beat the clock, allow kids to
practice alone or with a friend or parent. This is not your ordinary
workbook with a set of fill-in-the-blank answers; children are
instructed to write, read, and/or speak the questions and answers
on different occasions. Basic number lines are used as are more
creative tools, like ladders and thermometers. Working with number
lines adds to the multi-sensory experience and builds confidence
as children are able to reconstruct problems and find answers fairly
easily. In addition, the number lines eliminate the need for extra
manipulatives, making this a stand-alone curriculum.
I find this curriculum to be visually pleasing, even though it
is in simple black and white. Words and pictures are laid out clearly.
The pictures are not just for decoration; they really add to the
explanation and help make sense of the concepts. There are no formal
lesson plans in Discover the Basics: Negative Numbers,
except the recommendation to complete 20-30 minutes each day, with
one rest day every week. It is suggested that you combine new pages
with a review of old ones during each 20 to 30-minute time slot
(or 15 minutes twice per day). The pace is deliberately slow to
allow new ideas to be introduced a little at a time (as explained
in the introduction), providing students with plenty of time to
fully comprehend each concept before moving on.
I recommend Discover the Basics: Negative Numbers to
anyone above the age of ten who desires to learn about negative
numbers. It is an excellent resource for homeschool, classroom,
or tutoring situations. This is more than just a textbook; it fosters
the development of reasoning skills and provides an opportunity
for kids to really understand (and remember) math.