Friday, September 16, 2011

AIMS Educational Foundation: Solve It!

I was given a math and science book/CD combo to review at home. AIMS Educational Foundation sent me Solve It!, a $24.95 workbook-slash-activity-book that covers problem solving concepts of 3rd grade math and science, using very hands-on, in-context, tactile and visual ways.

I really like this problem-solving set.

The text covers nine different solving problem strategies that include using manipulatives, writing a number sentence, drawing out the problem, guess & check, organizing info, looking for patterns, using logic, working backwards, and simplifying. Page 11 features a matrix that shows parents and teachers which activities provide experience with which solving-problem strategies.

The CD is a repeat of the printables in the book, which makes for easier photocopying pages that ask students to cut out figures to use as manipulatives, (although the book is a softcover and is almost the same size as copy paper, which means I can smash it pretty close to flat on a copy machine for the pages I need to copy). School staff may make up to 200 copies for educational purposes at a single school site.

There are a variety of activities that incorporate one or some of the problem solving strategies. I used my own mom's-pick-and-choose approach to choose activities based upon what areas my homeschooler needs experience and based upon her self-regulation level on a given day. I like that I can work out of order.

I haven't analyzed the difficulty of the activities. I don't know if some of the concepts are simpler than others, but I do know thatin terms of our use at home, the activities fall within three distinct categories: 1) activities that my daughter can understand and complete some of the activities with little help from me; 2) activities that she can complete some of them with scaffolding from me; and 3) activities that are too challenging right now that would require lots of adaptations and compensations on my part (we are saving them until later).

If she's having a rough day, I can pull an activity that she is capable of completing without me, something that feels easy to her. (I rarely have her work independently as we are still growing interdependence.) If your children are working independently, the activities can be completed independently and would be super workbox choices.

If she's having a good day, we can work on skills and strategies that she needs to grow and I can scaffold the learning.

The teacher instructions and the questions to the students associated with each set of activities scaffold the teaching and problem solving process - my job is simplified because of the instructions.

We are not a work-straight-through-the-workbook-from-beginning-to-end kind of family. My student's skills are too scattered to do that. I like that I can work out of order and choose activities based upon my child's needs. And I like the reminders of what problem solving skills we need to work on.

Depending upon how I choose to use an activity, we can work on our relationship work, too. In the pumpkin patch activity (mentioned on the web site with the book description and pictured here), we could have made same-size paper clip chain fences for each of us and done the activity together, side-by-side, having my daughter reference me for the next step. Or we could have used different sized paperclip chain fences to use for side-by-side comparisons for some perspective taking experience.

In the apple array activity, I could have printed two sets, a set for me and a set for my daughter, and worked through the activity together, side-by-side. For a child with a lot of anxiety, giving mom her own set of worksheets can reduce the child's anxiety and the parent can model the problem solving technique for the child, which can reduce performance anxiety and make room for learning.

While not as intense as Feuerstein Instrumental Enrichment, I recognize some common ground with FIE among the activities, and that is a huge positive for me.

I like everything about this worktext. I like the teacher prep pages for me. I like the way the activities are presented to scaffold new discoveries of concepts. I like the way the activities appear inviting and fun. I like the fact that the activities are short while still packed with learning. I like being able to work out of order. I like having them for workboxes in the future as we move toward more independent work and I like their adaptability for interdependent work between child and parent.

ADDITIONAL COSTS: This is not a 'stand alone' product. You'll need a printer, toner, paper, or access to those items; you'll need scissors, crayons, typical schoolroom craft supplies; and you may need cardstock. In retrospect, I should have printed the apple array activity on cardstock.

To read what my Crewmates' think about this resource and other resources from AIMS Educational Foundation, please go here.

AIMS Educational Foundation sent me "Solve It!" to review on my blog. I get to keep the book. I was not paid for this review and am not obligated to provide a positive review.

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