My experience with the Beast Academy math books is limited, which isn’t surprising, since it’s such a new series that some of the books haven’t even been published yet. I hesitate to go out on a limb about a curriculum I’m not fully familiar with, but so far I love these books. They are playful and rigorous. I’m pretty sure they are the most engaging math books I’ve ever encountered, and they pull this off without watering down the content at all (quite the contrary, in fact).
The basic conceit is that the textbooks are in the form of graphic novels following the lives of monster kids and the monster faculty and staff at a school for math-loving beasts. The books cover the content you would expect elementary school math books to cover, such as arithmetic operations and word problems. They also delve more deeply into number theory, logic, and problem solving than is standard. The authors of the books clearly had an eye firmly on more advanced math topics and are attempting to lay a groundwork that will prevent some of the more common problems students encounter when studying algebra and high school geometry.
So far, I’ve used the books with two students. Both of them go to school and consider themselves to be “math kids.” I tutor them to provide supplemental, enrichment education.
The first student I used Beast Academy with goes to one of the more prestigious independent schools in New York City. His parents are very invested in his success as a math student. (No, seriously – very invested. I once thought his mom was going to cry sad, frustrated tears when he came home with a 96% on a test. I spent most of a lesson talking her down and re-assuring her. I spent most of the rest of the lesson re-assuring the student and telling him I was proud of him.) Although I was immediately impressed with Beast Academy, that family didn’t use the books for long. I think the whimsy of them made the parents uncomfortable.
Currently, I’m using Beast Academy with a girl who goes to one of the better public elementary schools in Manhattan. I’ll call her “Sue.” Sue’s family is very academic (mom is a professor and her extended family contains more engineers than you can shake a stick at). English is the family’s second language and although Sue is fluent in English, her English vocabulary lags. Her math skills, on the other hand, are outstanding.
Sue’s family love Beast Academy for its rigor. Sue loves Beast Academy because of the wonderful illustrations and the story. She identifies with the monster kids and their experiences as they learn math. I am excited because she is learning pretty advanced math and practicing her reading skills at the same time. The rich language in the text book is an unexpected bonus.
I have not had the opportunity to see how these books work as a primary curriculum. If I encounter the right homeschool student, I will certainly recommend them. I am also eagerly keeping an eye out for schools that decide to adopt Beast Academy. I suspect this curriculum will take off in the next several years. I hope it turns out to be as good as my first impression suggests it will be.