If you’ve seen my video here or read my post here, you know that I have used and loved Singapore Math for several years. In fact, I’ve used it for 6 years – kindergarten through 5th. I have two kids, one who would be considered “mathy” and another who is not mathy but, with some modifications, namely the use of lots of manipulatives, has done just fine with Singapore Math during kindergarten through 3rd grade.
My “mathy” child is my oldest and Singapore has been pretty easy for him and I wanted to start him in pre-algebra in 6th or 7th grade. To that end, I began looking for a 6th grade curriculum that would prepare him for that. My obvious first choice was to continue with Singapore through middle school That’s when I hit a wall. Turns out, Singapore has a few middle school math options, neither of which was suitable for us.
Singapore Math, Primary 6A and 6B
As a bit of background, the fabulous Singapore math that we love is really a primary school thing. To understand this, we need to understand the educational system in Singapore, which is similar to other Asian countries. After “primary year 6,” which would be roughly the American 6th grade year, all students take the National Primary School Leaving Examination. The results of this exam determine which secondary school students are allowed to attend. As a result, the 6th grade year is largely a review of all the primary school material, in preparation for the secondary school exam.
Back in the US, I was a bit concerned about moving forward with Singapore Math Primary for 6th grade. If the math curriculum in Singapore was more review based, I didn’t think that would help move my son forward enough to prepare for 7th grade pre-algebra, and it certainly was not, itself, pre-algebra.
Now that I knew Singapore Primary was not going to be an option for 6th grade, I looked to Singapore’s middle school options.
Singapore Dimensions Math for 6-8th Grade
I felt like these books were really meant for a school setting. They are twice a long as the Primary text books and, according to the Singapore Math website “ this series follows the Singapore Mathematics Framework and covers the topics in the Common Core State Standards.” Once I read that, I was pretty much done with this option.
New Elementary Math
Based on how Singapore students perform on the National Primary School Leaving Exam during the 6th year, they are placed in different secondary education tracks or streams: "Express", "Normal (Academic)", or "Normal (Technical)". New Elementary Math is based on the math used once a Singapore student has been put on their track.
This used to be the only option available after the Primary series and closely tracked what they were doing in secondary school in Singapore. Secondary school, meaning grades 7-11 in the U.S. Now they only offer the middle school equivalent, so grades 7 and 8. After doing more research, I discovered that the Singapore equivalent of New Elementary Math is taught in Singapore by trained professionals whose sole job is to teach this method of math.
As a result, based on my research, there was no home instructors guide like with the Primary math series, the difficulty of the problems apparently jumps dramatically from the Primary books and there are few problems worked out or explained in the solutions manual.
Another drawback to using New Elementary math is that it is integrated math, meaning, instead of discreet subjects – Algebra, geometry, trigonometry, etc – it’s all thrown in together so you have to complete the entire series in order to get all parts of the individual subjects as they are taught in the US. Once you start the program, you have to complete it, because if you don’t, your kid would have lots of gaps when they switch back to a western style math program.
For all these reasons, I decided that this last option that Singapore offered would not meet our needs.
Discovering Beast Academy
Somewhat down about having to find another math program after Singapore had been such a good friend, I continued looking for a math program to begin at 6th grade. I found Art of Problem (AOP) solving and liked the fact that I could stick with it through high school. I then saw this thing called Beast Academy that was intended for upper elementary students to prepare them for the AOP way of doing math.
So while my son was in second semester 4th grade, I ordered the level 3 Beast Academy books since they recommend you order a year behind. The books arrived and I knew that I had found what I was looking for. My son liked them because, well, the Text books are full color comic books. I LOVED them because I saw that my son would finally be challenged and forced to think.
I love that they teach lots of mental math tricks. I love that its geared toward kids who are interested in joining a math team and, while it goes into topics in much more depth than Singapore, it teaches kids how to tackle tough problems in a logical way utilizing short cuts. I love how the solutions (in the back of the book) go through an explanation so that I can easily check work and explain difficult concepts. I really just love the program.
The practice books (workbooks) are in black and white and contain additional teaching. So you really have to purchase both the Guide book and Practice book. Full explaination solutions are in the back.
My son is generally able to complete the first 3rd of the section exercise with no problem based on his Singapore experience. After that, he really has to follow what the guide and workbook are teaching in order to get through the next 3rd of the section. After that, he has to hunker down and focus. I think its great because he really never had to do this with Singapore. He’s now having to really think, but since he likes the program, he doesn’t complain about it.
When I purchased the level 3 books, I intended to use it as a supplement to Singapore. However, as I near the end of the first semester of 5th grade, I am leaning toward using Beast Academy as my primary math program so that he can complete levels 3-5, and then move straight into Art of Problem Solving pre-Algebra. I know that he will be prepared for pre-Algebra after going through the 3 levels.
How Beast Academy Works
I go into greater detail in the below video, but here is how the program is structured:
3 complete levels: levels 3, 4 and 5; they are currently working on level 2
Each level is broken out into 4 segments, each segment covering 3-4 different topics
Each segment has a Guide, or text, book, and a workbook. So for each level, you’ll need 8 books total (4 Guide books and 4 workbooks).
If you want to use Beast Academy as a supplement, you can easily choose only the book that your kid needs the extra help with. To purchase all 8 books in a level will run you around $110 plus shipping.
They are releasing an online version of Beast Academy in 2018.
Watch the video below to learn more about Beast Academy.
To purchase the Beast Academy level 3 set, click here.
To purchase the Beast Academy level 4 set, click here.
To purchase the Beast Academy level 5 set, click here.