It is my opinion that just about any program can be used to teach mathematics successfully in the elementary years. Living books are obviously the best route if a mother has time and a list of concepts before her so that she knows what to teach her child in preparation for higher math, but not every mother can do this. I use both living books and a textbook approach, often skipping unnecessary pages and tweaking according to my children's personalities and abilities.
I had a negative experience learning algebra when I was in Junior high, so I determined that I would spend the extra dollars, if necessary, in order to assure that my children had a positive learning experience in this area. I did a lot of research for an algebra program before I decided upon Teaching Textbooks (I must say that I dislike the boring name immensely). I stumbled on it a few years ago when few people knew about the company yet. Teaching Textbooks had only been out about a month. I spent an hour or so on their website, really liked what I saw, took the plunge and bought the Algebra 1 program. We have had very positive experiences with it.
My oldest daughter, who is not mathematically inclined and has always struggled with math, loves this program. She has completed Algebra 1, is in the middle of Algebra 2 this year and now feels confident in this subject. She mentioned that the author applies the concepts to real life situations and teaches you how to do the same so that algebra is useful. It took her two years to go through algebra 1-- 4 days a week, 1 hour a day, not skipping anything and taking every quiz and test. She is now moving more quickly through Algebra 2. My second daughter, who is a math whiz, is speeding through it. They both are very enthusiastic about Teaching Textbooks.
Strong Joy commented that she felt there needed to be a little more practice problems to help cement new concepts in her mind. I thought that the textbook should have been of better quality. The pages are really thin and the binding is spiral, but it has many pages and is very thick. This is because the authors chat with you in detail in the book, knowing that homeschoolers often need that further explanation since they are not participating in a classroom setting. Maybe this is why they had to keep the pages thin. I hope mine lasts throughout the years as four children go through the program. Be sure to get the second edition. Some important concepts were left out in the first edition. Also, be sure your student does the additional topics at the end of the chapters. They will need to know these for the SAT.
My eldest, Strong Joy, is an auditory learner and prefers to listen to the lecture. She hardly uses the textbook. Raora, my second, is visual and prefers to use the textbook while only occasionally listening to the audio. They both like the fact that he explains in detail how to solve a problem and they can listen again and again until they understand it.
Since both my daughters think Teaching Textbooks is wonderful, I am sticking to it and recommend it to those who are looking for a good algebra program. We plan to use it for geometry as well.
My Grade for Teaching Textbooks Algebra 1:
one step at a time...