I am an algebra teacher who has used many textbooks for high school, homeschool, and extensive private tutoring. I have to say this is the worst algebra textbook I have ever seen. Instead of incrementally building skills, it starts off in chapter one with a basic review of adding (on the level of 2 + 2) and then mixes in word problems--one of the classic areas of difficulty. (Word problems should be actually taught in depth, not thrown in at the beginning, & are most helpful after the students have a good grasp of certain basic algebraic principles needed to solve them.) Many of the questions are either poorly worded, or completely off-point for teaching the actual concept at hand. Later chapters are no better--rather than build more algebraic foundations, they go straight to another classic student hotspot--functions. These are typically covered later in the year, and for good reason. While basic graphing is simple, the nature of a function, variation, how exponents (such as x squared or cubed) affect a graph, etc, are concepts that can be intimidating--and therefore discouraging--to the students. An early word problem actually mentioned chemistry principles, which could have been done usefully, but employed intimidating vocabulary that actually distracted from the algebra process needed, and threw most students into a panic. To counter this & other problems, I threw out a lot of their brief explanations and used some time-tested illustrations I've learned over the years that reliably make such principles clear to the students. Usually I am doing this in winter or early spring, not in the first three weeks of school! Jacobs also frequently includes problems in the homework that have not been covered yet!

It's so important to prevent/remove the overwhelm and make things crystal clear. This book is constantly throwing obstacles to that goal with its bizarre order of mixing skills from late-year into early lessons and driving both students and parents crazy (even the prodigy in my class). Not to mention this teacher! They're not difficult for me, obviously, but I am totally frustrated with the ridiculous order in which skills are covered, the often poorly-written word problems right at the beginning (and throughout), and the ugly box-and-dot drawings that aren't always even set up well. When introducing a new concept, bizarre permutations are often thrown in, long before a foundation for these has been laid. (Although I have experience teaching algebra both concretely and abstractly, I even find myself looking at some of these twice to see what they mean--some are very poorly done.)

The layout itself, as a concept, has a couple good points, most notably lots of practice sets at varying levels of difficulty. This is probably the single strong point of the book. (The humor is also appreciated...and much-needed when dealing with this book.) The layout as *labeled,* however, is confusing to many. I end up teaching both students and parents how it's laid out because of their use of numbering. For example, a homework assignment may be Chapter 3, Lesson 1, Set 2. Simply using letters for the homework sets would simplify this. Chapter 3, Lesson one is abbreviated Lesson 3.1, which is logical, and to simply add Set B would allow homework to be Lesson 3.1B. Instead, since every chapter is *numbered,* every lesson is *numbered,* & every homework set is *numbered* with Roman numerals (which can look like numbers 1 & 11), I constantly find students on the wrong page the first week or two. They may be in the wrong chapter, yet the correct lesson # and problem set #. One must constantly look at the bottom corner of *both* pages to see where you are, since neither page is fully labeled. A small point, but using numbers to subdivide numbered chapters adds to the problem. Have they never heard of outline form, which alternates numbers and letters for a reason? If only this small technical point were the worst of it!

I wouldn't even have mentioned the layout issue (a minor point, but confusing for many) if it weren't for the fact I felt compelled to address the sequencing issues. The reason these concern me so much is that when students struggle because of inappropriately-placed material, they can become discouraged over struggling with or missing those problems, when the fault actually lies with the textbook presenting it before they've laid a good foundation for it. Material should become progressively difficult throughout the year. Classic hotspot problems should not be mixed in from the get-go.

Strong students may fare well, as might those with a very involved parent or tutor and especially, being allowed to go at their own pace. Everyone else will be impacted by the ridiculous hard-easy-hard-easy-"whatisthisdoinghere" sequence of the lessons.

I can only think that those who have given this textbook good reviews have little experience with other algebra texts (two or three is not enough for good perspective)--or have the luxury of pacing as desired, and/or teaching only one-on-one (or have only very strong students who already know most of the book and can focus on the weird stuff). There are so many other algebra textbooks out there that are excellent. (I will say that those using a brand called Teaching Textbooks are unlikely to be well-prepared for this or most other Algebra 1 books.) Jacobs Elementary Algebra is hands-down the worst algebra textbook I have ever seen.

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