Jacobs Elementary Algebra

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  • Reviewed on Tuesday, July 19, 2016
  • Grades Used: 9th
  • Dates used: 2016
My son used Saxon from 2nd through 8th grade, and then used AOPS (Art of Problem Solving) for most of Algebra 1. AOPS is a very intense, discovery based method for extremely gifted learners and lost my son at the end.

We picked up Jacobs to finish the year. I must say, Jacobs is an interesting text, friendly, well written and it has some challenging word problems mixed in for those who want to stretch their thinking.

However, my son found it frustrating that there were few examples, and no teacher's manual, or solutions...just answers. Now you can purchase some of those items from Ask Dr. Callahan website. But even with those helps, I will echo one of the previous reviewers and say that Jacob's is for the intuitive math student. It doesn't give a lot of examples so the student has to read the short intro, see one example, and then the problem sets are what lead the student into the intuitive understanding of the algorithms and also the concepts.

My son is very good at math and maybe even nearing the gifted range, but this is not the style for him. He prefers to learn the math, and then look up the concepts...

For mom, this is a lot more difficult to use, because it doesn't include all the helps that Saxon, Math U See or other popular publishers offers. So keep that in mind as well. You will spend a lot more time teaching, and talking about the math using Jacobs. If you're great at math, then that is a bonus. If not, or if you have a student that prefers to learn on his own, you may find this exhausting.


  • Reviewed on Thursday, February 6, 2014
  • Grades Used: 9th
  • Dates used: 2013-14
I agree with other reviewers that this is not a good fit for a child who is weak in math. This course was TOUGH for my dd15, although I, as the teacher mainly liked it. My dd went straight to Algebra from Saxon with no pre-algebra, and did fine the first half of the book through the mid-term. We then took an extended summer break, and I thought we would never muddle our way through the second half of the book. Thankfully, Mr. Jacob's has PLENTY of practice problems. the book is set up with 4 sets of problems per lesson. Set 1 is review of previous lessons/concepts. Set 2 is practice problems for that day's lesson. The answers to Set 2 problems are in the back of the book, if the student needs to see if they got something correct or not, but there are no solutions to see HOW the answer was arrived at. (and if you have a child like mine, who feels checking her answers is cheating, they are useless anyway, lol). Set 3 problems are identical to the set 2 problems, using different numbers, so the student can have an extra day of practice if they need to. Set 4 is a challenge problem, for fun or extra credit. On a normal day my daughter did all the set 1 and set 2 problems. We would then move on to the next lesson the next day, unless she got a C or below on the set 2 problems. If that happened, we did the set 3 problems the following day before moving on to the next lesson. Each set 2 and set 3 section had between 50 and 65 problems, and for us, algebra took an average of 2 hours per day, including the lesson, the problems, and correcting any mistakes.

Overall, my dd did fairly well with this program, although she struggled a bit the last few chapters we did. We ended up skipping the last 2 chapters (16 and 17), which Mr. Jacob's says is fine, as that is for the student who is advanced in Algebra or plans to pursue a career in math. I feel the lessons were explained very well, the examples were perfect for the lesson and assignments, and there was more than ample practice and review throughout the book.

My only 2 cons to Jacob's Algebra were: 1.) He sometimes gave far too lengthy introductions to the lesson before getting on to simply explaining HOW to do the actual math, which was confusing to both me, as the teacher, and my dd, as the student, but we soon learned to skim over his passionate introductions and get down to the lesson, and 2.) to view solutions to the problems we had to buy a separate solutions manual, written by Mr. Jacobs and Cassidy Cash 30 years after the original textbook was published. We very rarely used the solutions manual until the last few chapters, but then it was worth having. Also, the tests were in yet another book, the Test Masters book.

Overall, I feel Jacob's Algebra was a good, solid Algebra 1 program. I would use it again, and hope to, with my younger daughter when she is ready for it. I would hesitate to recommend it for a child weak in math, though. I have heard many people say this program is more of a pre-algebra course....I beg to differ. This course covered everything one would need to be a full credit of Algebra and then some. Looking over scope and sequence of other Algebra TWO programs, we have already covered much of the material, a good 50-75%. If rating this on a scale of 1 to 5, I would give Jacob's 4 stars.


  • Reviewed on Saturday, July 14, 2012
  • Grades Used: 8th & 9th
  • Dates used: 2006-2008
I consider the Harold Jacobs Algebra and Geometry curriculum to be one of the best investments I have made for my son and daughter. I purchased the Student Text, Tests, and Solutions Manual from Rainbow Resource Center, which currently lists them as available on their web site. Although the set is much more expensive than most other curriculum, I am convinced that Jacobs Algebra and Jacobs Geometry provided a very strong foundation for my kids, and also was the primary factor for high Math scores on their SAT s (which resulted in scholarship money for both). My son is starting his third year of college in Engineering, while my daughter is majoring in English. Although my daughter is bright, math is not her natural strength, yet she managed to earn a higher SAT math score than some fellow students who are actually more gifted in that area than she is and who used other math curricula.
This curriculum is best suited for students who plan to continue math at least through Pre-Calculus. If a student struggles with math and only needs the basics, this is more thorough than necessary. Each lesson is structured so the homework is not just practice, but continues to guide the understanding of the student. My kids both spent about 1 - 1 ½ hours per lesson. Each lesson also includes optional problems that are similar to those found on the ACT/SAT.
The Jacobs Geometry curriculum includes doing proofs that start with a few steps and builds to proofs that require multiple steps. Based on my own experience, I found this process prepared me for the logic involved in the multiple steps of Calculus, so I wanted proofs included in my son’s math background.

Eli Robert

  • Reviewed on Saturday, April 3, 2010
  • Grades Used: 9th-10th
  • Dates used: 2009-2010
I love the Jacobs Algebra text, but I would agree that it is difficult to use without a solutions manual; the teacher's guide from Freeman (the publisher) offers limited support, often in the form of tiny copies of transparencies meant for a classroom, and it only includes a basic answer key.

But I was pleased to learn that a Dr. Callahan and his daughter Cassidy have released video lectures and a supplemental teacher's guide that work with the text. Also, they have worked with Mr. Jacobs to publish a solutions manual, released this year (2010). To me, this finally makes Jacobs a very usable text for homeschool families and tutors.