“With its professionally-illustrated comic book-style math instruction, a colorful cast of monsters and challenging, brain-teasing math puzzles, online or offline Beast Academy is a highly engaging math enrichment program that can help kids develop the mathematical thinking and problem solving skills that can really help them succeed in the long run.”
What We Like
But Be Careful
What is Beast Academy
Art of Problem Solving’s Beast Academy is a math program aimed at kids 8‑13, and covers elementary level math while helping students develop stronger logical thinking and stronger problem solving skills through challenging puzzles.
Price: How Much Does Beast Academy Cost
Please note: Prices accurate as of writing, all prices in USD.
There are currently two methods of accessing Beast Academy content, Beast Academy Online and the Beast Academy Book Series.
Beast Academy Online
Beast Academy Online is a subscription-based program that is accessible from the web and is available in three plans- monthly, yearly or a yearly bundle package that includes a complete set of books for a Beast Academy Level.
|Monthly||Yearly||Bundle (Online + Books)|
|$15 per month||$96 per year||$150 per year|
All packages include full access to Beast Academy online and digital copies of their guide books (which is accessible in the program).
Beast Academy Online includes access for one student, which means if you’re a larger family with multiple kids who are interested in math, you’ll have to pay for each additional student (an extra $4 for the yearly plan and $7.50 for the monthly plan).
Of all the plans, we believe the bundle package is probably the best value since it includes both on and offline learning options (digital and pen and paper).
Bundles includes access for one year of Beast Academy Online and one full level of Beast Academy books.
Considering that separately these would cost $96 for the yearly package and $118 for the books ($214), bundles aren’t just convenient for learning but also a good savings ($64) as well.
If you’re uncertain, while Beast Academy doesn’t exactly have a free trial, it does have an online demo you can try out for free.
Although not fully functional, the online demo will allow you to view lessons, the digital guidebooks, try puzzles and questions, watch video content and even lets you explore Beast Academy Online’s progress tracking and so is actually a great way to see if the program is a right fit for your family, especially as its not time limited.
Beast Academy Books
If you prefer to take your child’s math learning offline, Beast Academy also offers its learning in a more traditional book form.
Beast Academy’s program is made up of three books for each level, a Guide book, a practice book and a book of puzzles for extra content.
These prices are for the guide, practice and puzzle books for each level’s stage. Every level is made up of four progressive stages (A, B, C and D), each of which is based on different math topics.
4A might cover shapes, multiplication and exponents, for example, whereas 4C might cover factors, fractions and integers.
We think it’s quite helpful that Art of Problem Solving has split these books up, as it gives parents the ability to pick and choose the level of math supplement they want.
If they want to try out Beast Academy’s instruction method, they can purchase a guide or guide and practice book for relatively little cost. And if they just want some challenging puzzles but have their own preferred math curriculum, they can do that as well.
Most parents, however, will want to buy all three (guide+practice+puzzles), since they are designed to work together and do so quite well.
Like the Online version, Beast Academy offers a book bundle that includes all the material for a full level (A,B,C and D).
It is the most convenient option, as all books are delivered at once and kids can move through the learning material smoothly. However at $118, we think it could probably use a bit of a discount since it’s essentially the same price as buying all the books separately.
Beast Academy Math: How it Works
Unlike other math curricula out there, Beast Academy does not really focus on having kids perform calculations or do drills.
Instead, the program focuses more on developing higher order thinking skills, such as logical reasoning and problem solving, alongside mathematical knowledge.
Therefore instead of simply going over grade level material in math, there is a great deal of explaining why things are the way they are and, more interestingly (and perhaps more importantly), how problems can be approached.
The overall concept here is that developing a stronger familiarity with logical, mathematical thinking will serve kids better in the long run should they choose to pursue higher math and science.
And this approach is reflected in the practice as well.
In general there are relatively fewer computational problems compared to other math courses out there, and more puzzles and word problems that kids will spend time thinking through.
Also unlike other self-paced courses, there is a lot more parental involvement with Beast Academy.
While there are ample directions for kids to help them go through the courses, it is expected that parents spend time going over the provided solutions with kids, getting them thinking about the questions logic and structure and helping them come up with alternative ways of getting to a solution.
So this isn’t something that parents can really set their kids to and walk away.
How Beast Academy Teaches Math Concepts
Beast Academy engages kids and teaches them important math concepts through a clever use of comic book style content and artwork, found in its Guide books.
These guides weave math lessons into action packed or humorous storylines filled with a variety of visually striking monsters and dragons (the Beasts of Beast Academy) that really appeal to kids.
Drawn by comic book illustrator Erich Owen, whose work includes creating art for DC Comics properties Teen Titans GO and DC Super Hero Girls, Beast Academy has a modern comic book style that is reminiscent of these titles and is highly attractive to kids.
In fact, our tester was quite engrossed in the material and very quickly learned to identify and pick out their favorite Beasts, which they became quite attached to.
Beast Academy is a full math curriculum for kids 8-13, or about Grades 2-7, and there are four different levels (2,3,4 and 5) with four different stages for each level (A,B,C and D).
Given the age range you might be forgiven if at first glance you assume these are grade levels (we did), but they really aren’t all that related to grade.
Instead these levels roughly break down in the following manner:
|Level 2||Ages 8-9||Place Value, Comparing, Adding, Subtracting, Expressions, Problem Solving, Measurement, Odds & Evens, Big Numbers, Algorithms, Problem Solving|
|Level 3||Ages 9-10||Shapes, Variables, Skip-Counting, Division, Perimeter and Area, Measurement. Multiplication, Fractions, Perfect Squares, Estimation, Distributive Properties, Area|
|Level 4||Ages 10-12||Shapes, Factors, Multiplication, Fractions, Exponents, Integers, Counting, Fractions, Division, Decimals, Logic, Probability|
|Level 5||Ages 11-13||Solids, Sequences, Integers, Ratios & Rates, Expressions & Equations, Decimals, Statistics, Percents, Factors & Multiples, Square Roots, Fractions, Exponents|
As can be seen, Beast Academy does cover the breadth of grades 2-7 math (and beyond in some cases).
While the company suggests parents use age as an approximate guideline for setting levels, we’d suggest taking a look at the math skills taught in each course instead as kids may be more (or less) advanced relative to their age or grade and a skills-based assessment of the material makes more sense.
Beast Academy and Common Core Alignment
In terms of Common Core, the company says Beast Academy’s curriculum is loosely aligned with Common Core Standards.
In general Beast Academy meets and often exceeds the standards and goals set out by Common Core.
By delving deeper into teaching logical thinking, problem solving, understanding concepts and developing mathematical thinking, Beast Academy teaches topics with more rigor than most standards-aligned math programs and, on occasion, will introduce topics a year or so earlier than Common Core Standards recommend.
For those parents who are following a Common Core program and are interested in supplementing math learning with Beast Academy, it can be a bit tricky to map it to Common Core, as the Levels don’t always correspond to specific grades.
Helpfully, the company includes detailed information on course standards for each level so parents can get a better look at the skills each level covers and where they fit in the grand scheme of K-12 math education.
How it Works
Beast Academy currently comes in two forms:
- Beast Academy, a pen-and-paper learning system with various physical books (guides, practice books and puzzles), divided up into four separate levels, that can be purchased separately or together as a bundle.
- Beast Academy Online, an all-in-one web-accessible version that includes digital guides for all levels and interactive puzzles.
Diagnostic Assessment: Placing your child in the right Beast Academy level
Given that students learning at home have different levels of readiness and skills, a course that divides up its content by skill and topic is often best-served by including a diagnostic test or assessment.
This lets parents have an easier time figuring out where their child should start (or even if a program is right for them at all).
To their credit, Beast Academy does include a free printable pre-placement test of sorts available on each level’s product page that parents can download and print out before trying a level (or even ordering it).
These are short (under 20 questions) pen and paper quizzes that parents administer and test the students on concepts that they should be familiar with before starting a level,
These have pretty much everything a parent needs to give such a test, such as instructions and a step by step solution guide for each question and, all in all, we think parents should be able to have a good sense of if a level of beast academy is right for their child (or vice versa).
We believe it is quite helpful and thoughtful that these are free and available before purchase, although we do think that a digital or online version could be a lot easier for parents to use.
Beast Academy Books
Beast Academy’s book program is made up of 3 types of books for each level:
- Practice Book
- And a book filled with puzzles for that level’s curriculum
Beast Academy Guide Book
Guide books serve as a kind of course textbook for the Beast Academy courses.
There are four guide books for each Level, and four levels, making 16 guide books in all.
Each book is then divided into 3 sections, each corresponding to a topic.
These guides are in full color and teach both math concepts and strategies for approaching problems through the use of monsters, dragons, and other “beasts” of various shapes and sizes (hence the name, Beast Academy).
These monsters explain math concepts (and their uses) very carefully and in a fair degree of depth, using Beast Academy’s comic book format to great effect to weave these math topics into various fanciful storylines.
Already visually appealing, the guides try to further appeal to kids by taking a more casual approach to teaching math concepts, such as by drawing analogies to things kids might be more familiar with, putting math concepts into easier to understand contexts and by giving certain characters unique dialogue “accents” and personality for added effect.
The guides do try and use humor as well. With the material, it is sometimes a challenge and there can be some groaners here and there, but overall there is some clever wordplay and the use of humor will help keep kids entertained.
One thing we appreciate is that despite the use of humor, at no time does the material feel dumbed down or feel like it condescends to kids.
The guides treat kids as intelligent and capable and the discussions of the material is kept educational and accurate.
We also like that the guides really take time to reason through math concepts (rather than just state them) and explore various problem solving strategies that might be helpful for kids later on.
Another thing we liked is that at various points the comics use identifiable visual cues (stop sign) to let kids know they should really pay attention, which can help prevent them from skimming past an explanation and getting lost later on.
Unfortunately there are no review sections for previous math topics and, as math tends to build on itself, a short brief about previous, related topics that are key to the subject at hand would have been useful.
If Beast Academy’s Guides serve as a textbook, the practice guides are really the heart of the book program, where kids can put their learning to use solving puzzles and completing challenges and games.
As with the Guide books, there are 4 practice books per level (16 overall), and like the guide books they are further divided up into chapters.
There are up to about 150 questions per chapter, so you can expect up to about 500 questions per practice, which is quite a bit. These questions come in a variety of long-form question types, including word problems, visual problems, creative puzzles and more.
Like the guidebooks, practice books include helpful visual cues to cue kids into paying attention to important information. Notably, they use stars to mark the difficulty of a problem:
- One star = difficult
- Two stars = very difficult
Unlike the guidebooks the practice books are in black and white, and while not as glossy they do feature many of the same beasts drawn in the same style, which keeps a sense of continuity and fun for kids.
There are hints located in the back, as well the expected answer key, which is a nice addition. One thing we liked is that the answer key doesn’t just provide an answer, it works out solutions and provides explanations for the various steps involved, which gives a more complete learning experience and can be very helpful for parents trying to work through problems with their kids.
One thing we feel is missing is a summary review and assessment at the end of the practice book that would act as a sort of final exam, as is included in the online version, which would be helpful in assessing skill mastery for each level.
Much like the practice book in feel and format, although less formally structured, puzzle books cover an entire level and offer new practice questions based on that level’s material – usually a few hundred per book.
Generally speaking they act as extra practice content, and we think they’re a pretty good way of reinforcing what kids have learned in that level before progressing to the next.
Beast Academy Online
Beast Academy is also available digitally as Beast Academy Online.
A web-based platform, Beast Academy Online covers the same content of the books but has a few more convenient and up-to-date features due to its online nature.
Look and Feel
Beast Academy Online is quite well designed for kids, everything is pretty simply laid out, there’s not a lot of clutter to get lost in.
Much like the books, Beast Academy Online is populated by a variety of monsters and dragons and the overall look is very similar to that found the comic book artwork, which kids will love.
The program’s navigation takes the form of a virtual campus, which is made up of a few virtual buildings that kids can click on:
- Class – which is where kids do their problems and earn trophies and rewards
- Library – which is where the guide books are located
- Theater – This is where the video lessons are located
- Puzzle Lab – an unlockable area, gives students extra puzzles and acts sort of as a digital version of the puzzle book
These areas are replicated at the top of the screen as buttons, so the chances of kids getting lost or not figuring out where to go is pretty low.
In addition, there is an in-built help function, which is pretty good at helping kids navigate and understand the program and minimizes the need for constant parental oversight.
Content and Curriculum
Beast Academy Online takes the same educational approach as the books and covers much of the same material as the Beast Academy book series.
In fact, Beast Academy Online gives students immediate access to digital versions of all guides for all levels of the program (Levels 2-5), rather than one level at a time.
Like the book version, these serve as the textbook for Beast Academy Online, giving in-depth explanations of various math concepts and strategies.
Before beginning each practice section, kids are given brief on-screen mini-lessons with direct clickable links to the guidebook for more explanations, which is quite handy and doesn’t force kids to hunt around.
These are much like what kids would find in the Beast Academy Practice books, with detailed explanations and step by step examples for every math topic.
Unfortunately there is no read aloud function for these mini-lessons, so kids who need a bit of assistance with reading may have a harder time.
There are assistive read aloud functions for the program’s questions and puzzles, however.
In addition to the Guides and written lessons, Beast Academy Online also offers short video explanations.
These live action videos go through specific math concepts and topics, with a pretty high energy host (the founder of Art of Problem Solving) using a greenscreen digital blackboard to get points across.
These videos go into a fair amount of detail, while still managing to make things as clear and simple as possible with a little bit of humor thrown in, as well.
These videos are a great addition to Beast Academy as they allow for audio/visual learning, making Beast Academy more multisensory, and are great for kids who find it challenging to learn material through reading the guides or mini-lessons, or who simply prefer a Khan Academy type experience.
The videos, being digitally created, are also constantly updated with new topics, which makes Beast Academy Online a little more up to speed than the book versions.
Online Puzzles and Questions
The puzzles and questions found on Beast Academy Online have the same quality, style and depth as their book versions.
That is, these questions challenge kids to develop stronger logical thinking and problem solving skills through the use of a variety of long form question types, such as word problems, visual problems, creative puzzles and more.
The puzzles and questions are interactive – answers are inputted directly into the system, although it’s likely kids will have to use scrap paper to work things out, and answers display immediately upon submissions (with their complete solutions).
Helpfully, Beast Academy Online has included a summary test at the end of each section, which is a nice addition that measures topic mastery and is missing from the book format.
Being digital, new content is always being added to Beast Academy Online, as of writing there are over 800 lessons and 15,000 word problems that are available online, so kids have a reason to keep playing.
Like other good quality, online self-paced math programs, Beast Academy Online gives parents the ability to log in and track their students progress in the program.
This progress tracking gives parents important information that they can use to monitor their child’s progress, such as:
- Where the student is in the course
- How far they’ve gotten in the material
- A rough idea of their relative proficiency in the material (on a scale of needs practice to expert), how much time they’ve spent working on each
- How many attempts they’ve made at a course
- How many points or the trophies they’ve earned
- And more
Parents can access the progress tracking through their own accounts and progress reports can be emailed to them each week, which is useful in giving a regular snapshot of a child’s progress.
We particularly liked that Beast Academy provides a pretty deep analysis progress, as well, measuring progress right down to their performance in individual topics, giving a much more granular picture of their strengths and weaknesses in each topic than most other programs offer.
We also liked that kids have access to their own progress tracking as well, which they can access at any time from their account.
This essentially contains the same information that parents have, although the look and feel is a bit friendlier and inviting, being more cartoonish.
Giving kids access to their own progress tracking is not only just thoughtful, but can be quite helpful as it can give kids a sense that they are making progress and achieving something, which ultimately prevents frustration in the long run.
Gamification: Rewards, Points and Trophies
To help boost kids interest and engagement, Beast Academy Online has added a number of video game elements to their math learning.
As they complete lessons, puzzles and tests, kids can earn points (XP), trophies and stars.
Earning a certain amount of stars at certain levels in the game opens up new buildings (like the Puzzle Lab) or gives kids access to new content (extra-challenging trophy puzzles, for example), which gives kids something to work for and helps maintain the novelty factor of the game over time.
There are also periodic challenges and contests that kids can participate in and that involve the wider user base, such as in trying to accumulate the most points in an 8 month time frame by completing lessons, earning stars and trophies and so on.
These challenges are posted every so often on the company’s social media page and website and offer real rewards involving monetary prizes. Some parents may not appreciate the real life rewards of these challenges, but then again they are optional.
Beast Academy Online vs Beast Academy Books
Beast Academy and Beast Academy Online have the same wonderful comic book style and the same challenging math problems that encourage the development of higher order thinking skills in math.
That said, we prefer the online version ourselves.
Beast Academy Online gives parents complete access to all Beast Academy guides, it adds video lessons as an additional method of instruction, has constantly updated content, offers immediate scoring, is gamified and offers parents helpful progress tracking that can yield important insights into their child’s skill and knowledge level.
However, one thing parents should consider is that the puzzles and questions offered by Beast Academy are quite challenging and take time to work out. These are not, after all, simple computation problems.
Because there are quite a few puzzles and questions per level, this means that with Beast Academy Online kids may spend quite a bit of time in front of the screen.
Parents who want to reduce screen time for their already technologically-overloaded kids may then want to purchase the bundle package and use the books to complement the online version.
Is Beast Academy Worth the Money
In our opinion, whether you choose to purchase Beast Academy Online or go with the book version, it is very much worth your money.
Beast Academy has an interesting and unusual approach to learning math. Using professionally illustrated comic books and artwork to convey important topics in math, its learning system appeals to and engages kids without dumbing down the material.
It also offers a lot of content for your money.
With the books, each level contains hundreds of problems to practice on, and nearly 1000 if you include puzzles.
With the online version there is even more content, as it is updated relatively frequently by the company.
On an academic level, as well, Beast Academy’s approach to teaching math – that is, the focus on developing higher order, conceptual thinking skills as they pertain to math rather than just proceduralized computation- is quite useful to students, having been shown to improve students’ grasp of math and boost their academic achievement in the long run.
Who is Beast Academy Best For?
Beast Academy’s attractive brightly colored comic book style belies a rigorous approach to learning math that emphasizes flexibility, independent thought and experimentation.
It includes brain teasing puzzles and some rather difficult questions that more often than not have multiple ways of being solved
Beast Academy is therefore most suitable to kids and parents looking for engaging enrichment in math, in particular for those who want their kids to learn math with a greater emphasis on problem solving strategies, logical thinking and critical thinking, rather than a focus on rote skill development.
It is not a great option, however, for parents looking to simply drill their child’s math skills for school assessments, as the puzzles and challenges often are quite involved and have a number of solutions.
It is also not a great solution for parents looking for an independent, self-study course they can leave their kids with, as there are specific directions, games and other hands on activities that will require parental involvement.
Finally, Beast Academy is most useful for students looking to enrich their existing math skills and its challenging puzzles are not really a great solution for students who struggle in math and are looking for supplementary math help.
With its professionally-illustrated comic book-style math instruction, a colorful cast of monsters and challenging, brain-teasing math puzzles, Beast Academy is a highly engaging math enrichment program that can help kids develop the mathematical thinking and problem solving skills that can really help them succeed in the long run.
About the Author
David Belenky is a freelance writer, former science and math tutor and a tech enthusiast. When he’s not writing about educational tech, he likes to chill out with his family and dog at home.