Teaching math at home can be tough for any parent.
Not every parent has the experience necessary, the time to devote to it or they may simply feel uncomfortable with their own math skills to take on such an important subject area.
A self-study homeschool math curriculum can be an ideal solution for such parents.
Teaching Textbooks and Beast Academy are two well-known, comprehensive and highly esteemed self-study math programs that have helped thousands of homeschool students develop strong math skills over the years.
With strong reputations among homeschoolers, it can be hard for some parents to choose between these two great math programs.
To help out, we’ve compared Teaching Textbooks and Beast Academy so that parents can make a more effective and informed decision as to which better suits their needs.
What is Teaching Textbooks?
Teaching Textbooks is a popular homeschool math curriculum that has made the jump to a digital format.
The program teaches through a combination of videos, optional ebooks, practice problems, tests and more.
The program’s courses are available as downloadable apps and are available for most computers, laptops and mobile devices.
What is Beast Academy?
Beast Academy is an acclaimed math curriculum by Art of Problem Solving.
It uses a highly visual and entertaining graphic novel approach to challenge students to develop a stronger understanding of math and to hone their critical thinking and problem solving skills.
With Beast Academy Online, the curriculum is now available in digital form, and offers students access to a colorful online campus filled with helpful videos, math challenges, puzzles and, of course, the Beast Academy illustrated textbooks.
While both Teaching Textbooks and Beast Academy offer digital math learning, there are some notable differences between the two programs.
Teaching Textbooks is primarily a digital math course.
Each of its courses is offered as a downloadable app, accessible on computers and mobile devices, in which users can find all of its grade-level instruction and exercises, including ebook versions of its textbooks, if needed.
Beast Academy, on the other hand, is available as a traditional book-based curriculum and as Beast Academy Online, a browser-based digital math program.
Homeschoolers can therefore use Beast Academy as a traditional pen-and-paper curriculum or sign up for its online interactive math course (which, being digital, is mostly the focus of this comparison).
When it comes to digital learning, however, both Teaching Textbooks’ app-based learning and Beast Academy Online’s browser-based learning have their respective advantages and disadvantages that parents should consider.
Teaching Textbook’s downloadable app allows students to work offline for periods, with the app then synching up the next time internet access is available.
As a result, busy parents don’t have to leave their student alone with an internet accessible device while they study, but can instead disable wifi and then re-enable it when lessons are complete.
On the downside, however, this approach means that parents have to download an app for each course and the periodic uploading and downloading of information and materials by the app can slow things down a bit during a lesson.
Beast Academy Online’s browser-based learning, on the other hand, doesn’t require any downloading, and can be readily accessed on pretty much any device, meaning parents can take learning on the go as long as there is internet service available.
This can be good news for homeschooling families who like to travel, or for those who share devices at home.
On the downside, it does mean that students do need constant internet access to complete the self-study lessons, which may be a concern to some parents.
One notable point of difference between the two programs is that Teaching Textbooks requires parents to purchase and download an app for each grade, while Beast Academy Online provides access to Beast Academy guide books for all grades.
Although perhaps not relevant for most, it does mean that students in Beast Academy Online can browse its different comic book guides as they please, revisiting past material or exploring ahead more easily if they so choose.
What Grade Levels Do They Cover?
Teaching Textbooks largely covers grades 3-12, taking students from elementary school, starting with whole numbers and place value, all the way through high school up to pre-calculus.
The program does not, however, include Calculus at time of writing.
Beast Academy, on the other hand, offers courses for grades 1–5 (2-5 online), after which students still interested in the approach can continue with Art of Problem Solving’s flagship course, which teaches math to grade 12, including Calculus.
Parents should note, however, that Art of Problem solving is a different and more traditional math course, that eschews Beast Academy’s comic-book style instruction in favor of thorough and quite rigorous textbooks and exercise books.
On the whole, it can be said that Beast Academy offers its particular brand of learning to younger grades (1-3) compared to Teaching Textbooks, while, in contrast to Beast Academy, Teaching Textbooks extends its same teaching method to older grades (6-12).
That said parents should be aware that neither Beast Academy nor Teaching Textbooks are common core aligned, and they do follow their own scope, sequence and pace.
As a result, it can be somewhat tricky for those switching into either program to find their place.
That said, both programs offer fairly comprehensive and freely available placement tests, which is very helpful.
Teaching Textbooks Vs Beast Academy: Teaching Math
Self-Study vs Parent Led
Both Teaching Textbooks and Beast Academy (especially Beast Academy Online) are designed as self-study math courses.
In both courses, students watch and/or read the lessons and then are guided through exercises and assessments in a step by step manner, allowing parents to shift from being a teacher to taking on more of an oversight role, making sure that lessons go smoothly, helping out here and there and ultimately making sure the work gets done.
While perhaps the most ideal curriculum format for those who love to teach, both Teaching Textbooks and Beast Academy can be great programs for those looking to instill greater independent learning skills, as well as being lifesavers for busy homeschools and parents who have to balance work and homeschooling.
Style of Math
A critical area of difference between Teaching Textbooks and Beast Academy is their different approaches to math learning.
Teaching Textbooks uses a very systematic approach to math, focusing on teaching students formulas, math facts, equations and procedures that they can use to develop procedural skill fluency, that is the ability to analyze and solve math problems quickly and efficiently.
The program offers students a lot of straightforward, practical math exercises and generally hones their skill through practice, repetition and drill.
Beast Academy, on the other hand, is more of a conceptual math program.
Rather than emphasizing drill and straight math calculations, the focus is more on helping students develop a stong understanding of math concepts, with a heavier emphasis on understanding why math works the way it does and, in particular, how problems can be solved using different techniques and strategies.
Designed by Art of Problem Solving, a company known for its rigorous math contest prep, there is also a stronger emphasis on developing broader problem solving skills and applying logical/critical thinking to math problems. In practical terms, this means that the program offers somewhat fewer computational drill exercises and more problem solving, word problems and various math puzzles.
Spiral Vs Mastery
Teaching Textbooks and Beast Academy also differ quite a bit in how their curricula are structured.
Teaching Textbooks is a spiral curriculum.
The program breaks math concepts down into bite sized chunks, teaches one topic a little at a time, moves onto another and comes back to revisit the first topic in greater depth later on.
In this way, students are taught a wider variety of math topics in any given time period and are given the opportunity to see how concepts link together and form a bigger picture.
Teaching Textbooks’ spiral approach also provides students with a good deal of review and repetition of previously learned material, which can be very beneficial for students who struggle with retention of math facts and understanding over time.
On the downside, a spiral approach can make some students feel rushed and some students find spiral curricula a bit repetitive at times.
Beast Academy, on the other hand, is a mastery math curriculum.
In contrast to a spiral approach, Beast Academy focuses on one concept at a time, delving deeply into it in greater depth over a period of time.
Once proficiency and understanding is reached in that topic, students move on to another.
With mastery programs, students are given the opportunity to explore math concepts more completely, in greater depth and at their own pace of learning.
On the downside, there can be less review and repetition of previously learned material with mastery programs and some students can get bored working on a concept for several lessons.
Teaching Textbooks Vs Beast Academy: How do they Teach
Teaching Textbooks uses an audio/visual approach to teaching its lessons, mainly through the use of short (< 10 min) videos.
Information is presented on screen with more off-screen narration, introducing concepts and demonstrating concepts and problems in a step by step way, at times with visuals, animations and sound effects that can be kind of amusing.
From time to time, students are expected to answer questions, which keeps the lessons fairly interactive.
An video example of Teaching Textbooks’ instruction can be seen below.
In addition, the app provides students with written, searchable digital textbooks that they can use to supplement the interactive lessons, to brush up on a particular concept or even as a main text if they find learning by video too difficult.
With Beast Academy, learning can be done either as a traditional pen and paper curriculum (which is fairly self-explanatory) or online.
In the online version, students have a choice of learning by reading digital copies of its textbooks (located in the program’s Library building).
Beats Academy’s textbooks, also known as Guidebooks, are actually highly stylized and professionally illustrated comic books filled with a colorful cast of monster characters that teach math concepts through the use of humor and amusing visuals.
These comics are beautifully drawn and quite interesting to read and look at, yet ultimately are well known for their in-depth coverage of sometimes quite advanced math concepts.
In addition, there are also live action, short video lessons, detailing specific math concepts and topics, such as can be seen in the screenshot below.
These videos are taught by the founder of the program who delivers fairly high energy explanations of math while using a digital blackboard to demonstrate and work through concepts.
Following the lessons, students can proceed to a digital classroom where they can practice what they’ve learned with a variety of practice exercises.
Interestingly, Beast Academy also includes mini written lessons before each practice section, offering quick explanations and step by step examples of math concepts, which is helpful and an added way of learning.
Both Teaching Textbooks and Beast Academy Online offer considerable practice after each lesson.
At the end of a Teaching Textbooks lesson, students put what they’ve learned into practice with about 20-30 questions.
With over a hundred short lessons per course, it ultimately adds up to quite a bit of skill development.
Interestingly, Teaching Textbooks has a built-in math-drawing program called Scratch Pad, which can let students work things out on screen, reducing the need for scrap paper.
Beast Academy offers quite a bit of practice, as well, in its Classroom and Puzzle Lab areas.
The puzzles and questions are interactive, with students inputting the answer after working things out by hand – so, unlike Teaching Textbooks, students will need some scrap paper with this program .
There are over 800 lessons and 15, 000+ problems in Beast Academy Online, and the word problems can get quite challenging, so there is no shortage of practice problems to be had.
The real difference between the two programs in terms of practice is that Teaching Textbook integrates practice as part of each lesson, whereas Beast Academy Online separates its lessons and practice into different virtual areas that kids explore, replicating the textbook/practice book division of its printed program to some degree.
As digital programs, both Teaching Textbooks and Beast Academy provide parents with ways of keeping track of student progress.
Teaching Textbooks has its Gradebook, where parents can view, change and print out student grades, as well as keep track of student progression on a lesson by lesson/topic-by topic basis.
The program gives parents a great and very useful top-down overview of student progress, broadly detailing how many problems the student got right and if they needed hints or second chances, which can help them figure out if a student is struggling.
Beast Academy’s progress tracking capabilities, on the other hand, is a little more in-depth and granular compared to Teaching Textbooks.
Parents can log in and monitor student progress, examining things like:
- Where the student is in the material
- How deeply they’ve studied each concept
- Their relative proficiency in each concept
- Time spent on a topic
- Attempts made at each lesson
- Trophies and awards earned
- And more
Interestingly, Beast Academy Online also offers students a modified, more cartoonish progress tracker that they can use to see how they’re doing, but in a friendlier, more approachable manner.
Rewards and Incentives
In both Teaching Textbooks and Beast Academy, students can earn rewards as they complete lessons and get right answers.
With Teaching Textbooks, after answering problems correctly students can earn fun little animations, wallpapers and stickers that they can go back and look at when they’d like.
Beast Academy Online, on the other hand, has integrated some gamified elements into its teaching.
As students progress, they can earn experience points, trophies and stars.
The stars they earn can unlock new areas of the program and provide them with new content, providing students with an incentive to keep working.
There are also social challenges that students can participate in, competing with the broader Beast Academy user base to win real (and sometimes monetary) prizes.
It’s important to note that the inclusion of rewards and incentives is somewhat controversial and their inclusion has no real bearing on the quality of a program.
Teaching Textbooks’ incentives system is perhaps not as sophisticated as Beast Academy Online, but it can also be less distracting for some users, keeping them focused on their lessons rather than any kind of reward, something parents may appreciate.
Both Teaching Textbooks and Beast Academy are excellent math programs with well-deserved reputations in the homeschool community for helping students develop strong math skills.
That said, they do differ quite a bit in their level of challenge and who they are ultimately best suited for.
Teaching Textbooks is a comprehensive college prep curriculum that is designed to explain math simply and clearly to students.
It is, therefore, ultimately a broadly usesable and fairly gentle math program that is largely on grade level.
Covering all the concepts and topics that students are expected to learn at each grade, and by offering lots of encouragement, revision and practice, it can therefore be used by students of all skill levels.
In contrast, Beast Academy is more of an advanced math curriculum.
The program is a comprehensive math program, but with its more in-depth analysis, strong problem solving and conceptual math focus and more complex/challenging exercises, it is really more ideally suited to students with an aptitude in math who are looking for a program that’s a little more in-depth than normal.
Look and Feel
Teaching Textbooks and Beast Academy Online are quite different in terms of look and feel.
Teaching Textbooks has an old-school, fun and cartoon-like look to it.
It is somewhat styled after a student notebook, with menu options amusingly “taped” to the screen.
While it uses a lot of color and animation to make things less stressful, it ultimately looks like (and is) a straightforward learning app with different menu options to choose from and is mostly audio and text-based.
As an app, it is fairly intuitive to use with lots of help functions and tutorials that do a good job at preventing students (and parents) from getting lost.
Beast Academy Online, on the other hand, is something like a virtual game or world, with different buildings and areas visually representing different aspects of the program (lessons, practice, extra puzzles, administration functions, etc).
Students are free to click on and explore different buildings, each of which contain different aspects and materials of the program and give them something new to do.
Much like a game, as students progress and accumulate more points, they can unlock new content and areas to explore.
Which style is “better,” really depends on the student and how well they deal with each.
Some students (and parents) prefer a game-like environment, finding it a lot of fun to explore, and the more visually appealing and interactive style can keep kids more engaged and interested in learning.
On the other hand, some students may find this environment too distracting or easy to get lost in, and subsequently may prefer and benefit from Teaching Textbooks more traditional and streamlined (yet still fun) app design.
Note: Prices correct as of writing. All prices in USD.
Teaching Textbooks courses are priced per student per year (12 months) and cost:
- $43.08 per year for Math 3-5
- $55.08 per year for Math 6-7
- $67.08 per year for Pre-Algebra through Pre-Calculus.
They also have a family plan for families with 4+ students, which costs $199.08 per year.
Beast Academy Online, on the other hand, costs $96 per year per student (additional students can be added for $48 per year.
It can also be purchased on a month to month basis for $15 per month per student, with another $7.50 per additional student.
Finally, parents can purchase a year’s subscription to Beast Academy Online and a year’s set of printed books for about $204 per year.
(Beast Academy pen and paper curricula, which is less directly comparable to Teaching Textbooks, can be purchased for about $108 for an entire year’s curriculum).
Overall, then, although Beast Academy Online has a little more flexibility in how it can be purchased (yearly, month to month and bundled options), Teaching Textbooks is ultimately slightly more affordable at under $70 per course per year.
Both Teaching Textbooks and Beast Academy have ways in which parents can try out their learning packages for free, which is nice.
|Teaching Textbooks||Beast Academy|
|Curriculum Style||Digital||Digital and Printed|
|For Grades||3-12||1-5 (2-5 online)|
|Price per student||$47.08-67.08 per year||$96 per year per student|
|Mastery or Spiral||Spiral||Mastery|
|Style of Math||More procedural||More conceptual|
Teaching Textbooks vs Beast Academy – Deciding Which is Best For You
Both Teaching Textbooks and Beast Academy are well-known, high-quality and relatively widely used self-study homeschool math curricula.
Consequently, when choosing between the two parents need to take into account their student’s skills and ability, as well as their homeschool needs, philosophy and requirements.
To help out, we put together a small chart for parents to use in their decision making process.
|I’m a parent and…||Consider|
|I’m looking for a quality self-paced math program||Either|
|I’m teaching grades 3-12||Either|
|I’m teaching grades 2 and 3||Beast Academy|
|I’m teaching grades 5+||Teaching Textbooks|
|My student likes to learn math concepts a little at a time and getting lots of review as time goes on||Teaching Textbooks|
|My student prefers to take their time with a math concept, diving deeply into it and exploring it fully before moving on||Beast Academy|
|I’m looking for an approachable and easier paced curriculum that still covers all the math kids need to know||Teaching Textbooks|
|My student is showing a talent in math and wants or needs a more rigorous math curriculum||Beast Academy|
|I want my student to be able to work offline for periods of time||Teaching Textbooks|
|I would prefer not to download an app but use a browser on my device||Beast Academy Online|
|My student is easily distracted by games and rewards||Teaching Textbooks|
|My student responds very well to gamified incentives and enjoys lessons that reward them for achievement||Beast Academy|
|My student is easily distracted by game environments and I’d prefer a more straightforward math program||Teaching Textbooks|
|My student may need to freely review past concepts or might want to move ahead and explore advanced concepts||Beast Academy Online|
|I’m a parent who likes to keep more detailed reports on how my student is using the program, how they are doing in their lessons, how they are responding to questions, etc.||Beast Academy|
|I’d like to really explore the program before making a purchase||Beast Academy Online|
For Further Information
To find out more information about these math programs you can:
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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.