Beast Academy Buying Guide and FAQ

Beast Academy Review and Buying GuideStart here for my full review of Beast Academy.

When is a child ready to start Beast Academy?

I usually recommend that you start with a placement test. But for Beast Academy, I don’t find the placement test very helpful. Perhaps it’s a little bold of me to disagree with the publisher’s own recommendation, but I find their placement test unnecessarily difficult.

Once your child has mastered addition and subtraction (including quick recall of facts, good mental math skills, and fluent computation on paper, with or without regrouping) and is able to persevere with challenging word problems, he or she is ready to tackle 3A.

Where should my child start with Beast Academy?

Although Beast Academy texts have grade-level labels, it’s difficult to categorize them because each book contains problems with such varied difficulty. For example, chapter two of 3A begins with a very easy section on skip-counting…but then ends with questions like, “What is the largest number of grams that cannot be balanced with only 4-gram and 9-gram weights?” (23, if you’re interested.) Nearly all sections contain material that would challenge any upper-elementary child–and most adults, for that matter.

All this is to say is that if you have a fourth- or fifth-grader who you feel would enjoy Beast Academy’s approach to math, your child will still likely be challenged by the work in 3A, and I’d recommend starting there. Fly through the easy pages at the beginning of each section (or even let your child skip them) and then settle in to do some of the good problem-solving in the middle and end of each section. The series is designed so that children who finish level 5 in fifth-grade will be well-prepared for a rigorous pre-algebra course in sixth-grade. This is an entire year earlier than most children take pre-algebra. So, even if it takes your older student a couple of years to work through the whole series, he or she will still be on track for pre-algebra in seventh grade.


Is Beast Academy a complete curriculum?

Perhaps because the Beast Academy books are so cute and playful, people seem to often wonder whether it is truly a complete curriculum. Can serious math really be this light-hearted? Can children really learn math from a comic book? My answer is an emphatic “Yes!” Beast Academy covers all of the typical topics for each grade level, but goes more deeply into each topic and covers it in a more substantive way.

That said, I do add a little bit of multiplication and division practice to make sure those skills don’t get rusty when my son is working on other topics in the books.

How do you plan Beast Academy lessons?

Beast Academy does not provide a suggested lesson schedule or pacing suggestions, so you have to decide for yourself how much to accomplish in a day. My approach is just to open up the book each morning, look at the difficulty of the next few pages, and assign a reasonable number of problems. At the beginning of each section, it’s not unusual for my son to fly through four pages of easy problems in 20 minutes. But by the end of each section, he often solves only two or three challenge problems per day (or even just one).

What’s the best way to prepare my child for Beast Academy?

Good number sense and mental math skills are truly essential for success with Beast Academy. If kids have to devote too much mental energy to adding and subtracting, it uses so much of their working memory that it becomes difficult to solve more complex problems. Singapore 1A and 1B, RightStart B, and Math Mammoth Grade 1 are all great preparation for Beast Academy 3A, although they’re not the only options. If your child needs more practice with the addition and subtraction facts, take a look at my Addition Facts That Stick and Subtraction Facts That Stick for games and practice pages to get the facts solid.


32 thoughts on “Beast Academy Buying Guide and FAQ”

  1. I think your date for release of 5D is off. According to my calculations it should be November of 2016 not 2017.

  2. I’m afraid 5A is now coming in October 2015, and presumably the other books’ publication dates will slip by a similar amount of time.

    When I took my bright (but bored) 3rd grader out of school, I hesitated a bit to buy a “3rd grade” math curriculum for his 4th grade year, but I was so smitten by Beast Academy on paper that I took the risk. It’s been great! Waiting for the books we need to be released has been the only down side.

    Even the Russian grandfather who did 5th grade math (level 4 BA books) with my son really likes this approach, though he was initially put off by the cartoon design. After flipping ahead through the book (and now working from it with my son for a year,) he’s impressed by the thoroughness and says maybe “Russian math” isn’t the only way for kids to learn deeply and well. BA is certainly more fun than the after school Russian math school many of our friends’ send their kids to. We are a math/science family. I’m an engineer by training, my husband is a scientist/professor, and my father-in-law is a retired programmer who now teaches at the college level part time to keep himself busy in his golden years.

    We also used an iPad app to practice math skills up through the end of 4th grade. Basically, until his accuracy was 100% and his speed scores tied or beat those of family adults who took the test to provide a “competence baseline.” 🙂

  3. Saying that Beast Academy is comparable to Russian math school is quite a compliment! Glad you weren’t put off the third-grade label–it’s certainly some meaty math.

    Thanks for the update on the publication date for 5A. I’ll add that to the post.

  4. I’m really interested in starting BA this fall, but not sure where to start. I have a 3rd and 4th grader who finished Singapore 2 and 3 respectively. I am sure they would both be fine in BA 3a but due to personalities and competitiveness, I’m a little hesitant to put them together. My older one is bright and breezes through more drill type math. I’m wondering if she would do OK in 4a. What are your thoughts?

  5. Hi Amanda, I’ve never seen “family dynamics” on a list of things to consider when you buy homeschool curriculum, but it ought to! Your older child would probably be fine in 4A, but I’d actually recommend starting her in 3D. Beast Academy introduces fractions as points on the number line in 3D, and then they continue to use that representation throughout the rest of the series. Since Singapore Math doesn’t use the number line representation as heavily, it would probably be helpful for your older to do that chapter in 3D. The rest of 3D is also excellent (estimation and area), and it would probably be a good way to ramp up to the new content in Level 4 and get used to the problem-solving approach.

  6. Hi! Thank you so much for posting about BA. I homeschooled my daughter last year and had her doing Singapore Math 1 (She was 5/6 years old). Because of several unexpected events, we decided to enroll her in public school this year but have 100% decided to homeschool next year again. She has good number sense and is competent with addition/subtraction. I’m wondering if I should take a chance waiting for BA 2a to come out in August or if I should start on another program before beginning BA. I really love what I’ve read about BA and feel like it would be a good fit for my daughter but I’m a little nervous about waiting until last minute to buy curriculum only to find out she’s not quite ready for it. Thoughts?

  7. Hi Mindy, If you think it will be a good fit for your daughter, I’d go ahead and plan on doing 2A. Buying just one level will give you a chance to test it out and see if it’s a good fit for her–and if it proves to be a bust, you’re only out $27 and you can always go back to Singapore. If she did well with Singapore 1 a full academic year ago, I would expect that 2A will be a perfect introduction to Beast’s light, puzzle-y style (and she may even be ready to move into the Level 3 series after that 2A intro. Which is good, because she may move faster than they’re able to publish the Level 2 books.)

  8. Thanks for these great posts about BA. I discovered this last year, though we haven’t used it yet, and finally decided to try this with our son, who’s going into 3rd grade (was debating between this and Making Math Meaningful). We have mainly been working through My Father’s World 1st grade math and doing basic math stuff in everyday life. I feel like I may have not done enough, though, and am having a hard time deciding where I should put him. I’ve pondered using the 2A, but I’m not sure if that would be too young for him or not. He has a good grasp of math concepts, but his recall of math facts isn’t great. That being said, we are working on math facts using this – Perhaps I will do that as his only math for the first part of the year and then do BA for the second part??

    Ack! I sure know how to overcomplicate things. 😉 Do you have any thoughts on where might be a good place to begin with him? I have a 1st grader coming up as well and think I will start her on 2A in 2nd grade. I have really enjoyed perusing your blog and taking notes. Thanks for the valuable resource!

  9. Hi Christie! Glad you’ve found the Beast Academy posts helpful. Since your son is still working on fluency with addition and subtraction, I suspect 2A would actually be a great place to start–both for polishing up those skills and for helping him get used to working on challenging, non-standard problems. Perhaps you could try 2A while he works on the facts this fall, and then decide whether to move him into 3A in the new year?

    Here’s what the authors of BA have said about 2A on their facebook page, in case that helps clarify whether it’s a good fit for your son:

    “The focus in the 2-series is fluency with addition and subtraction, and introducing problem solving strategies. Students beginning 2A are expected to be able to count by 1’s, 5’s, and 10’s to 100 and beyond. Students should be able to find sums and differences of small numbers (for example, 17+6, and 15-9), have all of the 1-digit + 1-digit sums memorized, and recognize pairs of numbers that sum to 10 (3+7, 8+2, etc.) and 20 (16+4, or 11+9).
    Below is a current draft of our chapter titles. Nothing after 2A is set in stone yet, but it should give you a sense for what we will be doing in Grade 2.
    Place Value
    Expressions and Equations
    Problem Solving Strategies
    Addition and Subtraction Strategies
    Odds and Evens
    Big Numbers
    Algorithms (+/-)
    Problem Solving Strategies”

    The Rapid Recall system looks interesting. I hope it works well for your son–but if it doesn’t , I can’t help but recommend my own Addition Facts That Stick and Subtraction Facts That Stick books. Just in case. 🙂

    Happy Math!

  10. Oh, thanks so much! I hadn’t seen this on their FB page.

    I just listened to the podcast with you and Pam Barnhill – great ideas. I love what you said when you compared math and literature. 🙂

  11. You say Math Mammoth 2 would be great for 3a. I’m wondering if you think Math Mammoth 1 is a good prep for 2a now that it is out? We are also planning to work through your addition and subtraction facts that stick books so they have those well memorized. We have actually been doing MUS Alpha last year but neither my very smart K or my 1st finished it beyond addition. And I feel like we are just at this stand still memorizing facts now. My K student is bored with the worksheets in MUS anyways and finishes them in a couple minutes (he has add facts mostly memorized). I think Beast Academy would really appeal to him. But he’s not ready yet. I own Math Mammoth 1 in pdf so I wondered if that was maybe a good way to prep him for it BA 2a and I may follow that path with my daughter as well. Thanks! I know this post is old.

  12. Hi Nicole,

    Yes, Math Mammoth 1 would be a great preparation for BA 2A. Thanks for the great question–I’ve updated the post to include this info. 🙂

    Happy Math!

  13. Hi Kate,

    I have a 3rd grader who has been doing Singapore and currently working on 5A-B (knows all the math concepts but can’t do problems independently a lot of times especially word problems). Thinking about switching to or supplementing with BA and wondering about what level we should start with. Should we start with 3D, 4A or 5A?

  14. Hi Jackie,

    I’d start with 4A. The units often start with basic problems, and you may sometimes be able to skip them if your child has already mastered that content. But once a unit gets rolling, you’ll find lots of great mathematics to keep your child engaged and working hard!

    Happy Math!

  15. My daughter used Saxon 54 this year and it was a challenge. She is now working with Math Mammoth but I feel like it takes so long because she gets bored and distracted easily. Her favorite part of MM is the puzzle corners, that along with her love for comic books makes me this BA would be a great fit. Less problems but more challenging. What are your thoughts? If she struggled with Saxon, would this be too difficult? Where should we start with BA? Looking at their assessments makes me want to place her in 3C but ideally I’d like her to start with 4A in 5th so she isn’t too behind.

  16. Hi Lauren,

    If your daughter likes puzzles and comic books, Beast Academy definitely sounds like a good fit! I wouldn’t worry about the fact that she struggled with Saxon.

    Beast Academy’s placement tests are very aggressive, so I think you’d be fine starting with 4A in 5th grade. Also bear in mind that Beast Academy goes well beyond the typical curriculum. Children who finish level 5 are typically ready for pre-algebra. So, if you cover level 4 in 5th grade and level 5 in 6th grade, your daughter will still be ready for pre-algebra in 7th.

    Happy Math!

  17. I am so glad to find this because I was wondering what to do for my daughter. She is almost 10, suspected stealth dyslexic (she can read but gets stuck in word problems sometimes and also has some other reading issues), loves math, has been doing Khan Academy for the last year but struggled with it. I’m looking at Beast Academy for this year as it looks like it can be done on paper (she hates working on the computer) and mostly independently. I had her take the 2A preassessment test and she knew everything for that but I’m not sure she will do great on the others–there are some things even on 2B that she struggled with in Khan. Would you still recommend starting with 3A, or should I back up and make sure she knows everything from level 2? Does it reteach concepts as it goes or will she have trouble if there are gaps in her understanding?

  18. Hi Anna,

    Usually I’m a big proponent of placement tests, but I find Beast Academy’s unnecessarily challenging. As long as your daughter can add and subtract fluently (including the addition and subtraction facts, written multi-digit problems, and some basic mental math), she’ll do just fine going into 3A.

    Your daughter sounds like a great fit for Beast–I hope she loves it!

  19. hi Kate,
    You have a great website!! My 9 year old daughter (3rd grade) goes to public school but I find the curriculum very weak. She’s good at math\sub\mult\div concepts though she’s slow to catch on Word problems (English is not our first language). I was divided between Singapore Math and Beast Academy to improve her math skills. What would you suggest between the two and what level is good to start? Apart from school math she’s only done some scholastic summer math books , and she also needs to improve\build up mental math skills. Thanks for your help.

  20. Hi Sowmya,

    Singapore will meet your needs better, since it focuses more specifically on word problems and mental math. You could go two ways with it: either buy the full curriculum and work through the whole thing, or buy specific mental math and word problem workbooks. If you decide to go with the full curriculum, definitely use the placement tests on the Singapore Math website to help you decide where to start. If you buy only the mental math and word problem workbooks, I think you’ll be fine just buying the books that match your daughter’s grade level.

    Happy Math!

  21. Hi Kate,

    Thanks for your post on Beast Academy. I agree with you that the placement test is a bit puzzling. I find that there are several hard questions even in the 2A.
    My son is finishing Math-U-See Beta and we’d like to move to a more challenging curriculum. He has a very good math sense but needs to work more on mental facts I guess. We thought about Singapore Math and I stumbled on a post on Beast Academy, After looking it up and reading different reviews I was sold. I showed my son some sample pages and he is very excited to try it. Do you recommend starting with 3A? We live in Canada and the only resellers I found are on Amazon and they sell the 8-books bundle for each level. We seem to have covered most of the concepts you listed from level 2, but i wonder if he would still gain from working through some or part of it…
    Would you mind sharing your thoughts?

  22. Hi Rina,

    Yes, 3A would be the right place to go after MUS Beta. (Just don’t be discouraged by the first chapter of 3A–it’s way more difficult than the rest of 3A, so families sometimes skip it and come back to it. I think the author got a little too ambitious with his first unit, since it was the first one he wrote!) As long as your son has multi-digit addition and subtraction down well, he should be fine moving into the shapes and multiplication in the third grade level of Beast.

    Happy Math!

  23. Hi, my daughter homeschools in grade 6 in Canada . She has completed the grade 6 curriculum for BC . I am looking for something to work on before starting g grade next September . Would I get the 5 level or the 4 ?

  24. Hi Nicki,

    I’d go for level 5. You can check out their placement tests to make sure she has the skills she needs, but I bet she’ll be fine.

    Happy Math!

  25. Hi Kate!
    I wrote to you about 2 years ago asking more about Beast Math. My son Jonathan (now 10) sounds a lot like your son and based on your recommendations, we started with 2B (it has just come out) and just finished 3D. So here’s my dilemma. With my older kids, I used Horizons Math (with some practice from Singapore), modifying the numbers of problems that we did. I knew early on that Jonathan would have a harder time with that kind of curriculum, and he has really enjoyed Beast Math. However, sometimes he gets frustrated with the difficulty of a problem – or sometimes, I feel they’ve made leaps in the problem sets that he isn’t prepared for. During those times, when he clearly doesn’t understand, he shuts down. Horizons would have taken weeks to cover what Beast just covered in a few short pages, and I struggle at how to help him make this leap. My husband, the math guru in our house, works with Jonathan once a week, and he always finds a way to help him through those stretches. Jonathan’s favorite exercises are the puzzle/mazes where he has to find ways to draw lines to connect things without intersecting, and when he’s working on those, he blows me away by how quickly he gets it and how hard he’s willing to work. With the other problem sets, he gets tired sooner and I feel we need to switch to another math book I have on hand (or sometimes, we’ll do a later chapter in Beast as long as you don’t have to understand an earlier concept to work the problems) . I mainly want to make sure he’s really getting what he needs and that he understands what he’s doing. We work through all of the problems together, which also makes this time intensive for me.

    I’ve been wondering if perhaps something like Dimensions Math that you’ve mentioned before might be a better fit, since it involves solving problems – something he loves – but seems to move perhaps slightly more incrementally. We’re familiar with Singapore Math having used that before, but Dimensions seems more hands on with the teacher guide. Jonathan wants to continue with Beast, in spite of his frustrations, and I’m open to that. I know you’ve said to supplement from time to time with some basic math facts. If we do that, will he for sure get what he needs even if he doesn’t understand everything he’s doing in the book? How important is it that he understand all of the concepts when they sometimes move faster than his brain is prepared to go? Also, if we were to switch to Dimensions Math, what level would you recommend since he just finished 3D?

    Thank you SO much! I refer to your blog regularly for math tips and help and am grateful for your wisdom!

  26. I’m wondering if you can give me some advice. My son is a gifted first grader this year. Over the summer he completed khan academy’s 1st grade math and is about 25% of the way through 2nd grade math now. At the same time he completed a Sylvan Learning 2nd grade math book. Now I need a new book to supplement his virtual learning this year. I am leaning toward the level 3 Beast Academy Books, but I worry that it might be too difficult (I also worry that the level 2 would be too easy!) He’ll be getting plenty of the “foundational” stuff from his regular schooling, so I’d like it to be a challenge for him – just not crippling. Any suggestions?

    • Hi Tina,

      Beast Academy would be a great supplement to virtual school, since it will help him go deeper rather than faster. The level 2 books are quite challenging, so I expect they’d give him some good mental exercise! Take a look at the placement tests (available at the BA website) for a closer look at what kids need to know before starting. They’ll help you get him the right book.

      Happy Math!

  27. Hi Kate – My hubby and I withdrew our 3 kids from private school this year due to COVID and I’m homeschooling them. My oldest is in 4th grade this year and I’ve started him on Saxon 5/4, but he’s not interested in watching the DIVE videos (too boring), and only 1-2 problems into the Saxon workbook, he’s in tears and hating it. He LOVES graphic novels so I’m thinking B.A. would be a great fit for him, I’m just not sure what level to start him on. His classmates will be remote learning the following topics: Place Value, Algebra, Decimals, Multi-Digit Multiplication, Problem Solving, Long Division, Geometry/Area, and Fractions. Our goal is to hopefully re-enroll him next fall for 5th grade in the same school, so I don’t want him to miss something crucial in his math curriculum.

    What level in B.A. do you think he should start at?

    Thank you very much!

  28. Hi Kristina,

    Take a look at the placement tests on the Beast Academy site. (There is one for each book, and you have to go to the page for each individual book to find them.) 4A sounds like it would probably be a good fit, based on those topics, but definitely check out the placement tests to be sure.

    Happy Math!

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