Five Educationally Sound Principles in ACE

I was invited to help team-teach a class for student teachers at a Christian College in Milwaukee a few months ago. Preparing for my sessions and then talking at length with the other professors there reminded me that some of the most important and basic principles of learning are incorporated into the PACEs! Be encouraged – you are using a curriculum that will help your child learn!

  • Review, review, review!

One of the most important principles of helping students to learn and master anything is that they must constantly be reviewing what is important. The check-ups and Self-Test allow students to review what they need to know for the test. But the curriculum is designed so that important concepts are reviewed and built upon from year to year, especially in English. But I’ve also noticed that the elementary science and Social Studies PACES introduce terminology and ideas that will be explained more fully in high school.

  • Drill, Drill, drill!

The education dean at the college where I helped teach shared an observation and conclusion they have come to recently. Freshman coming in do not have a good mastery of foundational facts and principles; many of them have been taught to “understand” concepts (like multiplication, for instance) without being drilled to know the facts. In their college freshman courses – particularly in music theory and Bible knowledge – they started requiring students to memorize a basic body of facts and knowledge and have been pleased to find that this unlocked the students’ further learning and application in more advanced courses. Overall, the ACE curriculum does a good job of drilling on the facts and definitions needed in future grades and subjects.

Here’s a tip for drilling on math facts – We have been thrilled with progress our students have made mastering their math facts by using the website,, every day! Success in junior high math and high school algebra has a lot more to do with fast recall of math facts than understanding concepts.

  • Students learn best when the objectives are clear.

In fact, in one class period that I taught, I emphasized that it is a “best teaching practice” for teachers to have their unit test written before they start teaching the unit so that they know what students will be accountable for at the end of the unit. The PACES have been written in that way — the exercises, check-ups, and Self-Test all help students know what needs to be learned and mastered for the final PACE test. It is frustrating to a student in a traditional school to go through an entire chapter or unit of study and then come to the test and be playing mind-games trying to figure out what the teacher might put on the test! (Remember those days when you were in school?) It is a good study technique for students to actually look over the Self Test (NOT Pace Test) and check-ups before working through their PACE as this will help them know what is considered important for them to learn.

  • Use appropriate vocabulary.

It is important that students be taught using words that they understand. That is one of the 7 Laws of Teaching in the famous book by John Gregory. When the ACE curriculum was designed, vocabulary control was an important factor that was carefully integrated. Every time a new vocabulary word was introduced it was carefully defined and then would be used in subsequent PACES. No new words were just used with the assumption that students would understand them. You will notice throughout the science and social studies that each new section begins with vocabulary, pronunciation guide, and definitions.

  • Active Participation.

Students must have their brain engaged about the lesson at hand in order to learn it. They can’t be daydreaming or napping while the teacher is covering the lesson.  That can be a challenge for a classroom teacher, and the temptation is to lecture on and on and assume the students are getting it. But the learning only takes place when the students are grappling with the concepts in their own minds and actively involved in some way. The PACES require that students are constantly reading, studying examples, answering questions, and applying what they just learned. If they do daydream or take a nap, they have to pick up where their brain left off! The teacher and rest of the class did not get ahead of them!

I am sure there are other educationally sound principles incorporated into the ACE curriculum, but these 5 I jotted down on my snack napkin on my flight home and wanted to share with you as a means of encouraging you!

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2 Comments to “Five Educationally Sound Principles in ACE”

  1. I checked out the XtraMath website, and it looks neat. Would you use it in addition to or in place of MathBuilder?

    1. We use it in place of MathBuilder as it accomplishes the same review and drill.

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