Tag Archives: Saxon Math

Saxon Math Algebra II

I’m heading into my tenth year of homeschooling, and it has gone so fast! Each year since I started writing here, I’ve typed up and posted the curriculum of the highest grade level I teach. This year the highest grade level was eighth grade. By this level, our curriculum has been tailored to the student, flying rapidly when subject matter was learned easily and hunkering down when a quagmire appeared. I am always happy to answer questions about how we do things, why we do things, and what concerns (or satisfactions) I have about how we proceeded. I will start with our math program.

Every year I explain that I personally grew up on Saxon math (starting in sixth grade). Teaching it feels like a favorite pair of old tennis shoes to me. Beloved and comfortable. Forgive my sappiness toward math, but I feel like it was my math teacher and Saxon math which helped me achieve my academic dreams. I don’t have the natural knack for numbers that many of my friends have (I had to turn to them for help with the “hard” problems), but with Saxon’s training method, I learned I, too, like my gifted peers, could achieve in math. In the movie Ratatouille it is said, “Anyone can cook.” Well, in Saxon, “Anyone can do math.” I have tutored many students throughout the years in high school math, and I cringe when I see how math is usually taught without the layering that Saxon math provides. So be forewarned, I come at Saxon math with a huge bias. I can’t tell you about any other math program, but I can tell you all about my love for Saxon. ūüôā

Good luck to you in educating your children and bestowing upon them all that you have to give so that they might be happy, content people who can smile freely and give warmly, knowing that in their parents’ home they are safe, loved, nurtured, and protected. Okay. On to math.

Math: Saxon Algebra II, supplemented with a unit study on geometry proofs

A note on time expectations for math work: I think it helps to explain to advanced students that math gets at least 90 minutes a day, Monday through Friday. Boom. That’s the way it is. Budget your day that way. Otherwise, it seems students think they ought to be able to get done in less than an hour, like they used to be able to do when they were doing “easier” math.

Method: Throughout the year, I most often taught the Algebra II lesson set on our wall chalkboard. Then we practiced several problems from the problem set (both new material and any prior material I felt my student was weak on and needed guidance on), and then my student was assigned 13-22 problems to do each day on her own from the problem set. Missed homework problems were corrected daily before beginning the new homework. I worked very hard to keep papers graded on a daily basis so I could be aware of weaknesses in any concepts.

Any lesson with old material that my student had already mastered and I knew she had retention of, we skipped, in favor of learning new material. Within lessons, any problem-type mastered to the point of vomiting, we skipped. (Despite the Saxon book’s warning, we frequently skip problems, although I will assign them periodically to retain mastery. I feel comfortable doing this because it is how my high school math teacher used Saxon.) In Saxon math, problem types go away for about 10-20 lesson sets and then they come back. When they came back, I reassigned the problem type to make sure there was still retention and mastery. My student is monitored closely, and I can see what she does and does not “get.” Mastery and retention were always required of all problem types. As the year progressed, my student needed less and less teaching from me, as she was frequently able to read and apply the information herself.

At the end of the year, I did a unit study on geometry proofs. I used the same concepts Saxon Algebra II was teaching in the lessons on proofs, but I pulled lots of extra material and practice off of the internet from various sources.

This is how I did math this year for this student. I am prepared to make changes each day and each year we work together. I am also prepared to change how I do things for each of my children.

Saxon Pros:

  • There is a seamless transition from Algebra I to Algebra II.¬† (We were able to skip lesson sets at the beginning of the Algebra II book with material that my student had already mastered in Algebra I.)
  • The Saxon math program from Algebra I through Calculus cannot be beat as far as breaking down concepts into understandable portions, progressing students along in a non-scary fashion, and promoting long-term retention of concepts.
  • There is good explanation and practice of geometrical calculations. (I had debated doing a geometry year between Algebra I and II, and I’m very glad I did not.)
  • Excellent explanations of new concepts in each lesson, with even some humor here and there.
  • Excellent examples worked out and explained for each new lesson. (I tutored this last year in Algebra II, and the book the school offered did not have many examples for students to learn from.)

Saxon Cons:

  • Saxon math teaches geometrical calculations well, but I was not fond of its introduction of theorems, postulates, and two-column proofs. (We finished the Algebra II book with enough time to do a unit study on geometry proofs to supplement Saxon’s lessons. I pulled from various resources to put together a unit study.)
  • Saxon does not seem to require geometry vocabulary usage and retention. (There is a lot of geometry at the beginning of the next book Saxon book called Advanced Mathematics–equivalent to trigonometry– and I will reinforce the vocabulary of geometry next year and also keep up with proof supplementation. This way, I will feel very confident that we’ve covered what I covered in my high school non-Saxon geometry class.)
  • Real life application when it comes to particular topics is lacking. I kind of feel like Saxon math students might become robotic with their math—although any student who masters Saxon math will be easily led to apply the concepts to real life. For example, a Saxon student can tell you the equation of a line (and readily manipulate the equations), but they’d be hard-pressed to tell you a real life situation you could use a linear equation in. After you showed a Saxon student, they’d probably say something like, “Oh, duh. I knew that.” I plan to remedy this with a real-life application unit in our high school years.
  • Lots of problems in a problem set.

My eighth grader was able to master Algebra II. I didn’t necessarily plan it that way, it is just how it worked out with the pace of her capabilities. I think this might put us at a disadvantage for taking standardized tests (PSAT, SAT and ACT) since we are covering material earlier. However, I constantly try to remind myself that learning is done best for learning’s sake–not for the test . But I know that I will need to take extra care that she is prepared for her standardized tests so that my decision to proceed at her pace does not hinder any test scores. I also see that if we continue this progression, there will be opportunity in the junior and senior year for something like taking a local college math course or doing something somewhat unique for high school math, like statistics.

As I mentioned, I am happy to answer questions or clarify anything I wrote.

Terri F

Our Fifth Grade Curriculum: Math

PicMonkey Collage (1)Oh, are we are at the end of the traditional school year? ¬†Goodie! ¬†We finally, at the end of fifth grade, have hammered out our fifth grade curriculum well enough for me to share. ¬†It’s not original. ¬†It’s not creative. ¬†In fact, it looks a lot like our fourth grade curriculum with a couple of welcome additions, including a baby in the mix. ¬†(So, currently, I have a fifth grader, third grader, kindergartener or kindergartner–whichever you prefer, and 9 month old.) ¬†It has been an interesting, growing year. ¬†Do you watch old cartoons? ¬†A lot of times I felt like Wile E Coyote. ¬†Or Tom. ¬†Or Sylvester. ¬†Yep. ¬†Did. ¬†Just call it, “The Looney (Home)School.” ¬†That’s it. ¬†But at the end of this year, I would be able to produce for the authorities documentation of education in the following areas:

  • Math
  • Grammar/Writing/Spelling
  • Spanish
  • History
  • Astronomy
  • Poetry
  • Music
  • Physical education
  • Lots of silent sustained reading

Onward to Math:  Saxon Math 7/6

We have used Saxon Math since we started homeschooling, and in fact, I used Saxon Math myself as a sixth grader on up till graduation from high school (except for geometry). ¬†Boring and dry–but tightly and thoroughly knit. ¬†My oldest daughter has been steadily working through the 7/6 book this school year. ¬†There have been times when it proved too hard, and we slowed way down.¬† Then, something clicked in her brain, and it became “easy.”¬† So¬†all year, we have moved through the book according to her mastery level, not my lesson planner. ¬†Here’s what we do.

  • Start working in the Saxon Math book according to the lesson which best matches skill level. ¬†Don’t just start the book at lesson one, unless that is where the skill level lies.
  • Moving forward through the book is determined by how well my daughter is scoring on the daily assignments.¬† If she seems to understand and is consistently getting most of the problems correct, I usually pick and choose the problems for her to do.¬† Or I may have her just do the evens or odds in a problem set. ¬†At this pace, we are moving forward at a lesson a day. ¬†If, however, she is missing several problems or doesn’t seem to understand concepts, we slow down until she starts mastering most of the problems again.¬† At these times, she¬†will be assigned half of the problem set one day and the other half the next. ¬†There have been times where we stop completely doing lessons for a week and simply do supplemental problems on concepts she is struggling with. ¬†Supplemental problem sets are provided in the back of the Saxon 7/6 manual. ¬†On average, we have gotten through three problem sets a week.
  • I do not formally teach her the lesson content. ¬†She is supposed to read it herself and attempt to do the problems in the set. ¬†If she does not understand, I teach her the new material as I am checking her math later.
  • We do the mental math component about every third or fourth lesson. We don’t do mental math every lesson, although in an ideal homeschool situation, I’d like to.
  • We do not take routine tests. ¬†My daughter actually asks for the tests, and we have probably done about three this year at her request. ¬†At this age, I do not like to use tests much. ¬†I check her math, and I am very aware of what she is and is not grasping. ¬†So I don’t feel the need to test. ¬†However, later in her education, I will make sure she has tests so she is prepared for “the real world.”
  • To round out our math curriculum, she does some flash cards with a sister and some “applied” math her dad.
  • We will not finish the Math 7/6 book “this year” by the end of May. ¬†We will continue doing some math lessons throughout the summer. ¬†There are 120 lessons in the book, and we are on Lesson 87. ¬†Often, at the end of a book, I feel they start cramming in new concepts just for pre-exposure to the next school year. ¬†I never like this. ¬†I usually stop a book when I feel this happening and skip on to the next book, resuming at the appropriate lesson point.

What about you?

What about you? ¬†Do you use a curriculum as it is designed? ¬†Or do you fix it up for your student? ¬†Do you feel worried when you fall behind your lesson planner? ¬†Does anyone out there “unschool” for math? ¬†That would be fun to hear about! ¬†Wishing you lots of fun in your homeschooling!

Happy May!


Part 1 of “Our Third Grade Curriculum”: Saxon Math

I think it’s fun to see what other kids are learning, public schooled, private schooled, or homeschooled!¬† So I thought I’d post our third grade curriculum and then use subsequent posts to comment on each component of our curriculum.¬† Plus, I remember when I first started homeschooling how helpful it was when I read blogs (that was before I knew what a blog was…I don’t know what I thought I was reading…a web page?…du-uh!) about people’s curriculums.¬† When I started homeschooling in South Carolina, submission of your curriculum was required and using other homeschoolers’ suggestions was beyond helpful!

Our current curriculum includes the following:

  • Math
  • Grammar
  • Spelling/Phonics
  • Poetry
  • Reading
  • Music
  • Spanish
  • Handwriting
  • History
  • Art
  • Physical Education
  • Religion

Mathematics:¬† Saxon Math is my choice.¬† It is cut and dry.¬† Doesn’t make too much effort to pretend to be fluffy.¬† ¬†I was a Saxon-trained math student starting in sixth grade until I finished high school calculus.¬† Not naturally math-brained, as a student, I found Saxon Math to be divine.¬† It provided good explanations, and then proceeded in a cumulative fashion so that I was never allowed to forget what I had learned six weeks ago.¬† Because I would have.

Saxon isn’t colorful.¬† It isn’t cute.¬† It isn’t creative.¬†M1 (my daughter)¬†does¬†one worksheet daily as I sit across from her at our school table.¬† The worksheets are actually two-sided:¬† one to “do at school” and one to do at “home” with a parent.¬† I have never found that she needs to do both sides of the worksheet, as they are near-perfect images of each other.¬† In fact, even on the worksheet she does daily, we will skip problems that she could do backwards and blindfolded.¬† I remember my teacher skipping problems she knew we had mastered–so I know it’s okay to skip!¬† (Which you inherently know anyway, but it’s good to have a model you trust!).

M1 is a third grader, and in another month, we will finish Saxon Math 3 (it is November).  We will proceed to Saxon Math 54.  I have homeschooling friends whose children are also in third grade and started Saxon Math 54 at the beginning of the third grade.  They skipped Saxon Math Kindergarten when they began homeschooling and just started in Saxon Math 1 in kindergarten.  I chose to not skip the books, but to rather accelerate through the books according to skill level, which means we may end and start a book anytime in the school year.  We usually finish a book, and then skip about 1/4 to 3/8 of the book that follows for the next grade level (because they repeat so much).

I have found in math, if M1 doesn’t understand a concept, it really doesn’t do any good to pound it in or drill it in.¬† It is developmental.¬† If I wait a month, she’ll have the concept down in a heartbeat with no contribution from me.¬† It just came.¬† The necessary neurons just finally developed and connected.¬† So rather than torture her or me trying to push her through an advanced book, I chose to take it at her level.¬† Where we are at in Saxon Math 3 feels good for her and me.¬† It is right at her edge of understanding.¬† If it’s too easy, we’ll do several worksheets in a day–but only 2-3 problems on the sheet that she may need further work on.¬† When we are “right at her edge”, we do a worksheet daily–most all¬†of it.¬† When I’m seeing a lack of understanding of concepts, I’ll slow math down to 2-3 lessons a week until the remote starts clicking again, taking time to brush¬†up on math facts or do hands-on fun math activities.¬† ¬†I do not do all the lesson material listed¬†in the teacher’s manual.¬† I peruse it periodically, take notes on anything I am missing by just doing the worksheets, and then ask her those things throughout the week to assess understanding.

We supplement Saxon with some good old-fashioned flash cards.¬† M1 knows her facts, but she has to think about them, and,¬†unfortunately for her, I see the place for plain-old rote memorization in math.¬† Not just “thinking about it.”¬† ¬†Remember, I was NOT a natural math-student.¬† My teachers complained to my mom when I was in 5th grade that I needed to stop counting on my fingers.¬† So my terrific mom drilled me over and over until I was blue in the face while she watched “Quincy” and “General Hospital”¬†on TV.¬† Am I dating myself?¬† Anyway, in order for me to progress with more complex math concepts, I had to KNOW that 8 +7 was¬†15.¬† Or else, I got so hung up on what 8 plus 7 was that I would not even get to the next level where 0.8 + 0.7 is 1.5!¬† In homeschooling we have a little more time to spend, but I don’t plan to get up into algebra II and realize the kid still has to think about 8 + 7 or 8X7.¬† And it is our goal is to progress through calculus in our homeschool curriculum before I send her off for secondary education.¬† Whether she becomes a medical doctor, engineer, or communications major.

By the way, M1 has difficulty focusing.¬† She knows it.¬† I know it.¬† Saxon Math knows it.¬† Whether it’s¬†Saxon Math or M1, I don’t know. But for us, this is NOT a curriculum to be done solo.¬† I can’t just hand her the worksheet and say “do it” (like I do my first grader).¬† There are days I sit by her moving my finger to the next problem as she finishes the last problem.¬† Even with the math fact pages.¬† My first grader doesn’t have this focus¬†issue, so I’m thinking it’s an M1 problem.¬† I just resign myself to the fact that math won’t get done until I am there with her.¬† My husband says he had this attention and focus¬†problem in elementary school as well; he remembers outgrowing it at about 4th grade.¬† So I’m just hanging in there.¬† Dreaming about the days when I can fold laundry while the kids do their math worksheets.¬† I do not do much on the computer with math.¬† I’m pretty old-fashoined.¬† But the other day, I saw something I may check out from Saxon Math.¬† It’s called D.I.V.E.¬† I read about it on another blog:¬† http://homemaker7.wordpress.com/

So, I’m pleased with our Saxon Math Curriculum for our math curriculum.¬† I plan to use Saxon Math through Calculus, and I sure do look forward to more advanced math!¬† I so look forward to high school homeschooling.¬† My patience for elementary school education strains my every being!¬† There’s nothing like a good challenge!

Update:¬† About a month ago we moved on to Saxon 5/4.¬† We skipped about the last 15 lessons or so in the book 3.¬† No good reason, other than I knew from past experience that the subsequent book would review for about 1/3 of the year!!¬† And it does.¬† Usually I skip ahead until the problems are not so much review for them.¬† M1 doesn’t want to skip lessons¬†in the Saxon 5/4, but it is too easy.¬† It basically drops back to addition and subtraction!!¬† So I skip lessons when I can sneak it by her.¬† However, the simplicity seems to really be building her confidence, which is great, especially because I wasn’t even aware of a lack of confidence on her part in math.

Any questions you have about Saxon Math?  ASK AWAY!

Addendum:¬† It is now April, and we have transitioned to the Saxon 5/4 book, at about Lesson 45 or so.¬† My daughter REALLY¬† was doing horrible on her timed tests.¬† She always has.¬† It was torture for her and I.¬† What we decided to try was a 20 problem timed test with 1 minute time limit.¬† She seemed to know the facts very well, but she didn’t have the needed focus and concentration for the 5 minute test.¬† She nailed the 20 problem timed test and asked to do it again immediately upon finishing because she thought it was so much fun.¬† So we’ll keep doing abbreviated timed tests for as long as we need to to build her confidence and focus.¬† Then maybe we’ll try a longer test again.