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Homeschool High School Math – Choosing Curriculum

March 23, 2009

The key to choosing a high school math program is recognizing that your preferences and learning style may not be the same as your teens.  They may learn differently, and require a different program than you would choose for yourself.

Teenagers will sometimes have pet peeves and personality quirks that interfere with different textbooks and videos.  A teen may be so annoyed by a person on video tutorial that it distracts them from learning. What if they don’t like the teacher’s accent?  Or they can’t stand learning from a white board?  What if the imitation classroom setting drives them crazy?

For these reasons, I suggest that parents give their children choices in math.  Choose some equally good, but different, math tutorials, and then allow the teen decide.  My son Kevin totally shocked me when he chose Saxon Math.  I hated the way Saxon looked.  I’m a visual learner, and I wanted photos, pictures, and graphic illustrations.  But my son loves numbers.  He liked Saxon because it had so many problems on each page, with no pictures getting in the way.  Can you believe that?  Shocking!  I would have never thought that Saxon would be a fit for my family – it would have never occurred to me!  But I gave him the choice, he chose Saxon, and now he’s in engineering and getting a minor in math!

Here are some video samples for you to look at, and help you compare choices with your teen.  Click on each link, and open the video tutorial in each one to “Algebra 1.”  Then compare them, compare them with your child, and allow your child to give feedback.  To us the differences may not matter, but to the teenager it might.  Sometimes simply the choosing will provide “ownership.”  They may (hopefully) be less likely to complain when they have chosen it for themselves.

They are not videos, but here are two options for serious bibliophiles.  If you child loves literature and hates numbers, you may have success with these books.

  • Life of Fred – many say it qualifies as a “living book” or quality literature
  • Algebra the Easy Way – a story that happens to be written by my son’s economics mentor.

There are so many math programs, I couldn’t possibly list them all.  I’m just providing a few here for you.  I hope that will help you find a math curriculum that perfectly fits your student.  Remember that it is about how your STUDENT will learn best.  It doesn’t really matter how we, as the parent, learn best.

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38 Comments »

  1. Lisa says:

    Good advice. We’re currently using Math-U-See with our 3rd and 6th grade boys, which seems to be a good fit for them.

    March 23rd, 2009 at 5:35 pm

  2. Dianne says:

    This was probably one of the biggest challenges, especially with my youngest son, who will be high school age next year.

    He’s an auditory learner and when he sees a HUGE textbook, he flips out and can’t see the forest for the trees. At the same time, he’s brilliant at math. I think that a lot of pictures (other than examples) just distract him.

    This year, we’ve been using the Key to Algebra from “Key to …” series (http://www.keypress.com/x6469.xml) and he’s done SO well with it. Since it’s a thin booklet, it doesn’t overwhelm him at all. And I love the very inexpensive price tag!

    Thanks so much for all your great tips, Lee! :D

    March 23rd, 2009 at 6:34 pm

  3. Lee says:

    Hi Diane,
    Good thinking, Diane! Keys to sounds like a PERFECT solution for your situation. I wonder if the SAT prep booklets will be a good fit for him later on, in high school? I’m really impressed that you were able to draw outside the lines like that, Diane! I think you moms are just the best!
    Blessings,
    Lee

    March 23rd, 2009 at 6:53 pm

  4. J W says:

    I remember when I found out I couldn’t hand down my older child’s curruculum to her sister. I tried, and it bombed. My younger daughter is currently doing very well with a curriculum I can’t stand. I add hands-on activities, and she’s absolutely thriving. But I can’t stand that curriculum. It’s perfect for Little Sis. I still hate it. It was heartbreaking to pack up big sister’s old books and sell them to fund little sister’s curriculum. I LOVED those books.

    I have to remind myself that it’s just the same as the situation with jeans – Big Sis can wear jeans, but jeans just don’t fit Little Sis right, so she has to wear slacks and sweatpants instead of Big Sis’ hand-me-downs. I love jeans. I don’t much like slacks or sweatpants. But it’s not about my personal preference, is it?

    March 23rd, 2009 at 8:29 pm

  5. Lee says:

    Joelle, I love the blue jeans vs. math curriculum comparison! That’s awesome!
    Blessings,
    Lee

    March 24th, 2009 at 5:56 am

  6. Pat McKeague says:

    Hello,

    I have created a website with over 4,000 videos of my students and me working problems from basic mathematics through calculus. The reaction to the site has been overwhelming positive. The address is http://www.mathtv.com. The videos are free.

    We are getting ready to launch a series of online textbooks that will be available at a significantly lower cost than the current textbooks.

    Pat McKeague

    March 26th, 2009 at 5:23 am

  7. Lara says:

    The one thing that I have learned, homeschooling 4 kids (grades 4-12) is that it is OK to not use something you bought or have. Being able to “walk” away from a text is hard – I felt I needed to use it because I bought it – wrong!!! Recognizing that a book or style of learning does not work for a certian kid is a wonderful thing. Acting on that and trying something else is even better!

    May 8th, 2009 at 4:20 pm

  8. Holly Craw says:

    Lee,

    What a wonderful idea to have a video link to the major math demos all in one place for easy comparison!

    I am a math aficionado, so I love looking at all kinds of materials. There are new programs coming out all the time, so it is wonderful to be able to see them next to each other!

    For Pat McKeague, what a brillian idea to show your students explaining the problems! Very well done!

    I want to reference this column on my blog (with proper credits of course!)

    June 28th, 2009 at 3:07 pm

  9. Math Anxiety? Getting your Homeschoolers through High School Math-without panicking! « Home-School-Community Blog says:

    [...] Homeschool High School Math – Choosing Curriculum March 23, 2009 Lee Binz [...]

    June 28th, 2009 at 8:42 pm

  10. Holly Craw says:

    Lee, here is on that you might add to your list:

    Saxon Teacher which was created by Saxon, similar to DIVE, but more extensive. It goes through every problem in the text and the test. Here is the video demo:
    http://saxonhomeschool.hmhco.com/en/saxonteacher_demo.htm

    June 28th, 2009 at 9:00 pm

  11. Lee says:

    Dear Holly,
    Thanks for the Saxon link! I kept meaning to add the new Saxon videos, and your post prompted me to finally get to it – thanks!
    Blessings,
    Lee

    June 29th, 2009 at 4:46 am

  12. Jeff Thompson says:

    Most of my kids could learn math from just about anything. The inherit good math skills from both my wife and I. I enjoy it when they get old enough that they can do real math with me. (I don’t consider arithmetic real math. It’s just something you have to learn to get there. Further, I’m lousy at it. When teaching my kids upper level math, I tell them they have to watch me to make sure I don’t make mistakes.)

    Most of them have found Math-U-See quite effective and have worked through most of that curriculum.

    However, to introduce some variety, we did geometry from Harold Jacobs “Geometry: Seeing, Doing, Understanding”, http://www.amazon.com/Geometry-Understanding-Harold-R-Jacobs/dp/0716743612/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1246981553&sr=1-1 . That worked really well.

    When we got to Calculus, we couldn’t find any homeschool oriented texts. Instead, we selected one of the most widely used and highly regarded standard textbooks, “Calculus” by Howard Anton. We bought the older, 6th edition used, because it had better reviews. She did well enough on that to pass the AP Calculus AB test.

    You may have noticed that I kept referring to “most of my kids”. With one daughter, a very creative, artistic girl, it has been a very different story. Math-U-See didn’t work well for her. We tried Teaching Textbooks. She got through it with some success, but she never used the really cool, expensive CDs. We tried Jacob’s “Geometry” for her this past her and we had good success with that. Based on that, we decided to try Harold Jacob’s “Elementary Algebra”. http://www.amazon.com/Elementary-Algebra-Harold-R-Jacobs/dp/0716710471/ref=ed_oe_h . We’ve got it sitting waiting for the next school year to begin and it looks promising for her.

    One thing that we’ve discovered with her is that we can have more success by re-arranging the standard math sequence. In public school, she would have to go strictly by the sequence. However, we went from Pre-Algebra to Geometry and then we’re going back to Algebra this year. The following year we may skip Algebra II and go to Trig. She’s struggled with Algebra, but by doing an end-run around it with Geometry (with review/preview bits in each chapter), I think she’s going to do much better.

    To a lesser degree we did something similar with my oldest, who passed the AP Calculus. She skipped Algebra II. We had to do a bit of catch up during Calculus. There were areas where we had to fill in the gaps. Then after passing AP Calculus, she had to take a math placement exam to register for her college classes. In reviewing for it, she saw a bunch of algebra that she didn’t know. So we taught her Algebra II in 3 hours one evening.

    July 24th, 2009 at 9:38 am

  13. Heart of the Matter Online – bridging the gap between child and parent says:

    [...] it doesn’t fit everyone. Here is a link to Sonlight. Have him choose his own math, using the high school math strategies [...]

    August 6th, 2009 at 8:00 pm

  14. Michaela Brown says:

    To find a ‘fitting’ Math curriculum is not always easy. You definitely want to know your child’s learning style, and than it still might be trial and error with the books. All I can say is, do not make the price tag of the curriculum the deciding factor!It is a life time investment if you buy the books that fit your child perfectly.
    btw we use Paradigm Accelerated Curriculum and it includes the variety of books and CDs, never boring!

    October 7th, 2009 at 6:26 am

  15. Natalie says:

    Lee,
    Excellent advice you’ve provided! My 15 year old son has excelled with Saxon and is currently enjoying their Advanced Math with Pre-Cal and Trig as a sophomore. One problem I hope you may be able to address…Although he has excelled in his co-op math classes and is far ahead of schedule, he performed very poorly recently on his at-home diagnostic practice for the PSAT this year as a sophomore. Any ideas why? Any ideas for a solution? I’m baffled as he LOVES math and Apologia Physics which are quite challenging! Thank you so very much for your mentorship! God bless you greatly! Natalie

    October 10th, 2009 at 6:30 pm

  16. karen says:

    I just started on algebra one with teaching textbooks. So far my son likes it so I hope this is the one.

    November 15th, 2009 at 7:43 am

  17. Wanda says:

    This is a comment on Jeff Thompson’s comment. I am wondering if Jeff has checked out Ask Dr. Callahan– since its a DVD set covering the course content of the Jacobs textbook, with each lesson explained– and more– he might find it is the perfect fit for his daughter?

    November 17th, 2009 at 11:20 am

  18. Jeff Thompson says:

    Wanda, the Ask Dr. Callahan DVD set might have worked well for my daughter. But, she didn’t really respond well to either the Math-U-See videos or the Teaching Textbooks videos. So I’m not all that driven to try her on another video set.

    Now, almost a year after my previous comment, I can say that our plan has worked out quite well. Rather than having a video set for her to watch, she has worked through the text and asked me to go over the problems with her when she had trouble. In the earlier part of the year, that experience was kind of straining our relationship and I wasn’t sure it was such a good idea. Now, though, she’s driven to get through it as preparation for the college tests and she’s finally picking up some of the concepts. We sit down together fairly frequently to go over things that are troubling her but she’s able to do more and more of it on her own.

    Now, we’re going to have to try and figure out what to have her do next year. I think we’ve exhausted Jacobs’ texts. I think trig would be the best subject to tackle, but I don’t know a good text in that area.

    April 28th, 2010 at 7:14 pm

  19. Michele says:

    I would also like to suggest http://www.mathwithoutborders.com It uses Foerster’s Algebra I, which is my favorite for algebra 1.

    May 24th, 2010 at 12:17 pm

  20. Wanda says:

    Jeff, Life of Fred has a trigonometry textbook and Companion book. If your daughter enjoys literature (?), it may be a good fit. We are currently using Life of Fred Beginning Algebra– the hilarious narrative makes learning algebra almost enjoyable!

    June 3rd, 2010 at 11:43 am

  21. Heather says:

    Life of Fred, in my family, worked best for the child who has loved math since infancy. It had so many “extras” that it was extremely rewarding for her. Her brother, my non-math child, liked the stories in LOF, but didn’t “get it” as easily. He used Teaching Textbooks, with the LOF as a supplement.

    June 6th, 2010 at 10:57 am

  22. Dawn says:

    To anyone with a child who is not remembering how to do his/her algebra two weeks after the lesson is taught: We used Saxon and discovered after a year that our son was not retaining the information taught. Was he learning impaired? Should we have him tested? No! He simply is the kind of learner who needs to know “why” and needs the idea cemented in his mind before going on – makes so much sense to me now. After much prayer another homeschooler (of older boys) urged me to look into videotext interactive’s materials. I was able to get a used set at half price and our son is ACING every quiz! Each concept is mastered and quizzed before going on so we know he is understanding each lesson. It is a bit more time-consuming for the parent at first, but then the student is off and running. There is much benefit to watching the short instructional video’s with your child so you’ll be ready to help if needed. One of the unexpected benefits of this curriculum is that a student can potentially cover both Algebra I and II in one year and be ready for the college clep test! Our son is so excited to be successful in math FINALLY! I hope this suggestion helps someone else.

    July 3rd, 2010 at 4:56 am

  23. Lee says:

    Dawn, I really think that information WILL help others – thanks for sharing!
    Blessings,
    Lee

    July 3rd, 2010 at 8:52 am

  24. Kim says:

    Dawn, I want to thank you for writing. I have an almost identical situation with my daughter–she’s a whiz at memorizing formulae and getting the right answer–for the day. But a week or a month later it’s as if she never learned it. And she is a very smart girl. She does not do well with being told how to do something, she prefers to see a problem, examine it, and try to work on it, usually hitting a brick wall, and only then will she seek help. Being introduced to the problem and being told how to work through the entire problem in advance is a definite turn-off. And I thought she was the only one….I’ve tried everything else–TT is close, but not quite there (too much text, too slow and she’s impatient)– I’m going for VideoText Interactive now.

    July 7th, 2010 at 6:35 pm

  25. April says:

    I going to homeschool my daughters next year my oldest is in 7th grade will be ready for pre algebra so I’m looking at Math TV.The book intro to Algebra is $58 but it comes with a 6 month membership to all the videos and all kinds of worksheets. Even if she dose not finished the book before the membership is up its only $20. Good price. If you don’t want the text you can get the membership for $20 for months and the online text books is in included with the video, but my daughter learns better with a book in her hands and the videos is a life saver for me.

    May 28th, 2011 at 2:10 pm

  26. Lee says:

    Hi April! I really encourage you to invest in math with a solid curriculum, and not look at the price too much. Math is something that is worth the investment because it can be difficult to teach, and getting a full curriculum that she can finish in a year will be worth the effort. Particularly when you are just starting out, having something that is easy to use, and holds your hands through the process – priceless! It’s much easier to be flexible after you have been homeschooling a while. Please see my article on math here:
    http://www.thehomescholar.com/love-of-math.php
    Blessings,
    Lee

    May 28th, 2011 at 2:50 pm

  27. Momoffour says:

    I really appreciate this discussion regarding high school math. My son just finished geography for 10th grade – we did the Abeka DVD’s and he did pretty well. Previously he did video text algrebra I, he liked it, struggled some, but I do think he got a pretty solid base.

    I am hoping for recommendations for Algebra 2. I have heard good things about Foerster’s Algebra and Trig book which I think covers Algebra 2, I can find the textbook for sale used, but am unsure of where to get the workbooks, answer key,etc that go with it,

    He is interested in IT, so I think it is important that he gets a solid Algebra 2 program. I would appreciate any recommendations. Thanks you

    June 12th, 2011 at 7:11 pm

  28. Lee says:

    If you are looking for Algebra 2, it has more to do with the fit for each child. You can read my article here:
    http://www.thehomescholar.com/love-of-math.php

    That’s said, my Computer Science major did NOT do well with Foerster’s – truly a horrendous failure for our family. That was when he decided to switch to Saxon, and he loved it. For heavy math/science kids, Saxon is the highest rated program. But they have to tolerate it!

    Blessings,
    Lee

    June 13th, 2011 at 3:06 pm

  29. Johnny says:

    I appreciate the recommendations, but what about free or very low cost resource?

    March 11th, 2012 at 1:23 pm

  30. Lee says:

    Johnny,
    This small ebook will help you:
    7 Secrets to Homeschooling Through a Financial Storm http://www.thehomescholar.com/save-money-homeschooling.php
    Blessings,
    Lee

    March 12th, 2012 at 7:05 am

  31. Kathleen says:

    I’m currently using a free trial of yourteacher.com’s algebra 1 course. There is a button on each lesson that says xtra probs, which stands for extra problems, and if you press that one you get a page of problems that is printable. We like it so far.

    Peace,
    Kathleen

    May 19th, 2012 at 3:19 am

  32. Quinessa says:

    Has anyone heard of or used Khan Acadamy? I used it when I first pulled my girls out before we had any curriculum and I enjoyed it! Its actually really easy to use and the best part is that its free! Some public schools have even started using it in the class rooms! Its easy to see what your child has done, where they need help and what “grade” they made on a lesson. I actually think I may go back to using it!

    October 9th, 2012 at 8:40 am

  33. Melanie says:

    Can you speak at all to your opinion on Math U See…I always get scared when I get to the Gamma book at what they are missing through the problem. Time, money, measurement those types of things. I am considering bailing on this again with the second child. It just seems it puts them behind and I am afraid that I am not getting all the supplementation that I need. Any opinion on Math U See for younger or older grades?

    May 26th, 2013 at 8:50 am

  34. Lee says:

    Any math curriculum is a good choice if the child likes it and tolerates it. Even the highest rated math curriculum will get poor results if the child hates it. Look at your child, and see which one would be a good fit. If you are using words like “scared” about a math program, that may not be a good fit. In the upper grades, I do suggest using a curriculum that has a video tutorial. After all, you don’t have to “teach” it or learn it yourself, you just have to make sure your child learns it.
    Blessings,
    Lee

    May 26th, 2013 at 2:51 pm

  35. NameMargaret Meyer says:

    Hi Lee,I see in your math choices you have said YourTeacher has no printed material. You can print all worksheets, notes,tests, and the lessons.

    Thanks, Margaret

    August 8th, 2013 at 3:45 pm

  36. Robyn says:

    Great idea to have your teens choose their math program. I will have my twins look at the links you provided. I didn’t see Teaching Textbooks on your list. We have been using Teaching Textbooks and LOVE it!

    September 6th, 2013 at 7:48 am

  37. Jo Ann says:

    Great comments here! Thanks to all who have posted. We were hitting a brick wall with Saxon, but after switching to Life of Fred for Pre-Alg, Alg 1, and Alg 2 with success, math is not an emotional rollercoaster anymore. We have two 10th graders volunteering to do Geometry in the summer months so they can be ready for Trig. as high school Juniors, and two very pleased moms in this co-op. Overall reviews of Life of Fred on the internet are massively positive.
    Lee, your advice is super!
    Thanks,
    Jo Ann

    March 18th, 2014 at 9:27 am

  38. Assistant to The HomeScholar says:

    Thank you for the encouragement, Jo Ann!

    Robin
    Assistant to The HomeScholar

    March 19th, 2014 at 3:28 pm

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