Mailbag: More on Saxon Math

Monday Mailbag

I received messages from two different readers last week about how our family uses Saxon Math, so I thought I’d tackle all their questions in the same column. You’ll find my replies (in italics) directly after each inquiry:

Hi Jennifer!

I have a question about math .. I am currently using Horizons K and just bought Horizons 1 for next year. All is going well, but I am considering doing the Saxon switch the way you suggested, since Horizons doesn’t actually give many teaching suggestions in the manual.

Q: Is Saxon 5/4 supposed to be for 4th grade?
A: I always heard it was designed for advanced fourth graders or regular fifth graders.

Q: Did you go up to 3rd grade with Horizons and then switch?
A: Not normally. I usually switched after Horizons 2, but to make the transition easier, I would (and still do) write out the problem set for my child throughout Saxon 54 (by copying down all the problems and leaving boxes and blanks for the answers). I also read the word problems aloud with them. When we first started homeschooling, neither Horizons nor the lower level Saxon were available, so I started with Saxon 54 much earlier than I might have otherwise, simply because I hadn’t found anything I liked as well. It worked for us, so I’ve continued that with my other children, usually switching to Saxon when they’re about 7 years old (second grade). I don’t recommend making the switch that early if your child is struggling with the math concepts presented in Horizons, but if she seems bored and ready for more of a challenge, let her have it.

Q: And is Saxon 5/4 the only book I will need to teach the same way that you did using the older manuals, that one being first?
A: The student text is all I’ve ever used to teach. I just read through the lesson aloud with my student and work all the examples either on a piece of paper if he’s sitting beside me or on a white board if I’m teaching more than one child at once. You will probably also want to buy the solution manual (which will make grading homework much faster) and the test booklet, but both those books are supplemental and will not be used for actual teaching, only for evaluation).

Thank you for your time and input!

Hi Jennifer –

I’m seeking math advice. I am assuming some of your children love math…I have one of those. My 7th grade daughter has (pretty successfully) done Saxon Algebra I this year. I am debating over her doing Algebra II next year or something else…but I don’t know what.

Q: Is 8th grade too early to start Algebra II?
A: That really depends on the child. If she did well in Algebra 1 and enjoys math enough to continue with upper level courses in high school, such as trigonometry, analytic geometry, calculus, differential equations, maybe statistics, then by all means let her continue.

If you are planning to stop after Algebra 2 or even Advanced Math, so that she will go several years in high school doing no math at all, then I would recommend stretching it out a bit more, maybe interjecting a year of Geometry before moving onto Algebra 2, so that those key math concepts are all relatively fresh when it’s time to take her SAT.

Either way, I would recommend she take the related CLEP test immediately upon completion of each level of math beyond and including Algebra 2.

Q: Are you one who recommends doing Algebra or Pre-Algebra twice no matter what?
A: No, that isn’t me. I’d have no qualms about repeating either course if my child hadn’t mastered the material, but I don’t see any reason to do so if he’s maintained high grades throughout the first run-through.

Q: What about your math lovers…could you share the “math path” they took? Year by year, what worked well for them?
A: The strongest of my math lovers “tested out” of Math 87 (which is entirely a review year) sometime during 7th grade. I printed off all the tests for that course, and my students would take one a day. As long as they made A’s on the exams, we’d move on to the next test. If their grade dropped to a “B” or lower, we’d stop and review the related material, then move on.

From there, it was Algebra 1/2 in 8th grade, Algebra 1 in 9th, Algebra 2 in 10th (immediately followed by the College Algebra CLEP test), Advanced Math in 11th (followed by the Pre-Calculus CLEP), and Calculus in 12th (followed by the Calculus CLEP).

A couple of my children spent much longer in Algebra at home (at their own request), trying to solidify those concepts in their minds, then took trig, analyt, and calculus at our local junior college, either as dual credit courses before graduation or as part of their degree plans after. That approach works better for a lot of moms, who may feel out of their depth in the upper level math classes, so don’t overlook that option.

Thank you SO much! I really appreciate your time!

How soon can we start Saxon?
This is a photo my daughter took of my grandson a couple of years ago… and, yes, three is way too young for this level of Saxon. He should learn to read and write (and use the potty) first!

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