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What Is The Correct Math Sequence for High School?

What Is The Correct Math Sequence for High School?

So, a question many high school homeschool families ask when planning for teaching math is, what is the correct math sequence for high school? For most students, what comes first doesn't matter. The most important thing is that your child is learning math consistently each year.

There are two typical math sequences for high school :

Algebra 1 > Geometry > Algebra 2


Algebra 1 > Algebra 2 > Geometry

Some textbooks follow one way, and some follow the other way. They all try to convince you their way is the right way!  Mathematically, it doesn't matter which one comes first, Geometry or Algebra 2, to be honest. However, your child might benefit if they take geometry before 11th grade, to prepare for the PSAT and SAT.

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Wonderful feedback, Cindi!! You are so very right. That's one of the awesome things about homeschooling. Lee will love reading ... Read More
Sunday, 06 October 2019 03:59
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Do Homeschoolers Really Need Algebra and Geometry to Graduate?

Do Homeschoolers Really Need Algebra and Geometry to Graduate?
Dear Lee,
I am worried about math for my 10th grade son. He has struggled in math for years.  Due to some research about dyslexia in my younger son, I stumbled upon something called dyscalculia. I am wondering if my 10th grader has this and how it will affect his chances at getting into a college. My question is, do they really need algebra and geometry to graduate?
Thank you for your help,
~ Michelle in Oregon

Do Homeschoolers Need Algebra and Geometry to Graduate?

It can be challenging to homeschool a child with a learning disability. You may find my blog post, High School With Learning Challenges helpful. You can get some math help with my article on How to Teach High School Math at Home and choosing a curriculum.

There are "perfect fit" colleges just for your child that don't require a lot of math. I know there are colleges that "recommend" a certain level of math, but there is a college for every student. Graduation requirements also vary state by state. Be sure to look into what your state requires.

Teaching math is important, and teaching math at your child's level is important. It can help to choose the curriculum carefully, which is why I included the article above. When teaching teenagers, their learning style and your teaching style often takes a back seat to their personal preferences - which can be quite strong.

My advice is to choose a curriculum carefully, and continue to help your child at his level without quitting math. Pursue some extra help for dyscalculia. Here is a dyscalculia website for you to get started. Then move forward boldly, because there will be a college that's right for your child, even if he doesn't have algebra and geometry.

Please note: This post was originally published in August 2009 and has been revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

You can subscribe to my blog so it comes to your inbox.  It’s a daily dose of homeschool high school wisdom!
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Is Saxon Math Good for Teaching Geometry?

Is Saxon Math Good for Teaching Geometry?
I am often asked about a particular homeschool curriculum. Sandy had a great question about Saxon geometry...
We recently watched your Preparing to Homeschool High School videos in our homeschool group. They were great! I have a question about Saxon Math. My 10th grader is taking Advanced Math and has already completed Algebra 1 and 2. Do you have an opinion about Saxon and the way geometry is included? Would you suggest another route? My eighth grader has completed Algebra 1 and now in 2. I have 4 others coming along after these two so I'm wondering if this is the best route.

Plan your high school courses with confidence! Download my free ebook: The 10 Essentials for Homeschooling High School
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I think Saxon does a fine job with math, as long as the student tolerates it. My nephew is a high school calculus instructor, and he is a HUGE fan of Saxon math. The problem with teenagers is that you have to match their learning style AND their preferences. We may know their learning style, but only the teen really knows their own preferences. Check out High School Math Without the Moaning: How to Teach High School Math at Home and consider having your children look at another curriculum if they get stuck or frustrated or say they "hate" math. Be aware that all of your children *may* end up liking a different curriculum.

Saxon now has two different options. Their third or "Classic" edition incorporates geometry throughout the curriculum, but it isn't until Advanced Math that they get the bulk of geometry that is included in the SAT test. Advanced Math has a lot of geometry in it and the book states that it may take over a year to complete. Since your child is already taking Advanced Math, he should be ready to take the SAT in the spring of next year. We used Jacobs for Geometry in our homeschool, which is another wonderful program. It wasn't until I let my son choose the math curriculum that we switched to Saxon. Because my children had completed a separate geometry course, we were able to follow it up with Advanced Math as a pre-calculus course that only took one year. The other option is to use the Fourth editions of the texts, which includes a stand-alone Saxon Geometry textbook, with the geometry taken out of the fourth edition Algebra 1 and Algebra 2 texts.

It sounds like all of your children are VERY far ahead in math; good job following their lead! Include Algebra courses on their high school transcript, even if they are completed in middle school.  If you are looking for a supplement for geometry, because you're a family that loves math, take a look at Patty Paper Geometry. I loved having hands-on experiences for geometry proofs. It's NOT necessary at all, but it's a fun activity book for high school geometry that math nerds often enjoy. Our favorite supplement toward the end of the Saxon Math series was the Teaching Company Course called Calculus Made Clear. It prepared my children to handle calculus with understanding.

Please note: This post was originally published in August 2009 and has been revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

Do you enjoy our monthly newsletter, The HomeScholar Record? If so, please consider writing a brief homeschool newsletter review here, so others can find it. Thanks!
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Which Math Goes First?

Which Math Goes First?
As teenagers struggle to figure out the order of operations in algebra, parents have their own worries.  They are trying to figure out if there’s a specific order to follow for high school math.  It can be confusing!  What comes first? Should you take Algebra 2 after Algebra 1, or should Geometry come next?

Each math curriculum will have a their own order of high school classes. Some textbooks do it one way, and some do it the other way.  Of course, they all try to convince you that THEIR way is the RIGHT way!   Does it matter?  Well, yes it does matter, sorta...  sometimes... but not always...

In reality, it doesn’t matter mathematically which one comes first. There is no correct sequence you must follow, and mathematically you can teach geometry before or after algebra 2 without a problem.  However, in terms of testing, there can be some important reasons that will help determine your math sequence.  There are compelling reasons to choose the Algebra 1 – Geometry – Algebra 2 sequence.  Let me explain.

Students who take geometry before their junior year are better prepared to take the PSAT, which is administered in October. There is a lot of geometry on the PSAT, so if your student doesn’t start studying it until fall of their junior year, they probably won’t score very well on that section of the PSAT. Of course, very, VERY few people get a National Merit Scholarship (which is tied to PSAT scores) anyway.  In general, winners are students who score in the top 1/2 of 1 percent in the nation.

Even if your student isn’t destined to win a National Merit Scholarship, there’s still another purpose for taking the PSAT—it’s great practice for the SAT.  Taking the PSAT gives kids practice with sitting in a large group and filling in bubbles on paper! Seriously, it’s great practice to take a test where they don’t know all the answers, and it gives them practice with the format of the SAT. That preparation will most likely increase their SAT test scores, which will in turn probably increase the financial aid they are offered from colleges.

Geometry and algebra are quite different skills.  But geometry includes some algebra 1 skills, so it’s sort of a nice year-long review of algebra, and may give your student a chance to really digest and “become one” with algebra 1 concepts. For most people, what comes first doesn’t matter.  The most important thing is that your child is learning math consistently each year.

When you apply to colleges, you will need a great homeschool transcript.  The good news is that you can “do-it-yourself,” and save thousands of dollars.  Discover how with the Total Transcript Solution. 
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Middle School Math Credits

Middle School Math Credits

As a homeschooler, I’m sure you are wondering or will wonder at some point if math done in middle school can go on your students high school transcript. I’m here to assure you that it probably can! Math credits earned are unique to each family, so here are a few examples that you may relate to:
If a 6th grader takes Algebra with Geometry over a year and a half, do we include that on their transcript?

I was in that in that situation, and yes, you do put that on the transcript. Record it as "Early High School Credits".  There is an example of that in the Total Transcript Solution e-book.  If you have more questions, you can also look at the transcript sample that is on the website, on our Freebies Page.  If you go to Record Keeping Samples, you’ll see “Early High School Credits”.
Does it look funny if you end up with five years of math if you include Algebra 1 from 8th grade?

It doesn’t look funny; it looks like your student did more than expected, and more than expected is one of the reasons you get the good scholarships. I think that recording extra credit is a really good thing to do.

One of the things that you can do, is to decide that you want to organize your transcript by subject, so that all your maths are grouped together. Or, you can organize your transcript by year, and show what your student took in 9th grade.  This is where your display your student's Early School Credits.  Those credits that were earned in the 8th grade.

I don’t really know if colleges have a preference regarding the way you organize your credits, but I will say that they do prefer that you exceed expectations in some way.  Exceeding expectations is a good thing when applying to colleges. It shows that you aimed for excellence in your homeschooling endeavors.

Do you like getting this sort of help for homeschooling high school?  Gold Care Club members get extended answers to their most challenging high school issues.   

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Geometry before or after Algebra 2?

Geometry before or after Algebra 2?
Karen on Facebook needed some guidance about math.
"I would like opinions on the pros and cons of these sequences: (Algebra 1 -Geometry- Algebra 2) versus. (Algebra 1-Algebra 2- Geometry). Your thoughts?" ~ Karen

It's best to complete geometry, or at least start it, before the PSAT (when possible). For that reason, I prefer geometry first. Geometry is also a nice review of Algebra 1, so you spend a year getting those Alg 1 concepts all stuck in your brain good and tight before moving on to Algebra 2.  That's another reason I prefer geometry first. But you know, there is some logic in going Algebra 1 then Algebra 2, because it's just a continuation after all. My preference is just a preference, and other people suggest going the other route. We used Jacob's Geometry, by the way, and it was wonderful.

This blog post may help explain it: What is the Correct Math Sequence in High School?

I am now the Seattle Homeschool Examiner.  You can read my homeschool articles here.
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Lee Binz
Upper level math classes can really go in any order, often it depends on the curriculum. Here's another blog posts that can help: ... Read More
Thursday, 30 May 2019 21:32
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Should Homeschoolers Take the ACT in 9th grade?

Should Homeschoolers Take the ACT in 9th grade?
Should a 9th grader take the ACT or SAT?

My daughter, Faith, is in 9th grade.  NC requires we administer a nationally recognized test each year, which has been either CAT or Woodcock-Johnson. However, it had been recommended that I use the ACT from here on out to familiarize her with the test in hopes of achieving the highest score for possible scholarship opportunities.  But yesterday, while actually in the midst of composing my email to you, I hear her crying.  She was  finally getting into the test prep material I had bought for her and she was so upset about the prospects of doing poorly on the test.  Is this a bad idea? How did /or would you handle this? Any suggestions would be so appreciated.
~ Laura

Dear Laura,

I think it's a bad idea to give the ACT in 9th grade.  It is intended to measure 11th grade skills. The test does include some algebra and some geometry.  For that reason, taking the test early may only cause frustration.  If the student simply CAN’T score well, because they don’t have the requisite math, then the test will only be an exercise in frustration.  You don’t want to put your child into a situation where they will feel badly about a test they will need to take next year or the year afterward.

In schoolwork, particularly in a homeschool based on mastery of concepts, children are only exposed to tests where they might score 100%.  If they are faced with the SAT, PSAT or ACT early in high school, it may not be possible for them to score well.  If they miss all the questions they have not covered yet, and a few "normal" questions that are difficult as well, they may only get a much, much lower percentage of questions correct.  Taking the test very early can backfire and cause test anxiety that may make their scores worse in the long run.

Instead of practicing test prep to take the ACT test, I suggest that you teach individual skills that are measured by the test.  Teach quick essay skills, vocabulary, and math at their level.  That's wonderful preparation for the test.  Once your children are in 10th grade, you can slowly introduce test prep at home, and have them take the test when it will help them.

There is an alternative to the ACT, called the PLAN.  It is intended for 10th grade.  It is similar to the PSAT, because it's intended to be taken earlier in high school as preparation for the college admission tests. Notice that they still recommend it for 10th grade, not for 9th grade. You can get more information here:

For more information, I have a class called "High School Testing."  That class is included as a bonus with the Total Transcript Solution and the Comprehensive Record Solution.  It is also part of the Convention at Home Kit.

Lisa Baughn wrote a review of my Total Transcript Solution. She wrote, “With Lee’s help, any home educating family can create a marvelous, intriguing, scholarship-inspiring transcript.”  Read Lisa’s Review.
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