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Top 6 Tips for High School Math

Top 6 Tips for High School Math
Do you get cold sweats just thinking about teaching your teen high school math? Did your last exposure to trigonometry leave you covered in hives? If so, you are not alone! Every homeschool parent "loses it" at some point during high school math.&nbs...
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Judgement Free Math Tips

Judgement Free Math Tips
This is totally a no judgment zone! Let's talk about homeschool math without making you cry. My article  High School Math without the Moaning  can help! Our goal is to get through one math level per year. There is no specific level you need...
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Correct Math Sequence

Correct Math Sequence

Correct Math Sequence

In what order do you need to teach math? It may surprise you that the order of math covered doesn’t matter as much as ensuring math is taught for four full years in high school. Their high school transcript needs to include four or more credits of math. Four years of math is important because it’s required for high school graduation in every state. It’s also important because almost all colleges require a full four years of math.

Even if your child already has four or five years of math by the time they start high school, you still want to teach four years of math while they’re in high school (at high school age). However, that doesn’t mean your child has to do four years of upper level math, including calculus. It just means they should continue to work at their own level and keep moving forward every year.

Yes, it’s wonderful to complete calculus in high school, but not everyone is going to get there. Just because they don’t get to calculus doesn’t mean they can’t get into college! Cover math every single year regardless of the level they achieve.

The sequence may vary. There are two ways math is usually introduced:

Algebra 1 –Geometry –Algebra 2 –Trigonometry or Pre-Calculus –Calculus
Algebra 1 –Algebra 2 –Geometry –Trigonometry or Pre-Calculus –Calculus.

Try to have geometry completed before eleventh grade if you can. Children take the PSAT, SAT, or the ACT in eleventh grade and those tests include geometry. If geometry is finished before eleventh grade, your child will score better on these tests. For that reason, I prefer the first sequence option because they’re more likely to complete geometry before eleventh grade.

Geometry is completely different from algebra, much like biology is different from chemistry. Kids that hate algebra may love geometry. Introducing geometry in the middle gives kids a break. Geometry class also has some review of Algebra 1 concepts in it. As you balance numbers, you use some of the skills that you learned in Algebra 1. By completing Algebra 1 followed by geometry, your child gets a whole year of Algebra 1 practice before going on to Algebra 2. It can help students who are not secure in their Algebra 1 skills get those skills into their brain before they have to start Algebra 2.

Would you like to learn more about homeschool math?

This article is Chapter 1 of my Coffee Break Book, High School Math the Easy Way. Regular price is $2.99 on Kindle or $6.95 in paperback. Grab your copy here today!

Once you've read it, I would be so grateful if you left a quick review to let me know what you think. Thanks so much!

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Choosing Homeschool High School Math Curriculum

Choosing Homeschool High School Math Curriculum

This post contains affiliate links. If you click and buy I may make a few pennies, but not enough for a latte.

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Dry Your Tears! Help for Teaching High School Math is Here!

Dry Your Tears! Help for Teaching High School Math is Here!

This post contains affiliate links. If you click and buy I may make a few pennies, but not enough for my own coffee break.

Dry Your Tears! Help for Teaching High School Math is Here!

What are you using for math next year? Do you get cold sweats just thinking about teaching your teen high school math? Did your last exposure to trigonometry leave you covered in hives? If so, you are not alone! Every homeschool parent "loses it" at some point during high school math.

This brand new Kindle Book will help you discover curriculum options, learn how to keep great math records, and get beyond mere good intentions to actually get the job done in your homeschool. There's even a special section on how to teach any particularly nerdy kids that might be living under your roof.  In this book, you will learn how to teach high school math with the correct sequence, curriculum, attitude, and speed.

As a part of the Coffee Break Series, my books are designed especially for parents who don’t want to spend hours and hours reading a 400-page book on homeschooling high school! You will get simple strategies, resources, and tools at your fingertips, along with proven strategies to not just survive but thrive while teaching high school math.

Never overwhelming, always accessible and manageable, each book in the series will give parents the tools they need to tackle the tasks of homeschooling high school, one warm sip at a time.

This is the 30th book in my Coffee Break Book Series. Can you believe it? THIRTY books! If you are looking forward to reading them all, maybe now is a good time to buy yourself a Kindle. If you do, I suggest this one.

Please take a moment to download High School Math The Easy Way for free, through June 5!  It's a short, fun book with simple strategies for homeschool parents in over their heads.

I also have two large and detailed books when you are doing the heavy lifting of homeschooling high school. Although they are also available on Kindle, these two read best in paperback.
College Admission and Scholarships
Setting the Records Straight

When you are done with the book, please leave a review on Amazon too!  We really count on your reviews - thank you so much for taking a moment to let me know what you think of this new book.

Everyone has their own opinion on book formats. Do you prefer print books or e-books?

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Math is Important!

Math is Important!
The engineering community is very concerned about math. The statistics paint a grim picture.

Math is Important!

1. Jobs requiring math are increasing at four times the rate of overall job growth
2. American children rank 13th in the world when it comes to basic math skills
3. Less than 1/3 of American 8th graders are at least proficient in math
4. 93% of American 6th to 8th graders realize they need math skills later in life, but few directly link math to their dream jobs

This 2011 survey was conducted by Raytheon. They have a lot of great math information on their website,, with the goal of making middle school math fun.

Math is important. We can do better than the public schools. In our homeschooli, we can be consistent with math, choose a curriculum that fits our children, and teach for mastery each step of the way. Our country needs Americans to work at American jobs to support the American economy. That's going to require us to teach math, even if we feel uncomfortable with it ourselves.

For more information on how to teach math, check out my article, 9 Ways to Actually Get Math Done this Year.

Do you make math important in your homeschool? Do you find it difficult to teach math? Please share!

Please note: This post was originally published in May 2011 and has been revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
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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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Mastery vs. Perfection

Mastery vs. Perfection
I receive many questions from homeschoolers about math. This one is about mastery vs. perfection when it comes to math.

Mastery vs. Perfection

Dear Lee,

Thank you very much for sharing so much with the rest of us homeschoolers! I have a question regarding carelessness.  Using math as an example, my 12 yr. old son is working out of Saxon Algebra 1 currently and is understanding everything very well but gets a few wrong (2-4 on average, occasionally up to 6) due almost always to carelessness. He will work the incorrect ones over again and get them correct and truly understands what he did wrong. However, I have decided to cut him back to working only half a lesson in the hopes that he will take his time and strive for 100 percent and if he does not score a 90 percent or higher then he has to re-do the half-lesson over again until he achieves this. What are your thoughts on this?? He is definitely heading in the direction of engineering and I know how important it is for him to be careful.

Thank you for your thoughts,

Carelessness, especially with math, is a complicated subject.  Homeschool parents want their kids to do well, understand a subject and achieve mastery. We want our children to learn about hard work and the benefits of doing a job well. But there is another side to carelessness that we have to consider.

When I subtract a purchase in my checkbook, I don't always get the answer perfectly right. Sometimes I slip up, get the answer wrong, and have to search until I find the arithmetic error so it balances again. Yet I do believe I have achieved mastery over subtraction!

Mastery is different than perfection. Your child may demonstrate mastery by scoring 90% on an assignment (you may consider they have mastery with less than that). They shouldn't be required to be "perfect" though. To be honest, I did have my children correct all their math errors in their daily work.  When they got it wrong, they corrected it. Like you, I was hoping the tediousness of correcting would encourage them to be more careful in their daily work. Just don't jump from requesting being "careful" to expecting "perfection." Striving for perfection can cause strife and possibly rebellion, because we all know, intuitively, that we simply can't be perfect.

I understand this situation, because I have a math and engineering loving son. I like the idea of holding your child to a high standard of 90%. I like the idea of assigning half the problems so he has time to be more careful. I like the idea of re-doing any problems he misses. Just make sure you steer clear of perfection, and strive instead for mastery. Tell your son that 90% is what you consider mastery.

Do you strive for mastery in your homeschool? Are you frustrated by a child who is careless in his work? Please share!

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

See those cute buttons at the bottom of these blog posts?  Those are there to help you share helpful posts with others who might need encouragement.  Go ahead and give it a try.  I promise that nothing will blow up!
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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
This post contains affiliate links. If you click and buy I may make a few pennies, but not enough for a latte.

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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Dave Ramsey's Foundations in Personal Finance for Homeschool - Review

Dave Ramsey's Foundations in Personal Finance for Homeschool - Review

Dave Ramsey's Foundations in Personal Finance for Homeschool - Review

Did you learn how to take care of your own, personal finances when you were in high school? One of the many benefits of homeschooling is having the time to cover life skills in your homeschool, skills your children will need for the rest of their lives! Many homeschoolers turn to Dave Ramsey to help them teach their kids how to handle their finances once they've left the nest.

I love Dave Ramsey's products! Dave Ramsey asked me to do a review for his brand new program, Foundations in Personal Finance for Homeschool. My good friend, Renita, was kind enough to review a copy on my behalf. Here's what she had to say:
I received Foundations in Personal Finance for Homeschool by Dave Ramsey to review. I was thrilled and couldn't wait to start on it. I mean who doesn't want to do finances and math, right?!

Seriously though, if I had had this course in high school I might not have had the problems with money that I did. This course is a practical approach to personal finances that is interesting and enjoyable for students.

And it's even a FUN curriculum!
The DVDs are engaging and the material delivered in a way that is fun. The lessons are around 15 minutes each but you will want to watch more than just the one. Really. I didn't expect to have fun while learning about finances. That just doesn't even seem possible but Dave Ramsey and his team have come up with a way to do it.

Renita also says:
I can't recommend Foundations in Personal Finance for Homeschool enough. Every student NEEDS to go through this course to help them avoid the pitfalls that come from not understanding how to make their money work for them.

Foundations in Personal Finance for Homeschool would make a great half credit course in personal finance for homeschoolers! You can also get further ideas for promoting financial skills in your homeschool and more in Beyond Academics: Preparation for College and for Life.

Have you always been curious about what Dave Ramsey's homeschool programs are like? You can read more about what Renita thought about this Dave Ramsey program once she tried it out in her own homeschool and why she recommends it so highly by reading the full review on her blog, Homedaze.

Did you learn how to handle your finances back in high school? Are you making it a priority to teach your kids? If you've used Dave Ramsey's programs in your homeschool, let other homeschoolers know how you liked them in the comments!

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Teaching Math the Right Way Tip #6

Teaching Math the Right Way Tip #6
Teaching Math the Right Way Tip #6

Choose to Teach Math

Of all the subjects I hear homeschoolers moan about, math is towards the top of the list!  Math seems like such hard work, for both teacher and students! It takes time, practice, and review; then we rinse and repeat! Even for math-loving parents it can be challenging.  As a math person myself, I actually enjoyed teaching math to my kids. At least until we got into Algebra 2, and at that point I joined the ranks of “in over my head” homeschool parents!

Do you know what I have learned about homeschool math? Everybody loses it at some point.  Sooner or later, we all throw up our hands in despair and feel like giving up.  But you know, homeschool teachers aren’t the only teachers who feel that way! The feeling tends to be universal!  So we learn how to compensate, and get the job done with a minimum of hassle. If math is not your forte, don’t be afraid. There are lots of things you can do to make it as painless as possible, both for you and your children.

As homeschool parents, perhaps you have thought how important it is that we convey work ethic. We want to teach our children the value of hard work. That’s the great thing about high school math.  Sure, colleges want to see advance mathematical thinking, but the value of math goes far beyond college admission!  The real value is teaching kids to work hard.  It’s not easy, and it takes effort.  It’s good to teach our children that effort is a good thing.  So don’t give up!  Remember, you are teaching your children the value of hard work.  Important note:  the lessons in hard work are for your kids.  For you, I have some tips to make it easier!

Let's face it.  Math won't be a career choice for everyone.  It is, however, a very important skill for daily living.  How often have I watched the news and prayed that God would raise up a generation of leaders who understood – in a profoundly meaningful way – that a trillion dollars was a whole boatload of money?

Also, spend a little time reflecting on this truth – every time a plane crashes or a bridge falls or a patient dies because of a hospital error, you can bet that someone, somewhere messed up the math.  We all wish that would never happen, but it does.  Let's make it our goal to stem the tide of math mediocrity.  You get the idea.  Math is important and, for some children at least, it will be fun.  Studies show that adult attitudes about math have a profound effect on whether children grow up to be math lovers, math haters or just math indifferent.  It turns out that moaning about math isn't such a good idea after all.  Kids are wonderful mimics so let's all try to give them a positive perspective on math.  You will make the world a better (and safer) place.

This article will help you choose curriculum that will be effective for your children.  You can be successful!  Read this article to find out how! High School Math Without the Moaning

If you need any extra help, you will really appreciate my Gold Care Club, full of templates and tools to help you homeschool high school.
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Teaching Math the Right Way Tip #5

Teaching Math the Right Way Tip #5
Teaching Math the Right Way Tip #5
Choose the Correct Supplements

There are so many great supplements for math it would be impossible to list them all!  Here are some ideas to get the creative juices flowing.

If you have a child who loves literature but hates numbers, it may be helpful to supplement a math program with books.  One option is the book “Algebra the Easy Way” by Douglas Downing (who happens to be my son’s economics mentor!).  Another is Living Math, a website ( with a variety of links for literature lovers, including a really long book list!
For kids who will benefit from some hands-on supplements, try “Family Math for Middle School” which we used as a supplement for algebra.  “Patty Paper Geometry” is great for hands-on exploration of geometric proofs.  We also supplemented pre-calculus and calculus with the videos “Change and Motion: Calculus Made Clear,” which my children loved so much, they watched them twice!!

Math games and supplements:

Learn how to create records of your homeschool that will attract the attention of your dream college, and open doors to admission and great scholarships.  Get the Total Transcript Solution!
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Teaching Math the Right Way Tip #4

Teaching Math the Right Way Tip #4
Teaching Math the Right Way Tip #4

Choose the Correct Speed

Whatever level you are facing, teach math at their level, and continue moving forward. Complete one lesson every day, never miss a day. If your child understands a concept, skip the lesson and move on. It's extremely helpful with math-reluctant kids to include math during the summer, so they maintain their understanding.  If possible, do a math section during the summer, unless you are traveling.  Most kids lose 3 months’ worth of progress over each summer, and then they need 3 months of review each fall to catch up again.  You can see that doing math in the summer can REALLY speed things up!

Don’t go backward, trying to achieve the impossible "perfection" in math. Consider your own checkbook for a moment.  Like you, I have mastery over math, and I can add, subtract, multiply and divide as well as any 6th grader.  But my checkbook? I don't always exhibit perfection in math, and I regularly make math mistakes in my checkbook!  So if you are waiting for perfection before moving on, it will be frustrating to everyone in the long run.

What is required is that your student is reasonably successful in math, and understands it reasonably well.  Four years of math is required.  For some, that means a daily struggle over four years that will end in Algebra 1 at the end of high school. Sure, it's not optimal, but it does happen.  For other kids, four years of math can leave mom or dad in the dust, and the child pushes forward into calculus and differential equations.

Learn how to translate all those great homeschool high school classes into the words and numbers that colleges will understand.  Get the Total Transcript Solution!
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Teaching Math the Right Way Tip #3

Teaching Math the Right Way Tip #3
Teaching Math the Right Way Tip #3

Have the Correct Attitude

They say attitude is everything. It's so true, especially for math! Try not to instill or encourage fear of math.  Do what you can to make it enjoyable or tolerable. Don't label yourself or your children as math-haters.  Another saying is "fake it till you make it." Also true in math! For best results, try to convey a matter-or-fact attitude, rather than horror about daily work.

If math still seems overwhelming for you, and you find yourself never getting around to doing it, you’re not alone. Every homeschool parent has at least one subject that they simply don’t like, understand, tolerate, enjoy, or remember to do each day.  If math is the weak area, the best way to make sure you do it every day is to put it first on the list of things to do.  Your weak area becomes your homeschool priority each day.

Make it the first subject you do in the morning, the thing you do every day. Even if a fabulous opportunity comes your way, get math done before doing the fun stuff.  Even if you are offered free tickets to the play, or even a field trip to the Superbowl, get math done first (unless the Seahawks are playing, of course!).  Never leave the house until that one thing is done.  Make sure you put it first each day, and try to do it first in the morning when you are both fresh. Make it the first curriculum you buy each year, and the one you’re most willing to spend money on. Be willing to spend more money on math than any other subject. It’s a great investment with math particularly, but it's worth it for any weak area.  If the math curriculum you buy isn’t working, purchase a new one that does work, because this is your weak area and you need to invest in it. These strategies will help you compensate for your weakness in this area, and will greatly increase your chances for success!

Learn how to save money homeschooling with my free Special Report: “7 Secrets to Homeschooling Through a Financial Storm."
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Teaching Math the Right Way Tip #2

Teaching Math the Right Way Tip #2
Choose the Correct Curriculum

A common question between homeschoolers is “what math curriculum do you use?”  We all have our preferences, but in the end there isn’t really one “best” curriculum for everyone, despite what the sales people may tell you at homeschool conventions.  There’s no magic program that will guarantee your child will love math, but there is one key which will at least prevent them from HATING it, and that is to use a curriculum that fits your child.

Here is the bottom line for finding the correct math text. The best curriculum is the one that matches your child’s learning style, and doesn’t drive them crazy.  Even if your best friend swears by it, even if your most trusted advisor says it’s the best math program, if it’s not a good fit for your child, it won’t work well. The best program is the one that helps your child learn the most.

So how do you find that best-fit curriculum?  When your kids were in elementary school, you probably could just bring home whatever curriculum you thought would be best, and your kids would go along with whatever you chose.  But when kids become teenagers, they start to have personal preferences about a lot of things, and your preferences and learning style may not be the same as theirs.  Sometimes they develop pet peeves and personality quirks that make them dislike a particular book or video, such as a teacher’s accent or the use of a white board.  It may not be reasonable or logical, but when you’re honest, you’ll realize that we all have pet peeves or things that drive us crazy.

To avoid this problem, let your teens have some choice in their curriculum.  Perhaps you can present them with several different options, and let them choose the one they prefer.  You might be surprised by what they choose. When I homeschooled, I was completely shocked at my son’s choice of Saxon for math.  I had previously rejected that option.  Personally, I hated the look of it —all print and no pictures—but that’s exactly why my son loved it! He likes numbers, and thought pictures just got in the way.  Imagine what would have happened if I had brought home a curriculum that I liked, based on my preferences, with lots of photos and colors! He would have hated it, and might have ended up hating math, and thinking it just wasn’t for him.

In addition to finding a curriculum that fits your child, make sure that it is intended for homeschoolers. You don’t want to use a curriculum that assumes you have a thorough understanding of differential equations if you don’t even know what that is, right? Homeschool curriculum will not assume that a math major is teaching a classroom.  Instead, they will assume that a parent like you is teaching a child like yours. Video tutorials are always helpful, and 800-numbers are a plus, in case your kids (or you) get stuck. When my kids came up with an answer on a test that didn’t match what the answer guide said, I made them call the 800-number to see whether their answer was right before I gave them credit for it!  No matter how much they whined about it.  And they did whine about it.  All. The. Time. True story.

Learn how to homeschool with complete confidence using my DVD, Preparing to Homeschool High School.  
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