## High School Math - In a Nutshell

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

## How to Teach High School Math at Home

Do you know what I have learned about high school math? Every homeschool parent loses it at some point. Sooner or later, we all throw up our hands in despair and feel like giving up. 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 many 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 to instill a 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 advanced 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. Don’t give up! Important note: the lessons in hard work are for your kids. For you, I have some tips to make it easier!

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## Correct Sequence for High School Math

Four years of high school math is important because it’s required for graduation in every state. It’s also important because almost all colleges require a full four years of high school math. 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!

Sometimes parents wonder what the “correct sequence” for math is, and stress about making sure they’re doing it “right.” The good news is that in the grand scheme of things, there is no “right” sequence to do high school math. There is a "typical” sequence, which usually has two flavors:

**algebra 1 – geometry – algebra 2 – trigonometry/pre-calculus – calculus**

Or

**algebra 1 – algebra 2 – geometry – trigonometry/pre-calculus – calculus**

Some homeschool math curriculum providers will try to tell you that one way is “best” but it doesn’t matter which order you choose. It’s best to complete geometry before 11th grade if possible; that’s when students take the PSAT/NMSQT®, and that test includes geometry. Completing the class before 11th grade can improve the score on that test.

Geometry is completely different from algebra, but it does review some algebra concepts. For that reason, if your child struggled with algebra 1, taking geometry next can firm up their algebraic understanding before they go into the more difficult algebra 2 concepts.

If they didn’t like algebra, then geometry can give them a bit of a break before they have to tackle it again as algebra 2. But for many people, the sequence of math isn’t terribly important; the most important thing is that your child learns high school math consistently each year.

After algebra 2, some parents branch out to consumer math, business math, or statistics. Personal finance is usually not considered a math class, but might be a wonderful elective. Some colleges may even accept general lifestyle "quantitative analysis" over a traditional mathematics textbook, and are looking for daily interaction with numbers: measuring, calculating, number-crunching in real life.

## Correct Curriculum for High School Math

## Correct Attitude for High School Math

They say attitude is everything. It's so true, especially for math! Try not to instill or encourage a 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 covering it, you’re not alone. Every homeschool parent has at least one subject 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 cover 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 cover 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 a play, or even the Super bowl, 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 your child does 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!

## Correct Speed for High School Math

Teach math at your child's level, and continue moving forward. Assign your child 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, cover 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; 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.

Your student needs to be reasonably successful in math, and understand 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 in the final year 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.

## Homeschool Math Curriculum Options

Below are brief overviews of the most popular math curricula. You can find video samples online for most, so your child can compare the programs and give feedback. Another benefit of letting them help choose is that they might have more ownership of the course and won’t complain so much! (Caution: actual results may vary.)

**Saxon**

This is the most popular homeschool math curriculum, top rated by math experts. There is nothing but math problems on the page, so it thrilled my math-loving son and he chose these books for that reason!

**DIVE CDs Video for Saxon**

These are the original videos that coordinate with Saxon books, and intended for use by Christian homeschoolers. This is what I used, and I loved them. DIVE into Math Video Example

**Saxon Teacher Video**

Created by Saxon textbooks, these video lessons go through every problem in the text and the tests. Saxon Teacher Video

**Homeschool With Saxon Video**

Another tutorial for Saxon math, this is a video of a live instructor, and was intended for a wide variety of classroom and homeschool settings, so it may have a classroom feel. Homeschool with Saxon

**Teaching Textbooks**

Teaching Textbooks is very popular, and created by Harvard graduates. Each level includes videos for lessons and answers, and demonstrates every problem in the book. Video Examples and Information

**VideoText**

This has been around for years, and uses interactive video-based strategies. Video Example

**Chalkdust**

This has also been around a long time, and uses a DVD format. Video Example

**Thinkwell**

Thinkwell has been around a long time. It only allows you to take a test once, which can be frustrating. Video Example

**Abeka**

Abeka uses a classroom setting in their video. I have watched HOURS of these videos when I was placed next to them in a convention, and the classroom setting drove me crazy! Video Example

**Bob Jones**

This is a Christian curriculum intended for homeschoolers. They offer an online class for high school math that seems very much like a school environment, so it's not my favorite. Video Example

**Math-U-See**

I have heard that this program does a good job with hands-on learners. Video Example

**Ask Dr. Callahan**

This video works with the Harold Jacobs Algebra book, which was the book we used and loved. Ask Dr. Callahan

**ALEKS Math**

This is a video-aided instruction program for independent learners that many homeschoolers love. It’s web-based, so it does not include a textbook. ALEKS Homepage

**Life of Fred**

This is a literature-based curriculum. It may require additional practice problems for students to be completely comfortable with math concepts. Life of Fred

## Textbook Supplements

If your child 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 (livingmath.net) with a variety of links for literature lovers, including a 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

- LivingMath.net lists fun math readers, primarily for early grades
- Algebra the Easy Way is literature-based math for high school
- Family Math has a wide variety of math games to do at home
- Patty Paper Geometry provides hands-on experiments with geometry
- Great Courses: Calculus Made Clear provides great explanations of calculus concepts
- Khan Academy offers video math lessons
- For extra practice, check out the “Key to” series and the test prep workbooks I suggest in my 6 Top Tips on Tests article
- Once you get past calculus, find higher level math classes from MIT Open Courseware

## The Home Stretch

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 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.

## Recommended Resources

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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. Don't give up! This book will teach you simple strategies even if you are in WAY over your head!

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