by Lee Binz
Teaching Teens to Tolerate Math
I’m a math and science gal, but don’t be intimidated. I have felt like a failure teaching my fair share of high school level classes. Literary analysis was a bomb, and art was FAR to messy for me to tolerate. I feel woefully inadequate when I hear about wonderful Socratic dialog, nature studies, and hands-on history projects. We all have our strengths and weaknesses.
The key to choosing curriculum is making sure you use curriculum intended for a homeschool parent. That way it assumes you know NOTHING about the subject, instead of being a teacher with a degree in the subject. Look for some video tutorials that can do the explanations for you. And look for support, so your child can call a toll free number and speak to a live person when they have questions.
There are some specific ideas that will help you choose math. These are the keys that can help ensure that your child will tolerate math. Granted, you may not be able to force your child into LOVING math. But you can prevent them from HATING math! The key is making the curriculum fit the child.
Sometimes parents will ask me where they can purchase the best math curriculum. The truth is that the best curriculum is the one that fits your child. It doesn’t matter if the math program is the highest rated by all reviewers if it doesn’t match your child. But if your child uses a different program and it’s a good fit, they will learn MORE than if it’s the top rated curriculum but they hate it.
In my opinion, the math or science program that best prepares your child best is the program that helps them learn the most.
As children get older, it’s not just about the parents teaching style and the child’s learning style. When they become teenagers, you have to add a third dimension: the student’s preference. Teens can have some issues that may interfere with a curriculum, even though it seems like a logical choice, and we may not always know what that preference is. That’s why I’m a big fan of having the child give input, particularly with math.
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.
provides 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 an option that is not my favorite
Saxon Math: nothing but math problems on the page, so it thrilled my math-loving son and he actually chose these books against my wishes! There are a variety of tutorials that accompany these books.
DIVE CDs are a Christian curriculum intended for homeschoolers.
HomeschoolWithSaxon This is a different tutorial for Saxon math. It is video of a live instructor and was intended for a wide variety of classroom and homeschool settings, so it may have a classroom feel.
Teaching Textbooks are very popular, and they demonstrate every problem in the book. Here is a link to find the Algebra 1 demonstration .
Sonlight Teaching Textbooks Algebra 1:
This has been around for years.
Click on the “view sample video” button. Thinkwell only allows you to take a test once. It looks a little more modern than some.
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. Look under grade 9 to view the sample.
Ask Dr. Callahan
his video support works with the Harold Jacobs Algebra books, which was the book we used and loved.
Life of Fred
Math Relief is a set of video lessons without a textbook, and the instructor is a Christian.
ALEKS, which is a video-aided instruction program for independent learners that many homeschoolers love. It's web-based, so it does not include a textbook. Artificial intelligence targets gaps in student knowledge.
There are many good math and science programs. None of them are perfect. In fact, you perfectionists out there will need to accept the fact that each will have some typos and errors. For homeschoolers, make sure the curriculum choice has an 800 number. That way you can find out what the errors in the book may be, should you run across something. But many of those curricula are good, but the “best” in the one that helps your child learn the most, and that will vary.
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.
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. Not textbooks, these can be useful as supplements.
- Algebra the Easy Way – a story that happens to be written by my son’s economics mentor.
- Living Math – a wide variety of links to help literature-lovers engage with math
You don’t have to choose between math “investigations” or extensive explanations and practice. I love the fact that homeschoolers can have it both ways. You can take a traditional textbook and add supplements that encourage understanding. Some kids need more practice, and some kids need more explanations. Some kids just flat out need more hands on activities! I’m not sure how one math book can serve the needs of every student. If you are looking into some supplements, here are some things we used:
- Family Math for Middle School
We used this to supplement for pre-algebra and algebra
- Patty Paper Geometry
We used this book for hands-on exploration of geometric proofs.
- Change and Motion: Calculus Made Clear, 2nd Edition
These are great, clear videos for advanced math concepts – all concepts, with very few numbers. We used this to supplement pre-calculus and calculus, and my children loved the videos so much they watched them again – TWICE!
Could be Worse
I know that homeschoolers feel very concerned about upper level math. How much harder would it be if you were a NON homeschooling parent? Imagine trying to help your child with homework when you didn’t choose the book, haven’t seen it all year, don’t have a video or an 800 number to call. What a nightmare! I sometimes hear my public school friends moaning about their difficulties with math homework. They don’t even have the support systems that we have!
It's All About Fit
The problem with teenagers is that you have to match their learning style AND their preferences. Our learning style as the parent becomes less important as we become less involved in teaching. We may know their learning style, but only the teen really knows their preferences. So take a look at the blog post, and consider having them look at another curriculum if they get stuck or frustrated or say they “hate” math. Beware, though, that all of your children *may* end up liking a different curriculum.
Remember: It is about how your STUDENT will learn best.
I just finished watching the DVD on homeschooling the highschooler. All I can say is Wow! These DVD really helped me to feel confident in continuing our homeschooling. Lee helped me to see where I am doing things right and also showed me ways to make our homeschooling better. I loved the sections on recordkeeping and on specialization. I don't think I even considered some of my kids areas of focus to be something for us to work on as subjects but it makes so much sense! She really helped me to see where to focus our energies this next year. If you are new to homeschooling a highschooler or even if you've been homeschooling for quite some time, I would highly recommend buying the DVD. I have learned quite a lot from this amazing resource! Preparing to Homeschool High School PTHSHS review by http://maineberrypatch.blogspot.com/ Lisa Berry in Maine~ Lisa in Maine, posted on her blog
"I just wanted you to know that while I have enjoyed your program very much, and that you have answered all of my transcript questions. I have 7 children and 5 of them still are waiting anxiously for their own graduation, so I will definitely remember you and what you have to offer, not to mention how much you have helped me already! I pray that the Lord continues to bless you and your family for your sincerity and willingness to give guidance and encouragement to others. With much gratefulness,"
~ Trish in Michigan
Your transcripts and records were the best organized and documented
I have seen"
- Bryan Jones, Associate Director of Admissions,
Seattle Pacific University