Why We Use Saxon Math

In honor of April being Math Awareness Month (No, I did not know this until CC told me!), I wanted to share why we use Saxon math, a round-up of my posts on how to teach math classically, and a favorite article or two on math from the CC Writers Circle.

Nearly three years ago, we started with Saxon Math.  As with making any educational choices, I recommend starting at the beginning.  Look into how different math curriculums approach learning.  Through research, I learned that math curriculums are generally one of two options: 1) spiral or 2) mastery.  A spiral curriculum will add in new concepts while “spiraling” back through old concepts to ensure constant review of all learned material.  A mastery curriculum will focus on new concepts for longer periods of time to ensure mastery before adding in additional elements. Once mastery is achieved, the student moves on to the next concept.  Saxon Math is actually a rare third option of incremental, which falls somewhere in the middle of spiral and mastery.  Concepts are introduced incrementally and reviewed until mastery.

We use Saxon Math for a few reasons: 

1) The incremental approach.  Neither spiral or mastery made sense to me exclusively, so Saxon seemed like the perfect fit.  Now that we’re using it for our third year, I continue to agree with this approach.

2) The scripted teacher’s guide.  I still consider myself somewhat of a “newbie” homeschooler and teaching math was very intimidating to me, at first.    I suspect this will continue to be true for me as we approach higher and higher levels of math.  Saxon provides a script for the parent, which I can rely on as heavily as I like.  Even though we’re only in Saxon 3, I sometimes need help knowing how to teach a concept.  I think it’s teaching me how to teach math.

3) Built-in teaching and independent review time.  We work through an A side worksheet together and then each of my guys works through a B side independently.  This really helps me to see what my guys understand and what they don’t.

4) Plenty of drill work.  The drill work is essentially a push to memorize basic math facts, thereby making math computations easier to complete.  This fits right in with how we’re classically educating our littles.  When I was not feeling so well and school was scraping by with the bare minimum, math facts were not being drilled regularly.  It made such a difference in my guys’ abilities to complete their math assignments! They were slowed down & frustrated by the work.  Once I recognized the problem, we took a week off of lessons and simply reviewed math facts (with flashcards) every day that week.  What a difference it made! Now I’m sure to remind them to review a portion of their math facts daily.  We plan to continue this through the summer, so all that good memory work is not lost.

5) Fun, colorful math manipulatives and games.  Saxon printed materials are plain black and white, which may appear uninteresting.  But, there are also manipulatives and little games (like grocery shopping, cooking, and scavenger hunts) incorporated in the teaching time.  My boys love when these are part of the lesson plans! I usually end up with more than one student participating, even though it’s not their lesson.  And y’all know I love a good one-room schoolhouse set-up! 

My boys are not always in love with their math work.  They’ve recently realized their friends use other curriculums (including ones done on the computer, which seems like all fun to them!) and have asked about their other options.  But, for as long as it makes sense (I hope forever), we’re continuing with Saxon.  If you can, I think it makes sense to stick with one math curriculum for a few reasons: 1) No gaps in learning.  The curriculum is designed to build upon itself.  Not all curriculums follow the same pattern and by switching, you can create inadvertent gaps in your child’s math education.  2) They have learned how the curriculum works and so have you! So the implementation becomes easier.  3) Less cost involved! I can reuse my teaching guides and manipulatives every year, so I reduce my costs only to replacing the consumable student materials.  

But, enough about our specific choice! I certainly don’t believe there is a one best solution for everyone. Over the summer, I hope to introduce Life of Fred into our study time for a fun change. I think my guys will dig it, but we’ll see.  What’s working for your family? Do you find yourself teaching math classically?

If you’d like to learn more specifics on studying math classically, read:
At Home with the Classical Method: How to Teach Your Child Math
Arithmetic: The Core of Math
To Know Math Is To Love Math
Math on My Mind (which includes a living math book list)

Additional Math Resources:
Why I Use Saxon Math, by Leigh Bortins
Four Benefits of Saxon Math, by Matt Bianco
Why Read About the History of Math? by Leigh Bortins


  1. says

    Have you had much of a chance to look at math beyond the grade 3 book yet? It seems very different at that point. We are planning to start Saxon 54 for our eldest next fall but really don’t know that we’ll move the younger ones yet. Have you read many reviews of the older years? I had read at one point that Saxon used to start at 54 and then went back and made the younger years.

    • says

      I should have mentioned we currently use Math U See but after looking more closely at it for the high school levels of math, we are much less impressed than we thought we would be. I never looked into Saxon when I first started homeschooling (just didn’t know anyone who did it), but I’m glad we are looking to start it now.

    • says

      Becki, I think I answered all these questions on the FB post, but I’m gonna repeat myself here for anyone with the same questions. 🙂 I have not gone beyond Saxon 3 yet. I’m not sure about the origins of Saxon math, that could be true. Here’s a review of Saxon Math for older children by Mary of Homegrown Learners – http://www.homegrownlearners.com/home/2013/8/6/why-we-use-saxon-math.html

      I hope you find it helpful! I wish I could be more helpful! Check out the posts by Matt & Leigh on what they like about Saxon. Perhaps those will help?

    • says

      Beth, I came to your site from the link on your article at CC’s site. Congratulations on Baby #5! Your article was such a blessing. I homeschool and get “sick on the couch” sick during my pregnancies, too, so I totally get where you are coming from and have used some of your same strategies! I felt really bad each time, but God has really blessed those seasons with fruits of independence in my children that I really don’t know if I would have insisted upon if it hadn’t become a necessity. Your honesty in sharing your experience was a blessing to me!

    • says

      Thanks so much, Shelly! You are right – I have seen my children grown in independence during this time. Thanks for the encouragement 🙂

  2. says

    Beth – thanks for linking this up. We’ve had an interesting math journey at our house. We’ve landed on Math U See – started with Saxon though. I definitely liked the scripted teaching of Saxon since I didn’t feel Math was my strong suit to teach (but I think that the scripted teaching stops at some point, if I remember correctly). My daughter really disliked the curriculum. She became frustrated with the large number of drills and review. We may look at it again down the road though as we get closer to Challenge…

  3. says

    I thought I commented on this…no? We I definitely read it before =) Anyways, we just started Saxon K this year and so far I LOVE it. I just ordered grade 1, so we will see how we like that! What I like about K is that it covered the ‘extra’ things that I wasn’t thinking to cover (measuring, patterns, etc.) Glad to hear you are liking it as well!

    • says

      I thought you did too? Maybe it was on my FB page? I’m excited to start with Saxon K again next year with my 2 youngest. (well, until “new guy” arrives sometime around 7/5!) 🙂


  1. […] Woah, four littles in Saxon math this year! I’m curious to see how this goes. As in years past, I’ll give an hour to our schedule for math. I’ll start working with the youngest first and make my way to the oldest last. When I’m not working with one, they should be working on what they can independently. I’ll let y’all know how this goes! (See why we use Saxon here) […]

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