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