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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Happy Saxon Math Teacher

A happy math teacher may seem to be an oxymoron to all of the unhappy math teachers out there. Math not being my strong point, I was, for a long time, just struggling with being a math teacher, happy or not. The happy adjective has been added to my job description because I am/we are realizing the fruit of a faith-choice in our math curriculum. We're using Saxon Math specifically Math 5/4 for Bethany, our 5th grader. Most know about Saxon's grade designations. Math 5/4 is for the average fourth grader or a 5th grader needing remediation.

I sat down today and made a list of how many different math curriculums we've used for Bethany. Between figuring out one that she could learn from and one that I could teach, it took awhile to find a good fit. Even after we found Saxon it still took awhile. She had gotten a bit spoiled from Horizons colorful approach to its workbooks. (Our son is happily using Horizons, I might add.) The problem I have with Horizons is that it doesn't really teach the why's of math. It teaches the how's. But if math doesn't come naturally to you....all the more reason to know the why's. It doesn't come naturally to Bethany, but interestingly, she says it's her favorite subject. The fun part of that is that she knows she will need math in farming, and truth be told, that's her present motivation. My Dad is a farmer/rancher, and so I find her love for math downright charming.

Saxon is not only giving Bethany a good foundation in math (early geometry and algebra) by teaching the hows and whys of math, it is also teaching her how to learn. It's teaching her to exhaust all avenues for understanding the concept before asking the teacher. In every question of the mixed practice section is a number that refers the student back to the lesson or lessons where the concept used was introduced. Bethany looks at the number, for example, lesson #21, turns back to that lesson to understand the problem that involves the terms perpendicular, right angles, intersecting, etc. When she came to me today, she had already on her own taken that important step of trying to read and research what she had already learned about the concept.

Another plus to Saxon is something I consider an important transition in education, a.k.a. a necessary evil, and that is, you don't work out of a workbook. All of the math problems are to be written out on paper (graph paper is best), and you have to show your work. Try explaining that to someone who knows the answer and doesn't think you should have to show your work. High school math requires it of you, so the student benefits by starting now! It's been an important tool in understanding accuracy in writing, transcribing problems etc. In summary, nothing but benefits in choosing Saxon math.

I am so thrilled to see these steps of maturity in Bethany's study skills and learning habits. Thanking the Lord for how He has led us in this triumphant procession across miles and miles of other math curriculum pages. Progress. Satisfaction. Foundation strengthening. Saxon. Peace at last for a math teacher in the works!


TraciG said...

I also like how Saxon reviews each concept previously learned and then builds upon that, instead of learning a process or a function and then leaving it behind. Our little school also uses Saxon and I think it works pretty well with most students, especially if the teacher is on the ball and recognizes where there is mastery and where there isn't.
I have also heard really good things about the Saxon language program, although I think it is a little cumbersome for the instructor at first... Fun to think like a teacher once in a while, Kathy! Thanks!

Susan said...

I envy you home schooling mothers. I know it has to be VERY HARD WORK but what a blessing to both you and your kids!!! You know I love these informative posts about aspects of it.

Kathy said...

Thank you, Susan! Your encouragement is ALWAYS a blessing!

Traci, We just finished Bethany's language program, First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind. It was very rigorous, but well worth it. We've just started Hake Writing and Grammar by the publishers of Saxon, and it's laid out the same way. We love it!!! It is wonderful.

Yes, on Saxon math...knowing when there's mastery...the trick, for sure.

Brenda said...

Grace is in the same book. She's enjoying it, too. I didn't think about using graft paper. I'm constantly encouraging her to make sure and line up her numbers right. I'm going to try that.
When I taught my older daughter Saxon, I learned right along with her. I remember learning concepts and thinking 'why didn't they teach it this way when I was in school!'