Math is one of those subjects that needs to be practiced every day. If you don't like math, the best way to get better is to do it, and when you get better at it you will like it a lot more. I promise!!

Hello parents! If you're teaching middle school math at home, you may find you need some help once in a while. Hopefully, my videos will help you teach and help your child understand the more challenging concepts more easily. It's important for students not only to learn the material, but also to learn how to do basic math quickly in their heads, organize their work, and be responsible for doing all of their homework. Sometimes when we don't like a subject or find it difficult, we want to practice it less frequently, however, math is one of those subjects that is learned best when practiced every day. When students become comfortable and practice enough to be proficient, they will build confidence and enjoy it far more. Whether learning at home or in school, these are my basic math rules.

WARM-UPS or DRILLS

Warm-ups for Saxon are also called Power-Ups. Similar to playing an instrument, however, students need to practice the basics even when they are doing upper level math. From 6th grade through Calculus I had students do either an arithmetic drill, logic problem, mind game, or problem solving. Hint: they struggle with subtraction and division so drill those more often than addition and multiplication. Saxon has great drills in the lower grades. If you need to, borrow some from the 87 or Course 3 texts.

CALCULATOR USE

Before Algebra 1, students should have little or no access to calculators. For Algebra 1 they do not need a graphing calculator, but do need a scientific calculator. Needing to use a calculator for simple math slows down the problem solving process, so make sure students can do arithmetic (add, subtract, multiply, divide) automatically, and make sure they understand the rules for adding/subtracting and multiplying/dividing fractions. Calculators don't do complex fractions (no numbers). Knowing fraction rules is important!

NOTEBOOKS

I am a huge fan of math notebooks.Notebooks should contain math only. There's nothing like having your math work stuck in the middle of your history notes to make the issue confusing. I suggest a spiral (or similar) notebook for notes and homework; notes should be dated and followed by that day's homework. Some people like the idea of a 3-ring binder, but I found students take papers out of them too easily and at this age it's important for them to stay organized. There should be notes and an assignment nearly every day. Notes should contain all the information needed to complete each assignment: new vocabulary, examples, and drawings (as needed). I used to tell my students, "If I wrote, you write." Be sure to check the notebooks occasionally to make sure they're staying on top of things. All notes and homework should be well labeled. Points should be taken off if problems are skipped!

HOMEWORK

Homework is essential in committing concepts to memory and being able to apply concepts to different situations. It should be neat, well labeled, legible, and complete. The previous day’s homework should be checked the following day for completeness and for work shown. Students should check their own work for correctness after it is completed, not while they are working. Sometimes students get in the habit of checking every problem as they go, but that has a tendency to make them dependent on the answers. They should confidently attack each problem, looking back at notes as needed, and checking answers after all the work is done. They can then go back and look for their mistakes and correct them. This process greatly increases learning. Incorrect problems should be marked and scores should be shown on the top of every assignment page so that students can see their progress. At this stage students should be using their homework to help keep track of the types of problems they may be getting consistently wrong. Students should ALWAYS SHOW THEIR WORK. I am not interested in what you can do in your head aside from simple addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, or reducing fractions. I am interested in what is done correctly. Students make fewer mistakes when they show their work. That means you need to show each step of every problem.

REVIEWS

Saxon does not give reviews, but I did. I created them using homework problems and they were similar to the test so students know which types of problems would be on the test. They are a great tool to help students prepare for the test and were graded based on completion. The answers were provided so that corrections could be made and questions answered the day before the test. These reviews are available with a grading subscription.

TESTS

Saxon tests after every four lessons. If you don't review and keep a schedule, that's a test every Friday. Reviews change that schedule and I never scheduled tests on a Monday. Homeschooling schedules may make that a non-issue. You might be tempted to test right after students finish the review, but that may not be the best habit to instill if you want students to remember the information longer. I strongly suggest you give your child a time limit of an hour to take a test. They will not have unlimited time in college and need to get used to that. Saxon gives two forms of each test, A and B. If students receive a grade of 75% or lower they may re-take that test one time, after making appropriate corrections and before the next scheduled test. The primary goal is that students learn the material, but giving them multiple opportunities to pass a test is not the way to do that. For this curriculum to work, it needs to be followed.

GRADING

You may not like grading, but you need a way to determine your child's success objectively. Grading can be tricky. Saxon suggests an 80/20 rule. Tests are worth 80% and homework is worth 20% of a student's final grade. Implemented the way I do with reviews and possible test retakes, I found that both fair and achievable.

Study and organization habits are VERY important. I've known teachers who give homework a grade of 1 point. If it's done it's an A, if even paritally done it's an F. That's either 100% or 0, which can easily kill a grade. I believe in partial credit at this level. Homework is worth 5 points to be distributed based on showing work, completeness, and neatness. If you don't put the lesson and date on top of the paper you lose a point. (Even at home this is a good habit.) If you don't show work you lose a point. If you skip problems you lose a point. Homework is a study tool when tests roll around. When they use it to look back and study for a test, they'll be glad the lessons are labeled.

When grading a test, I have a 3 point per problem standard. For problems that have work, students lose 1 point for a careless mistake: not labeling, a simple arithmetic error, not copying the problem correctly, etc. They lose 2 points for a process error. If they didn't complete the process correctly or it looks like they don't understand how to do the problem, etc. Finally, they lose all 3 points if they don't even attempt the problem or simply write down an answer and it's incorrect. On a test, if you can do a problem in your head and write down a correct anwer, good for you. If the answer is wrong and I can't see where you went wrong then you're losing all the points. Not showing your work is a risk! As the problems become more difficult and have more steps, they are worth more points. In Advanced Math some problems can be worth 5 or 6 points!