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Please help me make sense of pre-algebra curriculum!


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My oldest son will be in 8th grade next year. I will also have a fifth grader, third grader and newborn in the house in the fall. He is finishing up with Math U See Zeta, but it is no longer working for us. He sailed through the other grade levels, but is hitting a snag with advanced percentages. We switched from a beka when he was in fifth grade. Even though he was progressing at grade level through a beka, I felt that he wasn't completely solid on his division skills, so I placed him "back a grade." So now we are looking at pre-algebra for next year. I am getting really frustrated reading through the pre-algebra threads since there seems to be so many people talking about doing pre-algebra when their kids are 8 or 9, and here is my oldest son at 13 not having done it. I feel that he is already far behind and at a disadvantage.

 

To make it more complicated, there are so many different programs to choose from, all with different levels of depth, some for mathy kids, some that are generally deemed "too easy," some that are designed for kids of "average" ability. It's just so confusing. I spent all night researching AOPS, only to decide that it wouldn't be a good fit for my son. I don't feel like I can do so much researching of all the different programs, since this is only one subject for one of my children. I would love some help narrowing down the choices to a handful that might actually meet him where he is at.

 

Here is what we need: He is an average bright student. Math concepts (except for the most recent difficulties) have always come pretty easily. But I wouldn't consider him "mathy." We don't know what profession he will be pursuing in the future, but he was enjoying science and for a time when he was younger wanted to be a paleontologist. So I don't want to completely close off that possibility for his future. My husband and I aren't particularly "mathy" either. I have always been concerned about how I'm going to teach my children the higher level maths. I , am also getting pretty confused dealing with the percentages. I do believe that is where I started struggling in my own math education. With a new baby and two other children to teach, I would like his math to be relatively independent. My middle child currently uses Teaching Textbooks, so I'm not completely closed to computer based learning, although my son did just inform me that he does NOT want to use that particular program. I believe he finds the instructor's voice a bit annoying. I do expect either my husband or myself to work with him sometimes/ keep a close eye on this part of his education. So we wouldn't be completely hands off. I don't mind supplementing a bit, but I wouldn't want to work through two complete math programs. I also don't want to spend upwards of $500 on math curriculum. Again, it is just one subject for one kid and our budget wouldn't allow for that. I also would prefer to find a program that he could stay with for the rest of his higher level maths. Of course, I would change it if something seemed to not be working, I just don't like to bounce around from curriculum to curriculum. So, after my "wall of text," my big question is what math programs do you think I should look into? Thanks so much for any help you can offer!

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Perhaps Horizon's Pre-alg? I have never used it, but this link has some pages available for pre-view. http://www.christianbook.com/Christian/Books/product_slideshow/1335687392?sku=403224&actual_sku=403224

 

FWIW, I wouldn't panic about him taking pre-alg in 8th grade. It is where a lot of students are. When reading through the AoPS threads, most of the students are very advanced and probably in the top 1% of all math students.

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I guess one thing you do have to keep in mind is that many advanced kids "HAVE" to be homeschool because the public school just not going to work. Therefore, you will see more advanced kids in homeschool pupulation than real world. 8/9 yrs old working on Pre-algebra are certainly not typical. So, don't get frustarted.

Derek Own has his complete Pre Algebra vedio online for free

 

http://www.lucideducation.com/?p=Prealgebra.php&

 

I think there are quite a few people using his program. and he does have course goes all they way to cal

http://www.derekowens.com/course_info_prealgebra.php

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In terms of the timing, you have to look at when the district you are in has their students take Algebra 1, because those will be the comparison group for your student in college admissions. Where I live, 20% of the students take Algebra 1 in 7th and 75% take it before 9th. So this is the time frame I need to keep in mind for my own kids. But plenty of districts apparently still have the standard be Algebra 1 in 9th. So if that is the case where you live, then your child isn't behind at all.

 

Even if the norm is Algebra 1 in 8th, you can still double up with math by having geometry and either Algebra 1 or Algebra 2. Or you can do one of the Algebra 2 courses that include trig and then go directly from that to calculus.

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My daughter is 14 and in 8th, doing AoPS pre-algebra, and I'm in no hurry to rush her on. IMO, there's no reason to worry about a normal student doing algebra in 9th grade. For many people, that extra bit of maturity is very helpful!

 

As for what algebra book to use, can you get sample lessons from the ones you are considering? Then your son could try them out and see which ones he likes. If you can find one that he enjoys (or at least doesn't hate), that makes it much easier to stick with it. As for being able to help him, you might refresh your own math skills by reading the Danica McKellar books (you can probably get them through your library). She has creative ways to explain math concepts, and they really clicked with my daughter.

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My seventh grader is not quite half way through pre-Alg - we changed curriculum in Nov. I agree that 8-9 years olds doing pre alg is not the norm. (My oldest daughter is "gifted" and did Alg 1 in 7th grade. She got straight A's. She did Alg 1 again in 8th grade because even though she got straight A's she never really "got it" she is just smart enough to plug and chug per say.)

 

Did you look into Teaching Textbooks? I know a lot of people on this forum don't like it but it's working for my pre-alg student just fine. It sounds like you are quite busy so maybe having your son be able to do math independently would help you.

 

You might like Saxon too - there are CD's lectures that go along with it so you won't have to do all the teaching...(No Saxon in our house - tooo very boring...)

 

Sadly there is no magic math program that works for everyone...

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As far as age goes, my 8th grader is also doing pre-algebra this year. I would have loved if he could have done algebra 1 in 8th grade (I did many years ago), but that's not where he is. It's okay. We did Horizons Pre-algebra until a couple months ago. He was working mostly independently as he preferred it that way, coming to me when he had problems. But then he was hitting more snags and not coming to me as timely as he should have. (Yes, this is more a problem of the way we were working than the curriculum itself). On top of that, we got to several chapters of stuff that *I* felt was not as important (or at least that mastery was not as important). The spiral was giving him review which was a good thing for him, but some subjects would "go away" for quite awhile and then pop up again - just enough to frustrate us (now how do we calculate compound interest again? ugh!). So, personally I don't think I will use Horizon's pre-algebra again with anyone else. If you think you will want him semi-independent you might look into a program that has instructional dvds, like Saxon. (I don't have any experience with Saxon.... just tossing it out there).

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We are enjoying Saxon Algebra 1/2 with the Art Reed DVDs. I am using the schedule you can buy from MFW - so the redundancy has been culled out (not randomly - very specifically). The DVD is 5-10 minutes of introducing a new topic, then you do the lesson. Tests are every 5th lesson (Friday) so its easy to catch trends). I'm taking the class with my dd and I've been impressed with the thinking behind it and that yes, it does make them think. HTH

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We were using the Saxon 8/7 book for my 7th gr dd with the teaching Cdroms - it helped having the lesson laught to her but the curriculum wasn't giving her enough targeted practice to 'master' the material she didn't immediate grasp. She is a bright student and I didn't want her to be discouraged feeling that she was no good at math. We switched to CLE which is also an I crenelated program - it takes 2 years for prealgebra but I'm just fine with that! We'll be doing Algebra 1 in 9th gr which IMO is just fine! ;)

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Jann in Texas teaches an online pre-algebra class that you could look into. She's very responsive to questions.

http://myhomeschoolm...es-offered.html

 

We are using her next year for geometry.

 

Around here taking Alg. 1 in 9th grade is the norm.

 

It's taking my dd two years to get through Saxon Alg. 1. She's also doing AoPS number theory and it's killing her.

 

Laura

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In terms of the timing, you have to look at when the district you are in has their students take Algebra 1, because those will be the comparison group for your student in college admissions. Where I live, 20% of the students take Algebra 1 in 7th and 75% take it before 9th. So this is the time frame I need to keep in mind for my own kids. But plenty of districts apparently still have the standard be Algebra 1 in 9th. So if that is the case where you live, then your child isn't behind at all.

 

Even if the norm is Algebra 1 in 8th, you can still double up with math by having geometry and either Algebra 1 or Algebra 2. Or you can do one of the Algebra 2 courses that include trig and then go directly from that to calculus.

 

How do you find this out?

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How do you find this out?

 

For us in California, the information is available on California's department of education website in a few places. I can find the information at the county and school district level. I can probably find the information at state level but I have not tried. The easy way is to just call up the school district office and ask. Your county's board of education would also have the information on hand and you can call and ask,

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I'm in a similar boat, OP. I've got a long list of pre-algebra programs to research, but not being a very "mathy" person I don't even know where to begin! My eyes glaze over and they all look pretty much the same to me.

 

I never thought I'd consider Saxon, but it has crept onto my list of possibilities. It's time-tested, it's solid, it has many screen-based teaching options (DVD, CD-Rom), and now I find out MFW has a schedule to eliminate redundancy, which was one of my hesistations about it. I've used Saxon as a student, but my only interest in math back then was passing well enough not to get grounded by my parents (sadly). I did *not* like it, but I wouldn't have liked any math at the time.

 

Everytime I think about math for next year I keep coming back around to Lial's - it meets my academic standards (not too easy; appropriate for a bright, average student), there isn't the issue of obsessive drill like Saxon or a spiral that is too loose like Horizons Pre-Alg. The textbooks are easy to read and are interesting without being cluttered or distracting. Because I have such a hard time comparing math programs, I bought a used copy of BCM in less-than-good condition inexpensively from Amazon, just to check it out. A huge draw for me with Lial's is that Jann in TX uses it in her online classes.

 

Foerster's, Dolciani's, and Jacob's are also on my list of programs to check out because they sound like they might be similar to Lial's (hopefully others can offer specifics on this).

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I'm waiting for Dolciani to arrive to check it out for my dd. She wanted to do Holt because she likes their science until she saw the book. She decided it was way to cluttered and colorful. She's used to doing Math Mammoth (in the books, so it's completely black and white), and the busyness of many standard textbooks drives her bonkers.

 

Tara

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I guess one thing you do have to keep in mind is that many advanced kids "HAVE" to be homeschool because the public school just not going to work. Therefore, you will see more advanced kids in homeschool pupulation than real world. 8/9 yrs old working on Pre-algebra are certainly not typical. So, don't get frustarted.

Derek Own has his complete Pre Algebra vedio online for free

 

http://www.lucideduc...Prealgebra.php

 

I think there are quite a few people using his program. and he does have course goes all they way to cal

http://www.derekowen..._prealgebra.php

 

Yes, I think Derek Owens Pre-A is a solid option considering the OP post. He also has offered discounts in the past for those who are willing to do the grading themselves.

 

However for Geometry I think it would be best to have him or someone else grade Geometric proofs since there are multiple possible solutions. That is also why I'm not convinced that independent programs are the best once Geometry is reached. Some do not even cover proofs and if they do it is very limited.

 

Jann in Texas courses are another great option: http://myhomeschoolmathclass.com/courses-offered.html

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First, as several PP's have posted, he's fine. It's not that uncommon to be in preA in 8th grade. People who have younger kids working ahead of schedule may be discussing it more, as there are other issues involved in dealing with younger kids and advanced subjects, so don't sweat it.

 

Second as to things to try: the vast majority of kids do great without using AoPS. Don't give it another thought.

 

Third: So what to try: From what you have described, I would try Tobey and Slater. You can buy it pretty cheap via Amazon, secondhand. What I like for your son:

1) Explanations are written in very clear, understandable, but still accurate language. It is exceptionally well-written.

2) The student can self-teach from it, or parents reading it with the student can see how to understand the material. Each section covers one major concept, and the teaching is followed by 1--4 example problems, fully worked out with each step explained in terms of why you are allowed to make it.

3) Each example problem is followed by 1-2 practice problems. The practice problems are worked out, step by step, in the back of the book, so the student can check his work and see if he understood it properly.

4) There are a nice number of graduated-difficulty problems in each section, but not an overwhelming number of problems that make kids get discouraged just looking at them. Odd number answers in the back.

4B) The word problems are very well-designed and there plenty of them.

5) Each section ends in a 3-5 question "quick quiz" to check understanding (answers in the back)

6) Each chapter ends in a chapter test (answers in the back)

7) Many chapters feature a cumulative test after the chapter test, to check retention of prior material (answers in the back).

8) Test question answers in the back also have a reference-- they tell you what section the question was testing, so you know what section to review if there is a pattern of incorrect answers or you are confused about why the question is wrong.

9) If he likes the series, it starts in Pre-Algebra, and continues all the way through high school math, and you can buy the books secondhand very inexpensively on Amazon or whereever you can get them. The publisher is Pearson.

 

It is good, solid math and will give him excellent preparation for the SAT's and college level work.

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thank you so much for all the suggestions! There are so many curriculums available that it really helps to know which programs might work for my son without having to spend hours looking at each one only to decide that it won't work. I don't mind investing the time needed, it is just nice to know where to start.

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From what you have described, I would try Tobey and Slater. You can buy it pretty cheap via Amazon, secondhand. What I like for your son:

...

2) The student can self-teach from it, or parents reading it with the student can see how to understand the material. Each section covers one major concept, and the teaching is followed by 1--4 example problems, fully worked out with each step explained in terms of why you are allowed to make it.

 

Did you use the youtube channel for the pre-algebra book? It has videos for chapter 1 to 10. The instructors has a youtube channel for beginning algebra also.

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Did you use the youtube channel for the pre-algebra book? It has videos for chapter 1 to 10. The instructors has a youtube channel for beginning algebra also.

 

I did not; DS12 is primarily a LoF kiddo-- but I appreciate the reference, because I get a lot of requests for help with curriculum matching! I have tested T&S on him though, and he confirms the clarity of the writing through a student's eyes.

 

I own two editions of Dolciani, Lial, Forster, Tobey and Slater, AoPS, and a few others. I read Saxon but refused to buy it. I believe in matching a kid with what works for him after reviewing the text for quality, rather than matching the text to how the parent wants him to want to learn ;).

 

 

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I agree with the above poster. Dd12 is only half way through Lial's Pre-Algebra and it has been a life saver. I tried so many different programs thinking this is how I want her to learn. Finally she looked at me one day and said "Mom is there just a textbook that I could read and do?" :001_huh: So after researching and looking at several used editions I settled on Lial's and it is perfect! She self teaches with it, which she loves, and comes to me with questions and for grading.

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