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Help Me Find a New Math for My 6th Grader...


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DD's currently finishing up TT 5 which has been... okay.  She doesn't understand most of the explanations (I have to re-teach almost every new topic) and she is frustrated (so am I).  We talked yesterday about switching math once she finishes TT5 and here is her wish list:

 

(1) Explain more "why." Currently she can DO the math, but she doesn't really UNDERSTAND what she's doing.

(2) Lots of built in review so she doesn't forget what she's learned.

(3) No preference for colorful vs plain b&w.

(4) Manipulatives like c-rods are fine.

(5) Doesn't have to be a workbook.  She's fine with writing out problems in a notebook.

(6) She doesn't care for video teachers.

(7) She's overwhelmed by assignments with many, many problems (hello, CLE).

(8) Understanding written instructions is challenging for her.  So, I need to direct teach each lesson, which is fine with me.

(9) She doesn't need or want to know ten different ways to solve a problem.

 

My initial thought was MUS, IF it has built-in review (does it?).  But I think I would want her to repeat the Gamma and Delta units just to give her the "why" she's been looking for.  I'm not sure how she would feel about that.  Of course, she could move very quickly through most of those units, so there's that.  But all that adds up to a lot of money for a year of math, which I'm not sure if I'm prepared to spend right now.  So it's only semi "on the table" so to speak.

 

What are some other options worth exploring?  As a teacher,  I'm drawn to traditional programs like Rod & Staff, Study Time Math, BJU Press, etc.  One advantage of knowing I'll be providing direct instruction, regardless of how "self-teaching" the program is designed to be, is that I can teach it in a way that she understands, even if the textbook doesn't explain it well.  So, for me, I require a program with NO.GAPS.  I need a clear, coherent scope and sequence with proper scaffolding and, preferably, a great teacher's manual.

 

Despite how she feels about math, she's a pretty bright cookie and, when given direct instruction, picks up on things fairly quickly.

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ITA: Both Saxon and R&S fit your description. R&S does have oral scripted lessons in the TM; they are not necessary for most children, because they don't present any information other than what is in the student text, but in your situation, it might help if you did them, at least in the beginning. 

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Regarding being overwhelmed by the numbers of problems in CLE, doesn't Saxon have even more problems per lesson than CLE?

 

 

My two cents:  I can't remember if you have MM though I'll assume you've ruled that out already.  Horizons comes to mind though I'm not very familiar.  5th/6th is kind of a weird juncture, especially coming from TT, so a placement test will be important for whatever program you decide on.  Other options might include Key to Fractions, Decimals, etc., maybe followed by Lial's BCM (should fill in any holes), and that followed later by a more advanced prealgebra.

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I know you said your dd wasn't drawn to video teachers, but we love BJU distance learning for math 6. I think it is one of the best classes they have. They just revised it with a new teacher. My dd did it last year, and it was wonderful for her. I know it's pricey, but honestly, it was so worth it. It prepared her for pre algebra.

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When my son needed a conceptual overhaul (after using Saxon--he was halfway through 7/6), we went through MUS Beta-Zeta in about 6 months.  It worked really well.

 

I would not use Saxon if you're serious about helping your daughter understand math conceptually.  It's not as if it doesn't teach the concepts, because it does--they're all mentioned in the lessons.  The way Saxon reviews is to drill algorithms--their review problems generally aren't designed to strengthen conceptual understanding.  My theory is that all that review actually makes kids forget the underlying concepts, so that when they come upon a problem that looks different from how Saxon presents things, they have no idea how to approach it.  This is certainly what happened with my son (he was scoring >90% on the 7/6 tests, but he totally failed the MUS Beta placement test).

 

I would not use MUS beyond Zeta, however, and I would be sure your daughter does a strong prealgebra course after Zeta.  I recommend Derek Owens for that (though I know you said no video lectures).

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I think MUS is what you basically described.

 

I moved my oldest into MUS last year (6th grade) after struggling to find a good fit once MIF stopped working for her.

 

It's perfect for her. She has almost finished Epsilon and will move on to Zeta next. 

 

(1) Explain more "why." Currently she can DO the math, but she doesn't really UNDERSTAND what she's doing.

MUS does this, though not as in-depth as Singapore based programs, but MIF was too in-depth for my oldest and it caused her to get frustrated. MUS seems to be a good balance for her.

(2) Lots of built in review so she doesn't forget what she's learned.

I know MUS is mastery based, but there are review questions on each worksheet of concepts learned previously during the year. There are also cumulative tests every so often.

(3) No preference for colorful vs plain b&w.

​I thought the b&w boring pages would bother my oldest since she is so visual, but she likes them.

(4) Manipulatives like c-rods are fine.

The fraction overlays that come with Epsilon are genius for seeing the concepts. I am planning on using those when all my kids hit fractions even if they aren't using the MUS program.

(5) Doesn't have to be a workbook.  She's fine with writing out problems in a notebook.

MUS has a workbook that is necessary to the program.

(6) She doesn't care for video teachers.

I wasn't sure how my oldest would do with Mr. Demme, but she likes him. I watch the instructional video with her and then I make her work some problems off the worksheet with me right there to make sure she understands what she's doing. The teacher instructions in the TM are actually really well done and I could teach from that (and have a couple of times) if I needed to.

(7) She's overwhelmed by assignments with many, many problems (hello, CLE).

I think that's probably the best thing about MUS for my oldest. I make her do two MUS worksheets a day, but it still takes her less time than all the other math programs we've used because there are less problems on each page.

(8) Understanding written instructions is challenging for her.  So, I need to direct teach each lesson, which is fine with me.

Instructions are very basic in MUS.

(9) She doesn't need or want to know ten different ways to solve a problem.

MUS lays out one way to solve and later might show another way, but they are not given multiple ways in one lesson. The program makes sure they are confident with one approach before introducing another.

 

My only complaint about the program for my oldest is I don't feel the word problems are very good. They are okay. Better than some programs we tried (Horizons, BJU), so I do make her use Singapore's Intensive Practice on the side which has some challenging word problems and is a good review of past things she's learned as well since Epsilon focuses on fractions only.

 

HTH

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What about Singapore Math? We love that here. She would have to "back up" some levels, but in reality, level 5 is not equal to grade 5. Once she finishes level 6, she is ready for high school algebra. They have placement tests online.

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I would not use Saxon if you're serious about helping your daughter understand math conceptually.  It's not as if it doesn't teach the concepts, because it does--they're all mentioned in the lessons.  The way Saxon reviews is to drill algorithms--their review problems generally aren't designed to strengthen conceptual understanding.  My theory is that all that review actually makes kids forget the underlying concepts, so that when they come upon a problem that looks different from how Saxon presents things, they have no idea how to approach it.  This is certainly what happened with my son (he was scoring >90% on the 7/6 tests, but he totally failed the MUS Beta placement test).

 

 

 

Janet in WA was a member here for many years. This was her reply to someone's saying that Saxon doesn't teach the why's:

 

In my experience, Saxon always teaches the “whyâ€. And they always introduce new concepts by relating them to previous ones. In fact, another criticism I’ve heard about the high school level books is that the lessons are too long -- too wordy. That’s because they spend so much time explaining. However, because of Saxon’s incremental design, you won’t always find the full explanation for “why†in any one lesson. Sometimes it takes many lessons, over a protracted period of time, before the student has all the pieces to a concept, and knows why he’s learned it and how it will be applied. For example, he’ll learn and practice a particular method of solving simultaneous equations. He’ll practice it for many days, in fact, with no real certainty why. Then, when he’s gotten proficient at that technique, Saxon will introduce a new kind of word problem for which that method of equation solving is useful. The student THEN sees why he learned that method. In other more traditional texts, with concepts taught in chapter format, this connection would be made more quickly and obviously. As carol nj says, Saxon is a “parts to whole†kind of math. You need to look at the whole picture to appreciate Saxon -- not just each book as a whole, but the whole series.

 

Also, sometimes the “why†of a concept isn’t found in a lesson because the student has seen that concept before in a previous book -- and the “why†was explained at the time the concept was first taught, not when he sees it as review. Now and then we’ll hit a lesson that seems to just tell the student how to do something new, and never much about why, but those always turn out to be things Saxon doesn’t place much importance on, and the student won’t see them or use them much.

 

Now let me say, the fact that Saxon explains the “why†behind concepts doesn’t mean a student will understand that explanation -- or remember it. With Saxon’s incremental format, some students have difficulty mastering concepts, and connecting them. And the tone of Saxon’s high school books is rather “academicâ€, and the length and wordiness of the lessons turns some students off. But the content is there.

 

Let me also say that though I like Saxon for high school, I never recommend that someone start using Saxon for the first time at that level. It is so different from anything else that I think the chances are good that it will be difficult for a student to switch to it at that point. Some students do fine, but I’m not comfortable making that recommendation myself. So please don’t think that you should switch to it because of anything I’ve said. The only point of my posts is to reassure people that Saxon isn’t lacking.

 

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I'm pretty sure you just described Saxon.

 

R&S would also definitely fit the bill.

But what about thoroughly explaining concepts?  And many, many problems?

 

 

I was going to suggest Singapore, and starting in either 3 or 4 (for conceptual foundations) and then accelerating when concepts are formed.  Use standards edition for more included review.

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I don't classify Saxon as having many problems, and I've never gotten the lack of conceptual explaining. I really see the exact opposite. But Rod and Staff might be a good choice as well.

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I guess I'm wondering why you quoted my post and Janet's post as a response.  It seems like Janet and I basically agree.

 

I quoted you and included Janet's comments. You said, "I would not use Saxon if you're serious about helping your daughter understand math conceptually." Janet said just the opposite, that Saxon *does* teach the why's.

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I think Saxon is better when someone is teaching it, not when they study from the book.

 

There is actually a lot of controversy around Saxon. I think I read somewhere, long ago, probably here, but somewhere, that Saxon is good for about 25% of the population. But, for me, whenever I read about someone getting bogged down or just not getting the math, or only getting to where they have a rote memorization of things, they have generally done Saxon. Saxon verbally tries to explain everything. They will tell the student to do step 1, 2, and 3 to solve a program. They have the child memorize the algorithm. On the other hand, Singapore Math will show pictures of things made in to fractions, or any other concept and show how the problems looks in a concrete and pictoral way. Then, it moves on to show how to work things out.

 

I like US edition a lot. I think US edition is great for home schoolers because it has less review. Standards was set up for the classroom, so it has a lot of review and extra. Standards is good too though, so go with what you want. Also, you can see samples of both Saxon and Singapore online. 

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MUS gives 6 pages for each lesson. Each lesson should last a week. But how it works is, the first day, she gets the lesson. Then, she does the worksheet. Pretty much, if she has it down after 4 lessons, you can move on. It is sort of best to do 4 because each worksheet, in the first 4, often add more to it. But if she really knows the topic, then move on after the first lesson. The next 2 worksheets are kind of a bonus. Therefore, you really could hold back the next two worksheets and put them in for review later.  When I used MUS, we often did just a couple worksheets from a lesson and then moved forward. But then, in future weeks, I would pull from past lessons. This gave for plenty of review. And there are not a ton of problems in each page.

 

I think MUS is excellent at the arithmetic levels. But for us, one of my children preferred Horizons and the other preferred Singapore Math. I still like MUS and feel I can recommend that too.

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I quoted you and included Janet's comments. You said, "I would not use Saxon if you're serious about helping your daughter understand math conceptually." Janet said just the opposite, that Saxon *does* teach the why's.

 

I think we are talking about two different "whys".

 

Janet said:

 

Sometimes it takes many lessons, over a protracted period of time, before the student has all the pieces to a concept, and knows why he’s learned it and how it will be applied.

 

She is talking about the "why bother".  Why is it important to know exponents?  How is it applied? When will we need it?

 

OTOH, I think proponents of "conceptual" math, a club to which I firmly belong, are talking about why does the math work that way.  When multiplying exponents with like bases, why do you add the exponents?  Why does that procedure work?  Would it also work if some of the exponents are negatives?  What if some are fractions?  Why or why not?

 

When doing long division, why do you divide then multiply then subtract then bring down.  What are three other methods you could use to divide a large number?  Why do they work?  What are the unifying elements that make all the methods work?  In what particular situations would each method be preferable?

 

Why does multiplying a negative by a negative give you a positive?  Not, why is that fact important in later math topics, but conceptually why is it true and why, fundamentally, does it have to be true based on the properties of numbers?

 

Wendy

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I quoted you and included Janet's comments. You said, "I would not use Saxon if you're serious about helping your daughter understand math conceptually." Janet said just the opposite, that Saxon *does* teach the why's.

 

I also said this:

 

It's not as if it doesn't teach the concepts, because it does--they're all mentioned in the lessons. 

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Know what's frustrating?  I'm discovering that TT is kind of "do or die."  You stick with it and eventually your kid will get the arithmetic they need.  Try to switch out before the end of arithmetic and you'll have to go backward in terms of grade level because it doesn't cover everything in even close to the same way as other programs.  So, with my older DD who wants to stick with it and does well with it, it's a fine program.  Eventually she'll get everything she needs.  But for younger DD who is frustrated by it - even though she does well with her lessons - it's going to mean going back to a "5th grade" math book which, at 11, is a very.big.deal. to her.

 

MUS wouldn't require that (no grade levels on the books) but it just so expensive to do more than one level a year. 

 

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I agree with Chelli.  FWIW---I have taught MUS to my ds without the videos at all.  When we first started, he did not like using the videos, so I taught him from the TM and that worked just fine.  He has since decided that he likes Mr. Demme and so he watches the videos.  

 

I think MUS is what you basically described.

 

I moved my oldest into MUS last year (6th grade) after struggling to find a good fit once MIF stopped working for her.

 

It's perfect for her. She has almost finished Epsilon and will move on to Zeta next. 

 

(1) Explain more "why." Currently she can DO the math, but she doesn't really UNDERSTAND what she's doing.

MUS does this, though not as in-depth as Singapore based programs, but MIF was too in-depth for my oldest and it caused her to get frustrated. MUS seems to be a good balance for her.

(2) Lots of built in review so she doesn't forget what she's learned.

I know MUS is mastery based, but there are review questions on each worksheet of concepts learned previously during the year. There are also cumulative tests every so often.

(3) No preference for colorful vs plain b&w.

​I thought the b&w boring pages would bother my oldest since she is so visual, but she likes them.

(4) Manipulatives like c-rods are fine.

The fraction overlays that come with Epsilon are genius for seeing the concepts. I am planning on using those when all my kids hit fractions even if they aren't using the MUS program.

(5) Doesn't have to be a workbook.  She's fine with writing out problems in a notebook.

MUS has a workbook that is necessary to the program.

(6) She doesn't care for video teachers.

I wasn't sure how my oldest would do with Mr. Demme, but she likes him. I watch the instructional video with her and then I make her work some problems off the worksheet with me right there to make sure she understands what she's doing. The teacher instructions in the TM are actually really well done and I could teach from that (and have a couple of times) if I needed to.

(7) She's overwhelmed by assignments with many, many problems (hello, CLE).

I think that's probably the best thing about MUS for my oldest. I make her do two MUS worksheets a day, but it still takes her less time than all the other math programs we've used because there are less problems on each page.

(8) Understanding written instructions is challenging for her.  So, I need to direct teach each lesson, which is fine with me.

Instructions are very basic in MUS.

(9) She doesn't need or want to know ten different ways to solve a problem.

MUS lays out one way to solve and later might show another way, but they are not given multiple ways in one lesson. The program makes sure they are confident with one approach before introducing another.

 

My only complaint about the program for my oldest is I don't feel the word problems are very good. They are okay. Better than some programs we tried (Horizons, BJU), so I do make her use Singapore's Intensive Practice on the side which has some challenging word problems and is a good review of past things she's learned as well since Epsilon focuses on fractions only.

 

HTH

 

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Neither of my kids do well in Saxon. For my dd she is left without understanding the concepts and her overall understanding is weak. For my ds it is too much different things in one lesson. He has a good conceptual understanding but that is from me explaining how to think through problems and the little bit of Right Start we have done. He does pretty poorly in Saxon even though he can mentally solve a lot of harder problems. My dd cannot solve things mentally. She uses the standard algorithm and can do the procedure but she does not have the full understanding of why or many ways to solve problems or handle things mentally.

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So, if I switch her to R&S (my favorite so far) she'd need to go into the grade 5 book.  This would have her completing R&S 7 at the end of 8th grade.  Would she be ready to go straight into Algebra 1?  She's likely going to a private B&M high school and would need to pass their entrance exam and be ready for Algebra 1, I think.

 

Math-U-See is a great program but just too expensive for us right now. :(

 

The language used in Saxon's explanations is a little elevated for a kid who is still strengthening her reading comprehension.

 

And... I just really keep coming back to Rod & Staff.  Affordable, explanations have a simple, friendly tone; thorough, good TM... it's got it all.  Except the grade level thing.  I need her ready for Algebra 1 in 3 years.  So, will R&S get us there?

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So, if I switch her to R&S (my favorite so far) she'd need to go into the grade 5 book.  This would have her completing R&S 7 at the end of 8th grade.  Would she be ready to go straight into Algebra 1?  She's likely going to a private B&M high school and would need to pass their entrance exam and be ready for Algebra 1, I think.

 

Math-U-See is a great program but just too expensive for us right now. :(

 

The language used in Saxon's explanations is a little elevated for a kid who is still strengthening her reading comprehension.

 

And... I just really keep coming back to Rod & Staff.  Affordable, explanations have a simple, friendly tone; thorough, good TM... it's got it all.  Except the grade level thing.  I need her ready for Algebra 1 in 3 years.  So, will R&S get us there?

 

Memoria Press recommends going from R&S 6 to pre-Algebra. I think that will work; one of my boys went from R&S 7 straight to Algebra 1 with great success. (He'd used Ray's for pre-K through fifth, then R&S for 6th and 7th.)

 

 

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So, if I switch her to R&S (my favorite so far) she'd need to go into the grade 5 book.  This would have her completing R&S 7 at the end of 8th grade.  Would she be ready to go straight into Algebra 1?  She's likely going to a private B&M high school and would need to pass their entrance exam and be ready for Algebra 1, I think.

 

Math-U-See is a great program but just too expensive for us right now. :(

 

The language used in Saxon's explanations is a little elevated for a kid who is still strengthening her reading comprehension.

 

And... I just really keep coming back to Rod & Staff.  Affordable, explanations have a simple, friendly tone; thorough, good TM... it's got it all.  Except the grade level thing.  I need her ready for Algebra 1 in 3 years.  So, will R&S get us there?

 

But if she's in 6th grade, are you *sure* she couldn't do "Understanding Mathematics"? (6th) Because then certainly she'd be able to go to algebra for 9th. "Applying Mathematics" (8th) is plenty of pre-algebra. Some people here have reported that their dc finished "Mastering Mathematics" (7th) and were able to do algebra, but they may have been the exception.

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But if she's in 6th grade, are you *sure* she couldn't do "Understanding Mathematics"? (6th) Because then certainly she'd be able to go to algebra for 9th. "Applying Mathematics" (8th) is plenty of pre-algebra. Some people here have reported that their dc finished "Mastering Mathematics" (7th) and were able to do algebra, but they may have been the exception.

 

Yeah, I'm pretty sure.  She's only familiar with maybe half of the topics that are taught in R&S 5th grade math.  

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I think with Saxon, it is easy to get into the mode of memorizing the algorithm without necessarily understanding the deeper concepts.  However, for steps, especially once you're talking pre-algebra and algebra, where there are a lot of steps to follow, Saxon is very solid for that.  

 

OP, I can't tell you which program to use, but I can tell you what I used for my first two children and why.

 

DD is a strong math student, but she doesn't "speak" math the way some people do.  She has no math anxiety but also doesn't care about the little patterns and tricks.  She's a visually creative, spacially strong student who can picture a lot of things in her head, but oddly enough, she hated Miquon.  She used and liked Saxon from about 5/4 up through Algebra 1.  It had plenty of spiral review to help her cement all the steps in her head, and she very much appreciated the no nonsense, let's not attempt to be cute or funny approach, no distracting graphics or colors.  She didn't mind all the words on the page.  Math was a neutral subject, not too boring, not too hard, not too easy.  Her math test scores have been well above grade level, although not as high as her English scores.  I'm completely happy with having used Saxon for her.

 

DS1 is a very strong math student.  He's not quite as strong at picturing things in his head, and he doesn't really like a lot of words on the page, but he speaks math.  He sees and loves all the little patterns and tricks (he liked Miquon for a while, but he grew tired of using the c-rods unless he really needed them to illustrate a concept).  He has loved math from the very beginning.  He used Singapore for about four years, through fifth grade last year and loved it.  He didn't need much review, so the mastery approach worked well for him, and he liked the graphics and colors that helped him visualize things.  His test scores are very high in math, and I'm very happy with having used Singapore for him.  DD wouldn't have liked Singapore's colors and pictures and less built-in review, and DS1 wouldn't have liked the many words and plainness of Saxon.

 

That being said, I wanted a deeper understanding for DD and a deeper challenge for DS1.  So I switched them both to Art of Problem Solving this year, DD for geometry and DS1 for pre-algebra.  DD took to it right off the bat and absolutely loves it; math is one of her favorite subjects now.  DS1 took a little longer to get used to the format and to working on his own a little more, but after a month, he's come around and says it's very cool, even though it's hard.  So, two very different students, and yet they're both liking the same approach now.  Just thought I'd share that.

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