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Should I have my son repeat Algebra 1?

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My 9th grader is struggling through Saxon Algebra 1 ( 4th edition)   I picked up Teaching Textbooks Algebra 1 to supplement and it's helping. However, he complains a lot about the workload. He plays a sport and starts school at 6:30am in order to finish school before practice which it's every day.He'd like to drop the Algebra class to focus on fundamentals using Teaching Textbooks. He managed to get an A in the first semester with Saxon, but he hit a wall in the second semester. I have to walk him through almost every problem in order for him to do his homework.  We have 10 weeks of class to go.  Saxon is moving too fast for him and not giving enough practice for new skills learned so he's constantly struggling. He's working with a tutor 1 hour a week, but it's not enough help.   My position is that it's better to work harder to catch up, finish the course while supplementing and working on fundamentals. We can also work over the summer to make sure he's solid in Algebra 1.  The other option we're entertaining is having him repeat Algebra 1 next year. He's interested is Business, Physical Education, Health Science/Physical Therapist, so 3+ of math is ideal. 


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Disclaimer: I'm not about to bash Saxon-- it is a great program for some students.  I taught from it for over 10 years (high school level).  I used it with my own daughters too (well up through 8/7).


There is a reason why your son hit a roadblock with Saxon (probably around lesson 30 or 40).  Saxon teaches in increments and rotates topics each day.  After about lesson 30 the 'review' problems begin to mash several lessons together into one problem.  This means there are homework problems that have no direct teaching associated.  Students who do well with Saxon are those who can naturally put the pieces together.  Students who struggle are those who need to see someone put the pieces together-- when I taught from Saxon I observed about 30% of my students would have succeeded (mastered) Algebra 1 if they had only used a more traditional approach. I now teach from a traditional text-- no regrets switching.


For the OP I suggest switching him over to Teaching Textbooks and have him complete the year with that-- make sure he works all problems first on paper-- (best if you are the one to input answers as the parent is not notified if students miss the multiple choice answer the first try).  TT is a solid Algebra 1 program.  Their Geometry is good too.  (I'm not thrilled with their Algebra 2 and Pre-Calc though). 

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Thank you both for replying.  Jann in TX,  yes! It was around lesson 50 that he started struggling. However, he used Math 7/6 and 8/7 before Algebra, so I thought he would be fine. We are a part of an umbrella school that is also a private school. This means they keep all my records and my kids can play sports there. They have a rule that whenever a subject is outsourced, I have to accept the grade given as final and provide a printout from the online class. I will call and discuss this with them. That should be a secondary concern....just haven't dealt with this before so I don't know if I can simply update his course of study.  I have also let his teacher know what's going on.


Can I ask why you didn't like Teaching Textbooks Algebra 2?  I am glad to hear you think it's solid Algebra 1 program.  He likes using it and he's flying through the lessons!  

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I was an experienced Saxon teacher when my oldest daughter got to 8/7 (she used 3- 8/7 with A averages).  Near the end of 8/7 she started having issues and we switched to Lial.


The difference in Saxon Algebra 1 is that in the levels below (especially if you skipped Algebra 1/2) the problems were mostly 1-2 steps and used primarily arithmetic (visual).  In Algebra 1 at the lesson 30 mark the problems become more than 1-2 steps and are abstract (difficult to reason and must be worked out using 'algebra' steps).  Saxon teaches the steps as completely different LOOKING problems-- so many students do not 'get' the connection that they are really smaller steps of a much bigger problem.


When I teach a traditional lesson I model combining concepts then I put a new 'looking' problem on the board and we talk about its parts and strategies we have in our 'Algebra tool box'.  The lesson begins with easier problems and progresses into harder ones along the same lines but with different situations (longer, more negatives...).  Students learn how to connect the pieces by watching the teacher model how to-- and eventually they begin to make them on their own.  There is not as much obvious 'review' problems because the problems in chapter 7 require that students have mastered those in chapters 4, 5 and 6.  In other words students see and learn how Algebra is progressive-- not detached like they 'thought' Saxon was (a zillion unrelated problem types).

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My boy have struggled with algebra. 


I found that my kids were struggling for two reasons.  1) terminology they need to know definitions of the words 2) remembering what to do there are several different functions, not just one and they have a challenging time picking the right function. 


i recently discovered interactive notebooks.  Interactive notebooks are kind of of like lap books for kids, but it encourages note taking.  i teach them, they fill in their sheet/foldable/anchor chart and if that doesn't work, we go to you tube for a song or different instruction. pinterest has a lot of suggestions, mrseteachesmath is has a nice blog for alg 1, 2 and geometry. 


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You've gotten some great advice/ideas already. I wanted to provide a bit of a different perspective based on our experience. DD whizzed through the first half, but struggled through the second half of Algebra I(Jacobs) in 8th grade. Wound up with an A, but was not confident in understanding the concepts. Did very well in Geometry in 9th and Algebra 2 in 10th grade. Took the SAT after finishing Algebra 2 and again, did very well.


Dd was motivated and excited to begin dual enrollment in the fall of 11th grade. Despite testing at the advanced math level on the entrance exam (which allowed going right into PreCalc/Trig), dd strongly expressed a desire to take College Algebra during the first semester. Advisor encouraged the advanced math, but I let dd make the choice. This was a child who did NOT like math up until this point. AT ALL.


Halfway through College Algebra, the bells and whistles began to ring, the angels began to sing, and lo and behold, dd realized a love of math and a desire to major in math/physics in college. Second semester of dual enrollment was PreCalc. Third was Trig. Fourth and final is Calc 1. Dd's desire to major in math or a closely related field is stronger than ever. She has been a volunteer tutor in the college math lab since completing College Algebra; that's how much she loves it.


When dd made the decision to take College Algebra, it was because she wanted to have a better grasp of Algebra fundamentals before moving on. That was a decision dd will never regret. We both tend to think that if College Algebra had been skipped over, the math love and confidence would not have developed...she can't imagine what she would have missed if she had not given it a chance. She absolutely loves math now and discovering that was a factor in changing not only where she wanted to apply for college, but also her career aims.


I realize your child is in the early high school years, and this might not apply to all children--but imho, there is rarely a negative that can come out of repeating math to mastery and confidence. My ds (older) followed a repetitive math sequence as well: AP Calc BC in 11th, DE Calc 2 in fall of 12th, DE Calc 3 and Differential Equations in Spring of 12th, then tested into Calc 3 at the very rigorous university where he is majoring in a super techie field. He has said it was one of the best decisions he's made. 


Just a little bit of a different perspective on the repitition of any given math course...



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I totally agree about the importance of having a solid algebra background.  I think some parents want to check off the box for the different math level as quickly as possible so Calculus can be taken by 12th grade.  I've actually changed curriculum 3X with my dd to help her with algebra.  She did great with Art of Problem Solving Pre-Algebra so I was excited to have found something that challenged her and was fun for her.  We had to switch after chapter 4 or 5 in AOPS algebra and used Dolciani.  We only had 2-3 chapters left of that when I realized AND finally listened to my dd that she really was not understanding algebra.  We again switched to Lial's with lots of problems and examples to learn from and it's finally making sense to her after 1 1/2 of working on algebra.

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