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Renee in NC

Saxon Algebra 1 and Little Mistakes

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My 9th grader came back home after 4.5 years in public school. He's always done very well in math, and had a 98 average in his last math course (called Foundations of Math, which is Pre-Algebra.)

 

I have him in Saxon Algebra 1, and he's about 35 lessons in. He seems to understand the concepts. He asked me to start giving him the tests, and he bombed his first one. The ones he missed were for little math mistakes (ie. didn't reduce to lowest form, switched a negative to a positive, copied incorrectly, etc.)

 

He knows his math concepts, it's just these little mistakes. Any ideas on what I can I do to help him be more accurate?

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We are struggling with this with younger students. It's maddening. Honestly it's just slowing down and making sure the problem has been thoroughly read and understood, checking what was copied against the book before working it, and doing some basic estimating to make sure the answer makes sense.

 

Enforcing this takes time and practice though - sometimes sitting down with them for a few lessons and having them practice that pattern every single problem helps, especially with chocolate as a reward for each one done carefully and checked for accuracy. Another more punitive measure we have tried in desperation is making the students redo the entire lesson if they get more than two wrong. We do NOT do that if it is anything other than carelessness contributing to the problem, but we have found that making them redo a lesson or two again without showing them which ones they got wrong actually yields much better scores (that it to say that they tend to be more careful the second time around and make far fewer mistakes, without any corrections from us at all).

 

It really depends on the student personality. A bright but scattered or inattentive student might do better with every problem or every few problems checked throughout the assignment. A lazy kiddo might do well with chocolate or even video game time added up for each problem they do correctly (two minutes per correct problem works wonders). Still other kids with issues in writing and hand fatigue might just need some aids or adjustments like photocopying the book page so they can work the problems without having to copy the information, like a worksheet. This works less and less well as the math gets more complex and additional space is needed, but the general idea of someone or something else producing the problems on a page where they can be worked below is great for some children.

 

As with all things, adjusting until you both find a workable solution is key. And that depends very much on the individual student and their needs and challenges.

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What worked really well for me, when I knew they understood the concepts but were just sloppy,  was to pick out ten problems from the page -- a mix of easy, medium and hard ones.  I'd tell them if they got those ten PERFECT, they were done math for the day.  If they made even one small mistake, they had to do the whole page.  Talk about motivation!   :)

Edited by Muttichen

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He's 16, and I don't really want to have to hold his hand. Also, unfortunately, I'm only here two days a week. (I work full-him.) That precludes my sitting with him doing the lessons (and he'd probably lose his mind being that micro-managed. Lol)

 

He does have pretty severe ADD, and had an IEP in public school. However, at his age he has to learn to accommodate his weaknesses, too. It's hard to balance that I think. Parenting almost-adults is just hard! :)

 

Maybe just making him redo all the problems he misses every time will do the trick. He might get tired of doing them over and over again.

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What really well for me, when I knew they understood the concepts but were just sloppy, was to pick out ten problems from the page -- a mix of easy, medium and hard ones. I'd tell them if they got those ten PERFECT, they were done math for the day. If they made even one small mistake, they had to do the whole page. Talk about motivation! :)

That's what I was doing, but read on here that you shouldn't do that with Saxon?

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That's what I was doing, but read on here that you shouldn't do that with Saxon?

You're not, but if the student genuinely gets the concepts and doesn't need the review, but only struggles with accuracy, it's probably not the end of the world.

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Thanks, Arctic Mom, for the help. He just needs to be able to pass the CC placement test by next spring, so he can get into the Auto tech dual enrollment program. I don't want him missing out because of sloppy mistakes!

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Thanks, Arctic Mom, for the help. He just needs to be able to pass the CC placement test by next spring, so he can get into the Auto tech dual enrollment program. I don't want him missing out because of sloppy mistakes!

I hear you. It drives me crazy that my own bright students are foiled by sloppiness and improper copying. It's just very individual as to what solution works. Good luck!

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Thanks, Arctic Mom, for the help. He just needs to be able to pass the CC placement test by next spring, so he can get into the Auto tech dual enrollment program. I don't want him missing out because of sloppy mistakes!

 

He really does need to focus on them then, because the CC placement test is probably computer-graded and/or multiple choice, and sloppy mistakes will usually cause the student to choose the wrong multiple-choice answer rather than getting something not on the list (for example, if the question is 1/2 + 1/3, the MC answers would be something like 2/5, 1/6, 5/6, 2/3). 

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This is very typical. Patience and perseverance can solve this. Give him tools that can help:

use graph paper

take plenty of space to write out the problem; don't skip steps

write one equation per line, no run-on equations; equal signs aligned underneath

use colored pencils for signs and parentheses

Edited by regentrude

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I think it has to do with the sheer number of problems in Saxon.  My dd is using Saxon after several years of AOPS and Singapore and she makes tiny errors everywhere, too.  I noticed she gets tired and her quality of work just deteriorates after a while.  

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use colored pencils for signs and parentheses

 

That's a really good idea!!  Misreading/miswriting signs is a huge problem here.

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My kid's school uses Saxon too. They had the kids do every problem in the problem set and also had them correct every problem in the problem set too. They gave weekly tests which I recommend especially since Saxon has test booklets to use. My kid also uses graph paper and was not allowed to use a calculator until he was almost done with saxon algebra 2 and only for problems like Trig problems that absolutely required a calculator. The school has a great track record with Saxon using these methods.

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My kid's school uses Saxon too. They had the kids do every problem in the problem set and also had them correct every problem in the problem set too. They gave weekly tests which I recommend especially since Saxon has test booklets to use. My kid also uses graph paper and was not allowed to use a calculator until he was almost done with saxon algebra 2 and only for problems like Trig problems that absolutely required a calculator. The school has a great track record with Saxon using these methods.

 

The weekly tests brought the problem to light. I hadn't been giving them to him, but he asked me to. I really wanted him to finish Algebra 1 by the end of the summer, but if it takes longer, it takes longer. He's got until June 2020 to finish through advanced math, so he has time.

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With my daughters algebra, if she gets a D or F on anything, she almost always does it over/ corrects her work. I never understood algebra in high school and barely passed, and I look back and it was a waste of a year. I really want my dd to grasp concepts. I don't make her correct silly mistakes though, unless it caused her to bomb the assignment.

 

Another thing that has brought my dds grade up/ less silly mistakes , is I make sure she does her work without any distraction around. No siblings, phone, music etc.. It has worked wonders for her, but everyone is different. :)

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I've been limiting the amount of time they spend on a Saxon lesson because of the fatigue issue with all the problems.  With both of my guys (one in Algebra and one in Algebra 1/2) we work on spending 1 hour on math per day.  So, many times, depending on the length of the DIVE lesson, they may only get through one half the problem set.   We just pick up the next day where we left off.

 

Another weird thing that has helped is that they have to check their work with me, rather than me checking it later.  It seems like the knowledge that they will have to actually read their answer to every problem to me while I look at the answer key motivates them to check their work a bit more carefully.  Mistakes have gone way down since we started doing this about three weeks ago . . . I don't know why but it's working with my guys.

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we moved my son from Saxon to AOPS for one year and even with AOPS which is like 100% conceptual he made tons of tiny little mistakes. He had a math tutor that constantly mentioned it.

 

Some kids just never get around to being careful.  We have definitely IMPROVED the situation, by stressing the need to Check Over work during tests, by having him re-do homework problems (not all of them all the time as that can get very frustrating, but lots), and go back and fix mistakes on tests, and take re-tests. 

 

Honestly, I just don't know why he never just gets to the point where he really slows down...but he scored really well on the SAT as a freshman, and is doing well in math at Mathnasium math center...

 

so idk...just keep trying at it.  There's no magic fix, IMO , and the problem isn't Saxon, IMO

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First of all, in Algebra I, you should be giving partial credit.  

 

For failure to reduce a fraction, for the first infraction (no pun intended), I would not take off any points and write on the test that from now on all fractions should be reduced.  Subsequent infractions would get probably get a deduction of one-tenth of the total point value for the problem (so a five point problem would have half a point deducted).  

 

Switching a negative to a positive, as long as it was obviously inadvertent and not the result of a lack of understanding of how operations with negative numbers work would receive a similar deduction as long as the rest of the problem was done correctly with the error carried through.  

 

When my kids miscopied problems I would do one of two things.  The easiest thing was to grade the miscopied problem--if there were no errors other than the copying error, I would award full points and then tell the kid that he needs to pay more attention to copying.  If the copying error resulted in a problem that was conceptually different from the real problem, I would simply tell him to redo it.

 

If you regrade the test with the above in mind, does the score match better with what you know to be true about his achievement?

 

All that said, when people first learn something, working memory is working overtime.  The details of how to do the problems are not yet automatic so those thoughts tend to crowd out the ability to attend to things like fraction reduction, negative signs, etc.  Once he gets more fluent with the new material, his error rate should go down.

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He does have pretty severe ADD, and had an IEP in public school. However, at his age he has to learn to accommodate his weaknesses, too. It's hard to balance that I think. Parenting almost-adults is just hard! :)

 

I didn't see this when I wrote my first response.

 

I absolutely would not use Saxon with a kid who has severe ADD.  

 

Instead, I'd use something that is conceptual and, frankly, more interesting.  Jacobs Algebra would be an example of this.

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EKS... I'm not willing to switch at this point as we are 35 lessons in. I think this could be a good learning experience. He is medicated fairly effectively. If at the end of Saxon Algebra 1 it really doesn't seem to be working, I'll look at Jacobs. It has to have teaching DVDs, though, as I said above I'm only here two days a week.

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EKS... I'm not willing to switch at this point as we are 35 lessons in. I think this could be a good learning experience. He is medicated fairly effectively. If at the end of Saxon Algebra 1 it really doesn't seem to be working, I'll look at Jacobs. It has to have teaching DVDs, though, as I said above I'm only here two days a week.

 

I have not used them but there are DVDs: https://www.askdrcallahan.com/product/algebra/

 

Another possibility might be Derek Owens.

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