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# Needing to back up in math - help!

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DS (12yo) is in 7th grade.  I’ve known he wasn’t super solid in math, but thought the repetition in Saxon would shore it up.  I was wrong.  I put him in Alg 1/2 (pre-algebra) this year.  I’ve been making him take the tests.  His grades are usually in the 60-65% range.  I thought, wrongly again, that his grades would improve as he got used to the kind of math.  He is mathematically minded, but the holes in his learning are holding him back.  I’ve finally faced the fact that I’ve let him slip through the cracks and I need to fix it.  I just don’t know how.  I don’t know how to identify exactly what he needs to focus on.  How can I determine what he’s got vs what he doesn’t?  Any suggestions for curriculum or other resources do you suggest?

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What if you did something like take a few placement tests and see if you can narrow down where he struggles. Does Khan Academy have a placement test? Then you could test and shore up in the same place. Another possibility would be to take the placement test for Math Mammoth to see where he is at. You could have him take the end of section tests until he scores below whatever you want to use for a cut-off, and then back up and work through that material. Probably any program would work that way.

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4 hours ago, athena1277 said:

His grades are usually in the 60-65% range.

How are you scoring the tests?  If it's even beginning algebra, you should be giving partial credit at least for some problems.

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7 hours ago, athena1277 said:

DS (12yo) is in 7th grade.  I’ve known he wasn’t super solid in math, but thought the repetition in Saxon would shore it up.  I was wrong.  I put him in Alg 1/2 (pre-algebra) this year.  I’ve been making him take the tests.  His grades are usually in the 60-65% range.  I thought, wrongly again, that his grades would improve as he got used to the kind of math.  He is mathematically minded, but the holes in his learning are holding him back.  I’ve finally faced the fact that I’ve let him slip through the cracks and I need to fix it.  I just don’t know how.  I don’t know how to identify exactly what he needs to focus on.  How can I determine what he’s got vs what he doesn’t?  Any suggestions for curriculum or other resources do you suggest?

Did you have him take the placement test before starting Alg. 1/2? If not, there's your problem. Give him the placement test now, and go with whatever the results are. Probably he needs to back up to Math 76; he would still be on track to do Algebra 1 when he's 14.

If he completes Math 76 with at least an 80% average, then he would go on to Math 87, then Algebra 1.

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Well, I'd sit and watch him do a few problems and see where the issues are at specifically.  Is it knowing operations?  Calculation speed?  Understanding the vocabulary?  What did you use before Saxon?  Can he visualize the math he's doing?

You can work on any or all of that individually but it's very hard to give detailed suggestions without knowing where he's coming from.

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To fill in any holes, I'd suggest starting with Margaret Lial's Basic College Math which begins with math basics. (He could do the chapter reviews to pinpoint any area of weakness.) Once he has finished that, he can move on to her prealgebra book.

Bear in mind that many children cannot simply learn math from a book; he may need active instruction. Do you have the time? Would a tutor or class be an option?

Regards,

Kareni

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Is Saxon pre-algebra his first brush with Saxon? What did you use before this? If you are committed to using Saxon products, he may need to back up either to 7/6 or 8/7.  There are placement tests for Saxon on the sonlight website: Saxon Placement Tests

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I recommend that you look up Art Reed.  Truly amazing IMO.  He will personally respond to students regarding any individual problem they have in Saxon 5/4 though calculus.

He mainly provides DVD (now also streaming) instruction to complement the use of the regular Saxon program - a lecture a day of anywhere from 5-20 minutes.  Our children said he was amazing (one went on to be a math major, but we had our share of math phobic, as well)  Many families we know began using him, and their students have the same opinion.

This was our experience:  eldest, quite bright at math had a rotten eighth grade Alg I year.  I tried three programs that year because I was so tense about high school math, and I decided to experiment. Super big mistake.  Our math-loving son was floundering and began freshman year unprepared for Algebra II.  Somehow I found Art Reed (probably from someone here), and left him an email.  He replied quickly, asking me to call him.  We were on the phone for a half of an hour - he kindly and patiently listening and then explaining that our son needed to repeat Algebra I.  I said, "My son will croak!"  Art Reed asked if I would like him to speak to our son and explain the rationale.  It was a successful conversation, a successful year, and that particular child went on to get a mathematics major and study finance in grad school, so I did not mess him up too much=)

Look up and contact Art Reed.  He'll personally help you through this.  His face to face lectures each day for Saxon are the bee's knees!

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CTC or Khan would let him be evaluated to see where the holes are I think.

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First I understand and found myself in a similar situation with my son.  He missed bits along the way because he always was way ahead of himself. He kept a close eye on what his older sister was doing and could do math way above his age because of that.  He would ask her how a particular problem was solved and she taught him that problem........he applied what she said and could basically do whatever over and over.  At about your son’s age I discovered that he had never learned the two negatives make a positive.......just guessed and wasn’t wrong all that often.  It happens and getting the kid to take me seriously in plugging his gaps was not easy.

We used Life of Fred which I think helped more than anything else I tried because he wanted the story, so he read the story which included explanations.  We started at fractions.......

eta.......testing never really helped as my son was a bit too intuitive and did not get his “gaps” wrong with any consistency.  At one point I bought all of Abeka and much of Saxon just for the tests on the used market.  It didn’t help all it did was make us irritated with each other.   I think going back with something very different is the only way.

Edited by mumto2
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Is this your first go with Saxon?  Or have you used it right through.

firstly he’s on the youngish side I think for algebra 1/2 you could also do 7/8 or 6/7.

secondly I’m having the same thing with my just turned 13 boy.  First we tried to jump to AOPS algebra of Singapore 6 but he couldn’t get his head round power laws no matter what.  We have kept slowly on with AOPS but mostly we’re using alg1/2.  Part of it is just age related brain fog I think.  Also there is a lot of work in there that’s not hard conceptually but is just hard in the sense that it’s a lot of really yucky rote calculation.  Having come off Singapore my son is finding that someone what difficult.  He doesn’t like writing out processes and struggles to hold all the numbers in his head.  I’d check whether the errors are errors of understanding or calculation/copying/memory type errors.

Edited by Ausmumof3
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Also I think this happens for so many school kids and then never get to plug the gaps.  At least we can see and work with it.

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I forgot to mention before that when my older son was halfway through Saxon 7/6 (so sixth grade math), I discovered that he was seriously confused about a number of things, including place value.  I had him take the MUS placement tests and he failed the Beta (second grade) test because he subtracted backwards instead of borrowing for every single problem.  So we started there, and went through Beta-Zeta in about six months.  MUS is designed perfectly for this sort of thing.  The easier stuff is in the beginning of each level, so if the student is solid on it, you can review it for a day and move on.  When they get to the harder stuff, worksheets to support the extra practice they need are right there.  The only problem is that it's expensive.

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DO NOT KEEP SOLDIERING ON.

Do not be upset that hes not "at grade level". Middle school is really an ok time to find the gaps and plug them. Don't be afraid to back up and do this.

I agree with a PP about figuring out WHAT he's messing up with. Is it always the same kind of problem? Is it careless errors? Is he showing his work?

Stop. Evaluate. And then make a plan for going forward. Did he start out the year making these rotten grades? If not, I'd go back to where he started failing and figure out where he got stuck.
Does he have to redo all the problems that he's missed? Can he explain and "see" his errors when he does this?

I have to remind myself that poor grades isn't just what my kids have "earned". It's revealing a hole in what they've learned. Each lesson of math builds on the next. So if they don't fully grasp a concept and keep moving ahead, their foundation is shaky. You can't build a house on the edge of a sinkhole and expect it to stand. Eventually, the foundation gives way and the whole house collapses.

So, if he has been doing poorly all the way through the curriculum, I'd say he was on the wrong level. If he started out okay and then started failing, back up and find the holes.

Forget about a "time line" or "grade level." It's more important to get the concepts in his head.

Will he freak out about it? Maybe. Perhaps this video will help him get the perspective that it's not only about grade levels and scores and being on track, it's about fully understanding the concepts. If he fully grasps the concepts he will then move more quickly than if he only partially understands stuff and then tries to move on.

If it's careless errors, then he may need to learn to show his work and write out every problem.

I found with my more mathy students, they got the answer fairly quickly and easily in their heads and so never learned to write things out systematically. But in higher maths, you will lose track of where you are in a problem if you don't do this neatly and carefully.

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You might try ALEKS online to pinpoint some of the gaps and maybe fill in some of the more basic topics, or topics where he really just needs a refresher. I suggest ALEKS often when people are unsure of the precise issues, because it is difficult and time-consuming for most people to do it by working through a text. With ALEKS, you take the assessment and it tells you what topics you have mastered, what topics you need to practice, and what topics you need to learn. It's \$20/month, and the assessment alone is worth that imo. For a stronger conceptual background, you would either work with him alongside ALEKS or just use ALEKS for the assessment and topics that need practice (moving on to something else for topics he needs to learn). The assessment is quite specific and will tell you what the student is ready to learn next and what they should wait on - that's one reason it's worth it for some people to keep as a secondary program, because it will continue reassessing him. You are also able to cancel at the end of a month, reactivate two months later, and so on.

He may not be ready for the more abstract thinking in algebra, or he may just be struggling with adolescence and hormones. It's definitely more important to keep him on a solid path than to have him complete algebra in 8th (although it's certainly still possibly that he will do so). My kid who had the absolute worst time in algebra (two years and a river of tears and angst, lol) is the same kid who wound up flirting with a math minor in college. She didn't wind up getting it, but she did go through calculus 1-3 and linear algebra when they weren't even required by her major. That's my long way of saying that, yes, he can regain his math mojo.

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