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What do you do when your kids are failing math?


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My 7th and 8th grade boys are doing AOPS Prealgebra this year, after finishing Beast Academy 5 last year. I’m keeping grades for the first time, and they are basically failing. The thing is, they are both more than capable of excelling in math, and they do understand the concepts.  They just keep getting enough homework and test questions wrong, that they are failing.  I’m frustrated, they’re discouraged, and I don’t know what to do!

Do I change programs because AOPS is insanely hard?  (I thought after Beast, it was a reasonable next step for kids who are good at math, but maybe the presentation is just too “lofty”??)

If we change, what is a good program to follow BA?
 

Do I change grading in some way to make it less discouraging?  (I was a school teacher and have graded kids before.  I award points for completed practice work, points for correct homework problems, and double points for correct test problems, divided by the total possible points.  Not too complicated.)

Do we restart the chapter?

Any help appreciated!

 

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I would find out why they are getting more wrong than correct. Are the questions they are missing the review questions or the challenging questions? I already plan that if my son can do the review questions, but not the challenging questions to move forward. It is ok with me if he can’t do the challenging problems. 

You are correct in that AoPS prealgebra can be the next level after BA 5.

AoPS is insanely hard and I don’t think it’s for everyone. 

If they are not getting it, then I would switch programs. There are plenty of math programs that has prealgebra. Math USee, Mr. D, dereck Owens, teaching Textbooks, and Principals of mathematics to name a few. you may want to look into math mammoth too. Other programs such as Jousting Armadillos and Jacob’s may have prealgebra. I can’t remember if they have both prealgebra and algebra. 
 

anyhow, I hope that helps.

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I never graded homework.  I had them work until everything was understood and correct.  And I only gave tests when I was sure they were ready for them.  

As far as grading goes--are you giving partial credit?  I always gave partial credit for anything that required several steps or a lot of thinking to work out, but only if they showed their work.  I also docked more for conceptual errors than housekeeping or simple arithmetic errors (in algebra and up--and AoPS prealgebra would probably be in this category as well).  

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If you were a classroom teacher for grade level math, you would probably make the tests easier (add in some easier questions and limit the challenging questions) and/or allow corrections or drop quizzes/tests where too many students failed.  These are common things.  

Is your goal learning?  If they are learning, they are learning.  

You can change how you grade, it is fine, it is up to you.  

It is fine to make mistakes as part of learning.  It is fine to do a difficult curriculum.  

It is your choice if you see they are learning and making good progress.  

If it's not productive -- it's your choice to slow down, add in other work that will be easier (maybe cycle in review?), or switch curriculums.  

These are all fair choices you can make!  

I think overall if you like it and they do like it, keep it.

If they are frustrated -- change or alter how you use it so maybe they have a higher level of success to hard (or too-hard) problems.  

It's okay to learn from a problem that is too hard -- it can still be learned from.  Or -- it can just be too hard and too frustrating.  

It is up to you to see what you think.  Either way is fine!

Edited by Lecka
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We don't 'grade' math work; we work until mastery. (We also don't have homework, and DS12 has only taken one 'test' so far, after chapter 6 of AoPS Into to Algebra book, which we used as a midterm. I corrected it, he made corrections, and then we put it away and moved on.)

Have you thought of using Alcumus for their homework, instead of grading their written work? They won't be able to move ahead until they get enough problems correct in a section, and that could motivate them to make fewer mistakes. (If they aren't being made to make corrections to their work, they might not have the motivation to do it correctly the first time. Grades don't always mean anything to kids.)

Edited by Noreen Claire
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Thank you!  Lots for me to think through.  I do think my boys should be able to solve the exercises (their “homework”) and review problem set (the test) in chap 1 without too much trouble.   I planned to use the challenge questions as extra credit.  Chap 1 is all review and they know the operations.  They are making silly mistakes, not major issues.  And they do work them until corrected.  That’s why we’re all frustrated.  If we had reached new concepts, it would be a different situation, imo.

Also, I taught American History which was writing, essay tests and lots of partial credit.  I thought math needed to be more black and white.  I’m scared to be too easy and have a phony looking set of grades when they finish high school.  Major learning curve going on here as we prepare for high school next year, I guess!

 

Thanks again!
 

 

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I will say that I had one child who just didn't "get" math until she was in college.  Then it all sunk it perfectly.  That kind of went along with a lot of things in her life, so it just seemed like for whatever reason, it took her brain longer to get there.  So in the meantime, we worked at good study/working habits.

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I also did not grade AoPS math.  I had them do the Exercises at the end of each section and then the Review Problems and Challenge Problems at the end of each chapter as homework.  They checked their own answers in the Key and if there was something they didn't understand we would study the solution together.  

I checked for mastery by monitoring their AMC and to a lesser extent MathCounts scores.  If their scores were improving each year I was good with that.   

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Focus on good work habits and teaching them to show their work.

If their math needs to be color-coded to prevent errors, then have them color code it to cut down on errors.

For example, color coding parenthesis so that they make sure that they are distributing completely through them and not just to the first term.

I would cut back the amount of work that I assign in one session and have them be more explicit in solving the problems so that they have a lower-error rate.

 

When you're grading, you need to examine the type of error being made: Are they mis-writing things, or are they misunderstanding the math? Do they consistently make the same types of errors?

Create an error-log for each child and have them track their errors.

A lot of errors may began to evaporate as they simply become aware of and personally invested in checking their work.
 

 

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I agree with the general consensus here. Would you say your boys are "failing" because they just don't understand the information presented? Or are the problems are too hard? Are they working the problems correctly but making a mistake somewhere in the process? Or are they confusing how to work the problems? I give my kids partial credit for working a problem correctly even if the final answer is wrong. (For what it's worth, I had a professor in college who could never work an entire algebra problem in class correctly. He kept notes to double check his answer and would always have to go back and fix where he'd miscalculated.) If they're really not understanding the material and you're all frustrated, it's ok to change the curriculum. I've switched to Math Mammoth and it's been a great fit for my son (starting 7th grade this year). The author explains concepts thoroughly and my son has so much more math confidence in than he ever did before. 

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I've never graded AoPS in the same way that I graded Singapore Math when they were younger.  I remember AoPS pre-A problems as being incredibly tedious and easy to make simple mistakes, but it's been a while.  Obviously, I want kid to learn not to make tedious mistakes, but in our house that wasn't my hill to die on.  I just checked to see that kid did actually understand what they were learning, we corrected work until it was right, and we kept going, doing some challenge problems.  I've continued with this method using AoPS with my older, who is now in precal.  Despite the fact that they might not have had an A if I graded traditionally, they earned a near-perfect SAT math score (which is mostly over alg/geometry/alg 2) and, when they had to take the algebra 2 end-of-course exam from our state to stay eligible for a public school sport, they got 51/52 questions correct.  It's possible that kid didn't master everything that AoPS intends, but it's also clear that they have learned the material reasonably well, and they have the ability to identify some of the less formulaic problems that AoPS presents.  Kid has continued with AoPS this long because it serves a few particular goals, but I chose not to use it with my younger because that child has different goals.  If I had it to do over, I'm not sure that I'd have done it with older, either, but kid wanted to continue with it once we started.    

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On 9/16/2021 at 1:57 PM, ivey_family said:

Do I change grading in some way to make it less discouraging?  (I was a school teacher and have graded kids before.  I award points for completed practice work, points for correct homework problems, and double points for correct test problems, divided by the total possible points.  Not too complicated.)

I know in high school and college I was not always graded on correctness for homework problems. I had professors/teachers grade homework

1) Solely on done vs not done (answers were marked correct or incorrect but the grade was not dependent on it).

2) Graded on correctness, but you could earn the points missed by handing in corrected work.

3) Graded on correctness, but homework was worth so little it didn't really matter. (something like 10% of total grade, the rest of the grade would be tests, and project(s))

At a certain level of math/science you are going to get your homework problems wrong. The homework is there to show you what you need more practice on before you go in for a test. 

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My math teachers did not grade homework, it was done or not. 

Tests - each problem would be worth a certain number of points and you absolutely could get partial credit. 

And you could correct any you missed for half credit - so if you earned an 80% first time around, you could fix everything and get 10 points out of the 20 remaining, for a 90%. 

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I've actually started grading DD9's work recently, since otherwise she had a serious lack of motivation to get things right, and I do want her to have reasonable work habits. 

When grading, I might get a bit more generous -- for instance, you could easily make hard questions be worth a certain number of points, and then only take off a point for a silly calculational mistake. That's how I used to grade when I was grading college calculus tests, for example. 

I'd also probably decrease the number of questions per day and make sure they have the time to really thoroughly check their work. And I'd talk to them about checking their work. 

Also, are there any consequences at all to getting bad grades? Is it that they are genuinely having trouble or are they simply unmotivated to be careful? 

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The reason that math teachers often don't grade home work for accuracy is because of the massive amount of homework a class of students produce in a day. By middle school, most teachers have 100+ students a day. That type of logistics-barrier does not exist in a home school. In school, teachers can't grade it all and hand it back in a timely manner. It's logistically not possible. The best that they can realistically do is check that the HW is done or not.

Now a days, with the online math homework portals such as WebAssign and MyMathLab or whatever they're called now, the HW assignments are automaticallly graded, HW is graded for accuracy, because the logistics barrier of determining if the HW  is right or wrong has been removed.

 

 

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I started by taking my cue from Richard Rusczyk and allowing two tries on all problems (like he designs all the AOPS placement tests). So DS works a few problems, gets them checked, and immediately tries to fix incorrect ones. We cycle through that for the duration of math time. The harder DS finds a section, the fewer problems he does before checking...during especially difficult section he is getting every problem checked before moving on so that misconceptions are caught quickly before DS gets frustrated by having to redo a whole string of wrong answers.

We worked to mastery, so the only "grade" I worried about was pass/fail for each lesson and chapter. If DS was getting enough problems correct in a lesson (after 2 tries) that I felt confident he was ready to proceed, then he passed and we moved on. If he wasn't then we sought out other resources to further teach that topic, redid the lesson problems together to make sure we understood their solutions, spent time working on Alcumus problems on that topic, etc. Eventually when I was convinced he had the material down, we moved on.

We used Alcumus as a source of preview and review. I scheduled time each week for DS to work on Alcumus - some of the questions were review from the chapter we were in, or much earlier, other questions were from later chapters, and DS was exposed to problems he would later encounter. At the end of the course, as a "final exam", I had DS get all the Alcumus topics for that book to green. That, along with his mastery work of the book problems, was plenty for me to award him an A for the course (technically this was for Algebra and Counting and Probability because I did not grade or award credit for Prealgebra since DS was in 4th grade when he took it).

For what it is worth, I ended up not being a fan of AOPS courses for my kids, and especially not Prealgebra.

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Your kids are not "failing"!!! The problems in AoPS are designed to be hard, and students are not supposed to get them all correct. The problems are learning tools, not an assessment of mastery - that comes much, much later. 
I do not grade any homework in math - homework is for learning. Punishing learners for struggling with new concepts accomplishes nothing but frustration and discouragement.
I gave one comprehensive final at the end of the semester to ensure long term mastery of the material.

I recommend you read: 
https://artofproblemsolving.com/news/articles/perfect-scores-set-students-up-to-fail

 

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36 minutes ago, regentrude said:

Punishing learners for struggling with new concepts accomplishes nothing but frustration and discouragement.

I mean, it doesn't sound like that's what going on?? I've started grading my kid's work because she was missing basic stuff... she basically didn't care at all whether she got it right as long as she felt that she understood it. And while I do prioritize understanding, I also think that kids should be getting questions they AREN'T particularly struggling with correctly and not deciding that it doesn't matter that they didn't divide by 2 since "they understand the formula for the area of a triangle, anyway." 

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5 minutes ago, Not_a_Number said:

I mean, it doesn't sound like that's what going on?? I've started grading my kid's work because she was missing basic stuff... she basically didn't care at all whether she got it right as long as she felt that she understood it. And while I do prioritize understanding, I also think that kids should be getting questions they AREN'T particularly struggling with correctly and not deciding that it doesn't matter that they didn't divide by 2 since "they understand the formula for the area of a triangle, anyway." 

The op said they're getting questions wrong on the homework and that affects their grade. Even if it's silly mistakes, grading accomplishes nothing. Giving them concrete strategies for improving does.

For a while, each of my kids made lots of  careless mistakes with signs. So I had them write all signs in colored pencil, red for plus, blue for minus - that slowed them down and focused their aattention. And the mistakes lessened.

Other types of errors benefit from other tools.

I have never seen the benefit of giving a failing grade for anything. Grading doesn't teach.

"Not grading" isn't the same as "accepting errors". Of course kids need to rework the problem until correct.

Edited by regentrude
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1 hour ago, regentrude said:

"Not grading" isn't the same as "accepting errors". Of course kids need to rework the problem until correct.

I'm sure kids vary, but my kid does much worse with being made to rework problems that she does wrong than with being given an incentive to not get them wrong in the first place. If she is forced to rework problems, she gets resentful and basically refuses to do it well. I'm saying this because we didn't use to have grades and I've tried. 

I don't think you should assume grading is serving no purpose for this family. It's possible it's useful. It's possible it's not. But we'd need more information.

Edited by Not_a_Number
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1 hour ago, Not_a_Number said:

I'm sure kids vary, but my kid does much worse with being made to rework problems that she does wrong than with being given an incentive to not get them wrong in the first place.

This seems to be making the assumption that she could be successful at all the problems you are giving her if she just did careful enough work. But for most kids, that is not how AOPS book problems work.

AOPS, by design, is asking students to use concepts to solve completely unfamiliar problems, using strategies and tricks they have never been taught. Even doing their hardest, most detail-oriented work, kids are bound to get some wrong...because at that stage they are still deepening their understanding of the concept and learning how to implement it in novel situations.

I don't think the Practice Problems, especially in an AOPS book, are the right time to be docking points for wrong answers and negatively impacting their final course grade. That would mean that a student who had to spend three times as much time and effort working and reworking the practice problems in order to fully grasp the concepts would get a considerably worse final grade than a student for whom the course was not a challenge at all and therefore got all the practice problems right the first time, even if they both got the same test and final exam scores and had both mastered the material by the end of the course. That pretty much goes against Richard Rusczyk's whole philosophy of how to nurture strong math students with challenge and failure. We want to encourage kids to attempt problems they don't know how to solve, not systematically fail them every time they try something hard and don't get it perfectly correct on the first try.

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2 minutes ago, wendyroo said:

This seems to be making the assumption that she could be successful at all the problems you are giving her if she just did careful enough work. But for most kids, that is not how AOPS book problems work.

Yes, I'm not talking about AoPS per se. Although I have to say that when I was giving DD9 problems from AoPS Intro to Algebra, she was making the exact same kinds of mistakes -- errors of carelessness and not of concepts. I think a lot of the pre-algebra problems are pretty susceptible to that kind of mistake. The kid I'm currently tutoring who's working through pre-algebra is also almost exclusively making those kinds of mistakes. 

 

2 minutes ago, wendyroo said:

AOPS, by design, is asking students to use concepts to solve completely unfamiliar problems, using strategies and tricks they have never been taught. Even doing their hardest, most detail-oriented work, kids are bound to get some wrong...because at that stage they are still deepening their understanding of the concept and learning how to implement it in novel situations.

I'd certainly never grade questions that require new concepts in the same way.  However, quoting the OP, she says this: 

 

On 9/16/2021 at 9:22 PM, ivey_family said:

They are making silly mistakes, not major issues.  And they do work them until corrected.  That’s why we’re all frustrated.  If we had reached new concepts, it would be a different situation, imo.

 

It sounds like they are being impatient and careless to me, rather than stumped. If they are at the beginning of the pre-algebra book, that frankly makes sense -- I remember that section requiring mostly mastery of arithmetic but also being really finicky and easy to mess up by a small amount. 

OP, can you give an example of the kinds of mistakes your kids are making? I feel like we're all making up theories to explain what's going on without any data, and that never works 🙂 . 

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11 hours ago, regentrude said:

Your kids are not "failing"!!! The problems in AoPS are designed to be hard, and students are not supposed to get them all correct. The problems are learning tools, not an assessment of mastery - that comes much, much later. 
I do not grade any homework in math - homework is for learning. Punishing learners for struggling with new concepts accomplishes nothing but frustration and discouragement.
I gave one comprehensive final at the end of the semester to ensure long term mastery of the material.

I recommend you read: 
https://artofproblemsolving.com/news/articles/perfect-scores-set-students-up-to-fail

 

Yes.  He says the correct level is getting about 70% right.  The other 30% might take a second or third or more try.

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Another voice in the chorus that AoPS is meant to be hard! I teach AoPS courses, and before every test, I remind the students that they aren't meant to be getting all or even 90% of the problems correct. "If you did, you'd be in the wrong class!"

@Noreen Claire suggested Alcumus for homework, and I'll second that. It's free, and fun enough that I catch myself getting sidetracked answering questions on my own account when I was on the site for other reasons.

IMO, if they understand the concepts and can apply them, that means they're passing the course; one of the big perks of homeschooling is that you can adjust your grading procedures to reflect that.

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I don’t think they are failing math, and I can't tell if you need to change programs or not.  An easier program might make for an easier year.  I tried AOPS one year with my oldest, but it wasn't a good fit even though she was 'gifted' according to the school.  She didn't like it at all and got very frustrated with it.  If your guys are frustrated,  I would consider trying something else like Crocodiles and Coconuts.  I have 8th grade twin boys, and puberty is making school very different this year.  They must be moving all the time, they are argumentative,  annoying, loud, easily frustrated, and unwilling to follow directions.  Its puberty and I think giving them time to mentally adjust without extra hard math can be a good choice.  With my oldest,  we got to this point and then redid PreAlgebra with a different program to give her an easy math year, and time to learn to manage her hormones.  Wise choice!  All of this to say, listen to your kids.  Are they frustrated?  Are they just not mature enough?  Do they like the challenge?  Are they happy with AOPS or are they tired of it?  

And I have to add that mine do not write out anything!  Driving me crazy and the cause of many silly mistakes on homework and tests.  They often find perimeter instead of area, volume instead of surface area,  forget to type in something correctly on the calculator.   For homework once they hit Algebra 1, I give them the answer key snd expect them to check each answer that same day and correct if needed.   If they can't figure it out, I help.  We are not doing AOPS, but I think its still a good way to learn to watch for silly mistakes.   

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  • 3 weeks later...

Thanks again, everyone.  As I said before, I never graded a mastery type subject before, and I'm realizing I need to adjust my thinking, my grading system, and my expectations.  Many comments above have been very helpful!

We've been doing only Alcumus the last couple weeks, and I retested them with the same questions at the end of the chapter.  We weren't thrilled with the results, even though they both did a large number of problems into green or blue for all the topics.  It was still silly mistakes, with a couple order of operations type issues, too.  I'm on the hunt for something different that is still challenging/advanced, but maybe a little less "find the trick" for every practice problem.

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10 hours ago, ivey_family said:

Thanks again, everyone.  As I said before, I never graded a mastery type subject before, and I'm realizing I need to adjust my thinking, my grading system, and my expectations.  Many comments above have been very helpful!

We've been doing only Alcumus the last couple weeks, and I retested them with the same questions at the end of the chapter.  We weren't thrilled with the results, even though they both did a large number of problems into green or blue for all the topics.  It was still silly mistakes, with a couple order of operations type issues, too.  I'm on the hunt for something different that is still challenging/advanced, but maybe a little less "find the trick" for every practice problem.

I find the review problems in the book much more straightforward, for what it’s worth.

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I think if you can — show someone more experiences with this program your kids’ work and ask for feedback.  It may be that if they were in a group of 20 kids, they would be fitting right in.  Or maybe they wouldn’t be.

That is very hard to know with just a couple of students.

It can also be very hard to know just what kind of mastery is needed to move on.

Is it conceptual mastery shown by not making a certain kind of mistakes?

Is it actually getting questions 100% correct?

I think if you could ask someone specifically it could go a long way.

My impression is there are people who can tell if there is mastery despite mistakes and it’s fine to move on, or if the mistakes do mean a lack of mastery.

Something I see with Saxon math — the tests have much easier problems than represented by the level of the daily work.  Much, much easier.  In Saxon, continuing to go forward is determined by the tests, not by daily work.  In other words — you can make a lot of mistakes on the daily work.

I don’t know if there is something like within the curriculum that says “here’s how to know if you keep going or think there’s a problem.”

If not — I think try to ask someone who has more experience with this program.

It is common for me to see my daughter miss more than 10 problems out of 30 on daily work, but they would be trickier in some way than the more-basic problems on the tests.

Or she just makes a mistake and goes back to see if she can figure out her mistake.  
 

If this curriculum doesn’t have something like that, maybe there is something on Teachers Pay Teachers where someone has developed their own unit tests, and maybe that would also include grading suggestions.  Things like that can be really helpful, or talking with specifics to someone who has taught it before.  

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12 hours ago, ivey_family said:

 I'm on the hunt for something different that is still challenging/advanced, but maybe a little less "find the trick" for every practice problem.

Just want to encourage you that AoPS isn't the be all end all of math curricula. It was awesome for my oldest, and I'm very thankful that it exists for students like him. However, it's often recommended as the "best" or "most challenging" curriculum when IMO it's actually only the best for a very small number of students who are both really really good at math and also who really really really love thinking about math concepts in a deep and theoretical way. All my kids are good at math to varying degrees, but only one of them was also the kind of person who really "got" AoPS and loved it. The rest of us shudder when we look at it! LOL

Getting bad scores using AoPS is not the same as "failing math". Not even close.

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1 hour ago, Lecka said:

My impression is there are people who can tell if there is mastery despite mistakes and it’s fine to move on, or if the mistakes do mean a lack of mastery.

I think it's also the case that there might be conceptual mastery but the work might still be unacceptably sloppy. DD9 is often in this category. 

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58 minutes ago, Momto6inIN said:

However, it's often recommended as the "best" or "most challenging" curriculum when IMO it's actually only the best for a very small number of students who are both really really good at math and also who really really really love thinking about math concepts in a deep and theoretical way.

I don't think it's really for kids who are really good at math or love theory. It's for kids who really love engaging with math via tricky problems that are like math contest problems. You can be very good at math and very theoretically-minded and still not enjoy everything feeling like it's a trick.

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14 minutes ago, Not_a_Number said:

I don't think it's really for kids who are really good at math or love theory. It's for kids who really love engaging with math via tricky problems that are like math contest problems. You can be very good at math and very theoretically-minded and still not enjoy everything feeling like it's a trick.

Most kids IME who like math contest problems are good at math and love math LOL! So I guess I will amend my statement that it's the best curriculum for students who are good at math,love math, AND enjoy being tricked 😂

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Just now, Momto6inIN said:

Most kids IME who like math contest problems are good at math and love math LOL! So I guess I will amend my statement that it's the best curriculum for students who are good at math,love math, AND enjoy being tricked 😂

I haven't found that exactly. The correlation really isn't perfect. And I know MANY mathy kids who don't like puzzles, including both of my kids. 

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7 hours ago, Momto6inIN said:

Just want to encourage you that AoPS isn't the be all end all of math curricula. It was awesome for my oldest, and I'm very thankful that it exists for students like him. However, it's often recommended as the "best" or "most challenging" curriculum when IMO it's actually only the best for a very small number of students who are both really really good at math and also who really really really love thinking about math concepts in a deep and theoretical way. All my kids are good at math to varying degrees, but only one of them was also the kind of person who really "got" AoPS and loved it. The rest of us shudder when we look at it! LOL

Getting bad scores using AoPS is not the same as "failing math". Not even close.

This is helpful!  I do get caught up in that thinking.  May I ask what your non-AoPS kids did like for pre-A?

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My son was not a great match for AoPS---especially the prealgebra book, which is different than the algebra book.  We switched over to the Chalkdust Program.  He is now an electrical engineering major, and is sailing through his last required math class and has found them all quite easy. He still hates AoPS....

FWIW, the books used with the Chalkdust program are all available on amazon, used, as they are textbooks used by a lot of community colleges. You could pick them up inexpensively. The ISBNs for the set we used are:

0-618-37262-8 text

0-618-37265-2 student solutions manual

0-618-37270-9 dvd instruction set

I think we paid <$100 for it all.

Chalkdust is still kicking around; I am surprised they haven't moved to a streaming model.  Their link is here: https://www.chalkdust.com/faq.html#prealg

The lecturer for the DVDs is Dana Mosely. You can get a flavor of what he does from his YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCH-giMTYV9BZc2cpJCInBUw  or from his website Cool Math Guy: https://coolmathguy.com .  

The only program I don't like from Chalkdust is Geometry. I recommend finding something else. Algebra, Intermediate Algebra--Graphs & Functions, and Calculus were all fine.

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45 minutes ago, prairiewindmomma said:

My son was not a great match for AoPS---especially the prealgebra book, which is different than the algebra book.  We switched over to the Chalkdust Program.  He is now an electrical engineering major, and is sailing through his last required math class and has found them all quite easy. He still hates AoPS....

FWIW, the books used with the Chalkdust program are all available on amazon, used, as they are textbooks used by a lot of community colleges. You could pick them up inexpensively. The ISBNs for the set we used are:

0-618-37262-8 text

0-618-37265-2 student solutions manual

0-618-37270-9 dvd instruction set

I think we paid <$100 for it all.

Chalkdust is still kicking around; I am surprised they haven't moved to a streaming model.  Their link is here: https://www.chalkdust.com/faq.html#prealg

The lecturer for the DVDs is Dana Mosely. You can get a flavor of what he does from his YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCH-giMTYV9BZc2cpJCInBUw  or from his website Cool Math Guy: https://coolmathguy.com .  

The only program I don't like from Chalkdust is Geometry. I recommend finding something else. Algebra, Intermediate Algebra--Graphs & Functions, and Calculus were all fine.

Mine didn’t hate AOPS, I did, but astonishingly, my DS retained very very little of AOPS. Yes he did the classes, and alcumus and the books. 
I am giving it a go with my DD, at least through prealgebra and I’m nervous. Maybe it’s me 😜

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1 minute ago, madteaparty said:

Mine didn’t hate AOPS, I did, but astonishingly, my DS retained very very little of AOPS. Yes he did the classes, and alcumus and the books. 
I am giving it a go with my DD, at least through prealgebra and I’m nervous. Maybe it’s me 😜

I've definitely seen retention issues with AoPS, having taught the classes. I don't think it's a cure-all. 

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1 hour ago, ivey_family said:

This is helpful!  I do get caught up in that thinking.  May I ask what your non-AoPS kids did like for pre-A?

I also have some very mathy kiddos who do not like or learn well from AOPS.

My oldest went through AOPS pre-algebra (and part of AOPS Algebra and all of Counting and Probability), but I doubt I will subject any of my other kids to that unless they are very gung ho.

All of my kids use Math Mammoth for elementary math, so they continue through MM7 which is pre-algebra. Prior to MM7, my kids also go through Hands on Equations, including the Verbal Problems book and Zaccaro's Problem Solving Genius and Real World Algebra.

My oldest then continued on to AOPS pre-algebra. My second son went through Dolciani pre-algebra...which was "fine", but didn't really go further or deeper than the resources he had already used.

So for the next two kiddos, I think I might just announce that MM7 plus Hands on Equations plus the two Zaccaro books are perfectly adequate as pre-algebra and there is no reason to drag that phase out any longer...obviously unless a particular child needs more time.

After that, I like Foerster for algebra 1 and 2. For geometry I like Math without Borders...actually, I just like the out-of-print textbook that they provide as part of that course: Geometry: A Guided Inquiry. I like that text better than others I have looked at.

As supplements I LOVE the math Great Courses by James Tanton - so conceptual and visual and deep.

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9 minutes ago, wendyroo said:

I also have some very mathy kiddos who do not like or learn well from AOPS.

My oldest went through AOPS pre-algebra (and part of AOPS Algebra and all of Counting and Probability), but I doubt I will subject any of my other kids to that unless they are very gung ho.

All of my kids use Math Mammoth for elementary math, so they continue through MM7 which is pre-algebra. Prior to MM7, my kids also go through Hands on Equations, including the Verbal Problems book and Zaccaro's Problem Solving Genius and Real World Algebra.

My oldest then continued on to AOPS pre-algebra. My second son went through Dolciani pre-algebra...which was "fine", but didn't really go further or deeper than the resources he had already used.

So for the next two kiddos, I think I might just announce that MM7 plus Hands on Equations plus the two Zaccaro books are perfectly adequate as pre-algebra and there is no reason to drag that phase out any longer...obviously unless a particular child needs more time.

After that, I like Foerster for algebra 1 and 2. For geometry I like Math without Borders...actually, I just like the out-of-print textbook that they provide as part of that course: Geometry: A Guided Inquiry. I like that text better than others I have looked at.

As supplements I LOVE the math Great Courses by James Tanton - so conceptual and visual and deep.

Do the Zaccaro books have worked out solutions? That’s one of the appeals of AOPS honestly.

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I had one child that used AoPS and did really well with their online classes.  Most of my other kids have began the Dolciani series with Pre-algebra, even my DS who is very mathy switched from AoPS.  My last one struggles a little more and I pull from MM7 when we need a little more time on a topic. 

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2 hours ago, ivey_family said:

This is helpful!  I do get caught up in that thinking.  May I ask what your non-AoPS kids did like for pre-A?

We use Math Mammoth exclusively from 1st grade through the Pre-Algebra books and then switch to Video Text, which is a strong conceptual program, albeit not in the same league of rigor with AoPS. But it's built a firm foundation for my kids and they know and understand algebra because of it. Heck, I didn't really understand algebra myself til I'd been through that program 🙂

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32 minutes ago, madteaparty said:

Do the Zaccaro books have worked out solutions? That’s one of the appeals of AOPS honestly.

I wouldn't call them 100% worked out solutions...but they do have ~75% worked out solutions.

You do have to think about the solutions a little bit. One might start with something like "4h + 2c = total legs" without explicitly telling you that they are using h to stand for the number of horses and c to stand for the number of chickens and therefore 4h is number of horse legs and 2c is number of chicken legs. But I do find they give all the necessary steps as long as you can read between the lines and make a few logical leaps.

I really like how he structures his books into difficultly levels. He teaches a concept in a very clear, straightforward manner, and then the first problem set is composed of problems just like what he showed you. The second set is one small step harder, perhaps using more complicated numbers. The third set starts to requires students to apply what was taught to problems that go slightly beyond those in the examples. And the "Einstein" level asks things that may not even seem related to the topic until you start thinking more deeply and realize how you can use what was taught to solve something that looks different and complex.

However, the downside to his books is that they are sporadic and uneven. They are not comprehensive and sometimes he includes topics or questions whose difficulty seems very out of synch with the rest of the book. I always previewed the questions carefully because they occasionally assumed students knew information or techniques that my kids had never seen before.

Overall I still find them worthwhile, and better than other options I have looked at.

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It’s been about a decade since we bought it—I think 2012(?). 

He found the text dense and poorly laid out. He’s not a plug and chug kid, but he’s also not enamored with doing so much discovery math. He can totally solve things when the solution isn’t obvious and he’s willing to work for a long time, but AoPS was killing his joy. The balance was just off for him. 

He was still pretty young when he hit algebra, and I don’t have the natural love of math my dh and Ds have—it was easier to switch programs than fight a battle. As I mentioned, his high school work had him entirely prepared for university work, and more importantly, he still loves math.

We were doing the program pre-videos and all of the other things that have built around the books, so I think newer users have had different experiences…

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On 10/6/2021 at 9:36 PM, Momto6inIN said:

We use Math Mammoth exclusively from 1st grade through the Pre-Algebra books and then switch to Video Text, which is a strong conceptual program, albeit not in the same league of rigor with AoPS. But it's built a firm foundation for my kids and they know and understand algebra because of it. Heck, I didn't really understand algebra myself til I'd been through that program 🙂

I just bought MM7 today before I saw your post.  I'd never looked at it before, but I've been pouring over threads and options for a week, and it caught my attention this morning. I'm the tiniest bit sad that we only have one year of it because I love the way it's set up!  I have loved all our math programs (Miquon and BA), so I don't regret my previous choices, but this looks like it will suit us very well this year.  Better days ahead!

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2 hours ago, ivey_family said:

I just bought MM7 today before I saw your post.  I'd never looked at it before, but I've been pouring over threads and options for a week, and it caught my attention this morning. I'm the tiniest bit sad that we only have one year of it because I love the way it's set up!  I have loved all our math programs (Miquon and BA), so I don't regret my previous choices, but this looks like it will suit us very well this year.  Better days ahead!

Back in the day, when I realized DS had forgotten so much, I would pull from Math Kangaroo books to relearn concepts. I think I might just do that with DD instead of rehashing my AOPS trauma lol. 

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7 hours ago, ivey_family said:

I just bought MM7 today before I saw your post.  I'd never looked at it before, but I've been pouring over threads and options for a week, and it caught my attention this morning. I'm the tiniest bit sad that we only have one year of it because I love the way it's set up!  I have loved all our math programs (Miquon and BA), so I don't regret my previous choices, but this looks like it will suit us very well this year.  Better days ahead!

Great I hope it works well for you! 😊

Just a heads up that sometimes the number of problems per lesson is overwhelming. I usually have them do half of each section/box, and if they can do those without a problem, we move on to the next section/box. If they can't do half well, we reteach and review and do the other half.

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