Teaching & Mentoring High School Math

Teaching & Mentoring High School Math

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It’s probably one of the most anxiety producing thoughts for homeschoolers- teaching high school math. Well meaning observers want to know how it’s possible to make sure our kids get the higher level math. If we have struggled with math, how will we help our kids to learn it? I have good news! Teaching & Mentoring High School Math is doable. Read on for some tips.

Math Instruction for High Schoolers

After laying the foundation for algebra in elementary and middle school, high school students are better able to tackle math on their own. We are Life of Fred users for high school math. You can read more about our Fred experience here. We locked on to Fred for high school math because it introduces concepts regularly and doesn’t beat the dead horse when it comes to practice. Beginning Algebra accelerates fast and it’s thorough. Here are a few reasons I use Life of Fred for high school math:

  • Instruction is not overly repetitive– Less drill and more complex problems. Just less problems overall. So, less fatigue and increased accuracy
  • Encourages a different approach to attacking a problem– it causes students to think. This is a big deal for a linear kid who is a computation king, but has trouble fitting ideas together to come to a proper conclusion.
  • Cost– honestly for $16 per book for the elementary texts and as much as $30-$45 for upper level math texts, you can’t go wrong even if you just wanted to try it out. Dr. Schmidt packs a lot of concepts into a non-consumable text I can use with all of my kids
  • The program is designed for students to read on their own– and do the problems and check them. Parents are not directly responsible for instruction. This is perfect for the high school parent nervous about math. The texts are written to the student and the author is vocal about staying out of the student’s way.
  • Allows lots of student to student mentoring– because they are all immersed in Fred’s world for math, our older students can help our younger students.
  • Spurs mathematical conversations– almost at any meal time. How many lunch tables vigorously take on set theory- especially when everyone from 10-16 can weigh in on the conversation all of them having been introduced through their Fred books?

We often hear Fred through out the day. Our high school senior recently read from his Trig book as he was reviewing. I adore being read to and it’s a great way to stay connected with their math assignments.

Teaching & Mentoring High School Math

Big Explanations for High Schoolers

When our high schoolers run into problems they have trouble solving, they turn to our slate chalkboard. Sometimes working a problem on a large surface helps the thinking process. It’s also a great way for us as parents and teachers to help out. We have a lot of discussions at the slate! After working a problem at the board, Ethan explains to Dan how he got to where he is in the problem.

Teaching & Mentoring High School Math

There are a few ways we can intervene when math gets tough:

  • I get the information from them and begin the problem on the board– often just starting the problem and watching it from afar, helps them to see where they went wrong. They finish it up on their own.
  • Dan comes to the rescue!– Nothing is better than an explanation from our school principal and great all around dad, Dan. He will use the chalkboard too (and admits it’s like butta!) and give long explanations to the problems.
  • Kahn Academy– If I’m not helpful at jogging a thought process and they’d rather not wait for Dan, then we seek out tutorials from Kahn Academy. It’s easy to search and it’s free. That’s a win! Often they will find the concept they are looking for and it will be helpful to keep going.
  • Revisit the instruction– When they have trouble, I send them back to the chapters they need to get grounded again and they move forward. Often times, re-reading will spark something which helps them along.

Teaching & Mentoring High School Math

College Exam Preparations for High Schoolers

If your high school student is college bound, then preparing for the college entrance exams needs to be part of their high school math experience. Your student may want to prepare for the following tests:

  • PSAT– Taken officially in 11th grade and qualifying students may be awarded a National Merit Scholarship. So, taking this exam gives students a glimpse of the next level of test and has the possibility of earning scholarships. Often 10th graders are permitted to take the PSAT as a practice. Some 7th graders may take the test to qualify for gifted and talented programs as well.
  • SAT– The infamous Scholastic Aptitude Test has sections devoted to math. A working knowledge of Algebra and Geometry is a must for this test.
  • SAT Subject Tests– There are 20 subject tests which students can opt to take depending on requirements from the universities and colleges to which they want to apply. There are two levels of the math subject tests. Math Test I tests on both years of algebra and geometry. Ethan is preparing for the Math II test which assesses the same topics as math 1 with the addition of trig and elementary functions.
  • ACT– An alternative to the SAT, the ACT is a different sort of aptitude test. Many colleges and universities accept both the ACT and SAT scores.

One thing to keep in mind when planning high school math courses is what math is necessary to score well on these college exams. Geometry gets a lot of time on these tests. If your student does two years of Algebra before doing Geometry (as is Fred’s scope and sequence), then he might be challenged on the math section of these exams. We found that Ethan scored even higher once he completed Trigonometry.

Teaching & Mentoring High School Math

Resources for Exam Preparation

Some students need more time for exam prep than others. Knowing how to take the test and what to expect can go a long way to success. When your high schooler begins working to prepare for these exams depends on when she plans to take them. The test sites have guidelines on how and when to study. Our rising senior is taking his exams this fall and will spend the month of August preparing in earnest. We did take practice tests in his junior year to gauge where he was and what he might need to work on.

  • The Official SAT Study Guide– from College Board. Reading the front matter of the guide will give lots of information on testing taking strategies.
  • High School Testing– by Lee Binz
  • SAT Question of the Day– This is provided by the College Board so that you can practice daily. Sign up via email or get the app and you’ll get a question delivered.
  • ACT Question of the Day– from ACT. Just remember that with questions of the day,  you’ll also be getting verbal questions in addition to math.
  • The Real ACT Prep Guide– The official guide from the makers of the ACT.
  • Apps– If you search your app stores for SAT and ACT apps, you’ll come up with lots of choices. Some are just for math practice. We actually have an Amazon app for our SAT Question of the Day.

Other Math Content at Blog, She Wrote

The Making of a Wizard & the Crafty Side of Math

Math has taken on different forms in our homeschool since we started homeschooling 10.5 years ago. These are additional posts on math you might enjoy.

  • Life of Fred Homeschool Math– This is a summary of our experience with Life of Fred from Apples to Calculus. It goes into more detail about how it works for all ages at our house.
  • The Making of a Wizard & the Crafty Side of Math– Do you have a creative child in your midst? Does math present challenges as a result? This post addresses how we keep our creative girl engaged with her math inspiring confidence in her math endeavors.
  • Homeschooling Middle & High School Math– This post summarizes our approach to math in middle and high school. You’ll find more details on helping older students with math.
  • Math– This is my math page with multiple links. You can find links to math for younger kids here including how we use Math on the Level.

Share with us your favorite high school math resource!

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Best Educational YouTube Channels for Homeschoolers

Best Educational YouTube Channels for Homeschoolers

This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for your support!

Over the last few years, YouTube has exploded with content made by experts in their field. Some of them are very talented at sharing concepts in creative ways. These channels are the reason it’s fun to make a YouTube Playlist for your students. Today’s post is all about the Best Educational YouTube Channels for Homeschoolers.

As always with internet content, previewing is a good idea. While many of these vloggers have great things to share, you want to be sure it is right for your family.

Math Channels on YouTube

Videos are a great way to enjoy math and these YouTube videographers have some fabulous content for us. Apart from curriculum math, I love the way these channels make us think about math. You’ll find everything from tutorials and instruction to current events and new ways to think about mathematical concepts.

  • ViHart– You may know her from Kahn Academy videos, but she has a style all her own. She has some fast paced videos which are sure to keep your attention and keep you thinking.
  • Numberphile– Just like the name suggests, this guy loves numbers and so will you after spending some time here.
  • Computerphile– A channel about all things computers. I know our youngest would adore this channel!
  • Kahn Academy– There’s a tutorial for everyone here! Math, science, languages, etc. These are individual videos, but on their website you can take courses as well. Our youngest enjoys the courses on computer science.
  • WowMath– This is a harder core lesson channel for high school math. Calculus anyone?
  • Professor Leonard– Another channel dedicated to math education.

This video from ViHart is all about the hexaflexagon. After watching it, our daughter made a bunch of them. Try it!

YouTube Science Channels

Science is an easy video topic with many science enthusiasts making contributions. If you have a favorite not listed here, please share it with us!

    • Mythbusters– Who doesn’t love this fun concept of busting or proving common conceptions (or misconceptions) in the physical world?
    • Vsauce– This guy tackles fun science questions like, “What is the speed of dark?”.
    • MinutePhysics– Fun physics videos that teach us why things are the way they are in the world around us
    • Periodic Videos– These are fun videos based on elements in the Periodic Table of the Elements.
    • SciShow– Fun videos on science concepts with an engaging format.
    • MinuteEarth– A fun look at earth science and conservation concepts
    • Veritasium– An element of truth. A look at science from the angle of misconceptions we may believe.
    • Sixty Symbols– Cool videos on physics and astronomy
    • How It’s Made– Our kids love this show! Now you can view episodes and clips on how everyday objects are made in factories around the world.
    • Cornell Lab of Ornithology– All things birds on this channel. If you are a nature enthusiast, then this is a great place to start.
    • Peterson Field Guides– Add a visual to your birding with these videos
    • BrainCraft– A show about neuroscience. Cool things to learn about our brains and the way they work!
    • ASAPscience– A weekly dose of fun science

Ethan, our 11th grader, suggested this video from VSauce to share with you. It’s a perfect illustration of the fact that many of these YouTube personalities talk about a variety of subjects. Just know that I grouped channels together reasonably well, but you will find these folks stepping out of their niche from time to time. While VSauce is mainly science, this video talks about language and how we use it. This is a fun look at words!

History Content Channels at YouTube

It’s easy to find video web content on historical topics, but it’s nice to have it all in one place. These are a few of our favorites when it comes to history and social studies in general. Sometimes you can catch full episodes of shows and other times, it’s only a clip.

  • CrashCourse– This channel has all sorts of subjects including historical and political content.
  • History Channel– You can find clips and full episodes of shows on the The History Channel.
  • Brain Bubble TV– Be smarter in 60 seconds. All kinds of questions and historical topics covered here. Probably other subjects too.
  • Mental Floss– A weekly trivia channel for knowledge buffs!

Tips for Using YouTube in Your Homeschool

Since most of us probably don’t need another reason for our students to sit in front of a screen, what are some ways to use YouTube effectively?

  • Sick days– You know those days when your kids aren’t totally sacked out, but they aren’t up for doing their regular school work? That’s a great day for a YouTube play list on math or science.
  • Traveling– Educational and reasonable when you have long road trips and you’ve played out the alphabet game
  • Waiting Time– I love to pass the time in doctor’s waiting rooms with a good math video. We’ve had quite a year of therapies and dr’s appts and this keeps the kids thinking.
  • Enhancement– Of a concept they are already looking at. Doing geometry in math? Find a fun video on Pi.
  • Inspiration– ViHart is a great artsy math example for our artsy daughter. She loves to watch math doodling videos and give them a whirl. It’s also good for introducing new vocabulary like, “fractals”.
  • Project Ideas– When our kids are working independently on their own projects, they can find help with a simple search.

Tools for Using YouTube in Your Homeschool

So, what do you need to get started using YouTube channels? Families are in different places with technology. Most people have a desktop computer, but not everyone has a mobile device. Here are some ideas:

  • Desktop Computer– There’s nothing wrong with saddling up and watching at the desk.
  • TV– Using a Wii which can access the internet. This is a great choice if you want a lot of people to see the video at once.
  • Tablets– Like iPads and Kindle Fires. If your family does not have a tablet, then I recommend the Kindle Fire. It’s a very economical way to enter the world of tablet computing and it’s a great product for internet consuming!
  • Mobile Apps– If you do have a tablet or a phone, you can use a YouTube App to view your playlists easily. I was even able to add to my playlists on my phone.
  • Playlists– If you want to have the lists of videos made ahead of time, then you can make a playlist. How to Make a YouTube Playlist is a tutorial on how to do just that!

How to Make a YouTube Playlist

Other Technology Posts at Blog, She Wrote

As I have become a user of some savvy tools in our homeschool, I like to share not only our experience but also how others can make use of the same tools. Enjoy some posts on technology in homeschool:

  • Managing the Internet in Your Home– All about how to use your router to filter content along with how to put access controls in place for your family’s devices. My husband Dan did a great job making this accessible to readers.
  • How to Make a YouTube Playlist– In case you missed this link and want to make customized playlists for school subjects.
  • How to Use Google Earth in Your Homeschool– Tutorials, lessons, and ideas on using this digital globe.
  • How to Homeschool with a Kindle– This page shares with you all my posts using a Kindle (both the reader and the tablet) in your homeschooling. Most people aren’t aware of all the features a Kindle offers. These have been invaluable in our studies.

What are your favorite YouTube channels? Please share them in the comments!

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Comparing the Accuracy of Liquid Measurement Tools

Blog, She Wrote: Comparing the Accuracy of Liquid Measurement Tools

Have you ever thought about how accurate your volumetric measuring tools are? How do you know your measuring cup is calibrated? Is it good science to use your kitchen tools for science? Today’s discussion is Comparing the Accuracy of Liquid Measuring Tools.

Are All Volumetric Measuring Tools the Same?

Blog, She Wrote: Comparing the Accuracy of Liquid Measurement Tools

The gold standard in measuring volume is the Volumetric Flask. It’s a laboratory flask which is calibrated precisely to a certain volume at a particular temperature. They come in various sizes from 1-10,000 mL of liquid. But, they are also expensive and they are typically not found in classroom labs or homes because neither work with extremely precise volumes of liquid.

So, what do we use instead? The rule of thumb is to use the graduated cylinder. With all the markings on the cylinder, it is considered more accurate than other volume measuring tools. But, is there a big difference? We decided to test them to see.

Tools for Measuring Volume

Blog, She Wrote: Comparing the Accuracy of Liquid Measurement Tools

What are some tools available for measuring volume?

  • Beakers– Are containers primarily used for mixing and heating. There are markings on them for measuring, but they are meant to be approximate.
  • Measuring Cups– The liquid measuring kitchen variety. We use Pyrex brand.
  • Erlenmeyer Flasks– These are wide bottomed but not circular with a neck that can use a stopper (with or without holes). It makes a good reaction vessel and allows a larger area for smaller volumes.
  • Florence Flask– This is a round bottomed flask used for boiling solutions.
  • Field Collecting Tubes– These are screw top collecting tubes which come in 15 mL or 50 mL and they are terrific for collecting aquatic specimens in the field. We use them during our entomology excursions.
  • Pipettes– Used for moving small volumes of water or removing liquid in small increments. I like the disposable kind because the cleaning is much easier!
  • Graduated Cylinder– Are used for measuring volumetric quantities. They range in size from 10- 1000 mL. If you are going to choose only one, the 100 mL size is a good one.

So, if you want to use something other than what’s found in your kitchen, where do you get them? We use Home Science Tools. We order some specialty items, like collecting tubes, from BioQuip. Just for fun, we also visited our local university’s chemistry supply room. Armed with gift money, our then 8 year old, took a trip with Dad to pick out his own glassware.

Testing the Accuracy of Volume Measuring Tools

Blog, She Wrote: Comparing the Accuracy of Liquid Measurement Tools

Since we used the graduated cylinder as our gold standard, we chose to determine the final volume in a graduated cylinder. Our procedure:

  • Choose a beaker, flask, or collecting tube and fill it with water to the highest marked volume in mL.
  • Record that volume in your data chart which will be labeled with the containers you are using.
  • Pour the contents of the first container into the appropriately (closest) sized graduated cylinder available.
  • Measure the volume of water in the graduated cylinder
  • Record the volume.
  • Repeat using various sized measurement tools.

How to Record Data When Doing a Science Exploration

Blog, She Wrote: Comparing the Accuracy of Liquid Measurement Tools

The data chart for recording volume was designed by each student separately based on what we needed to write down. Here are a few things to remember about data charts and recording data.

  • Have each student design her own based on ability- parents can step in when columns are missing.
  • Give hints or general categories students need to remember when constructing their own chart. It’s ok if the charts turn out differently from others as long as they record everything.
  • Creating their own data chart is a great way to learn the skill of organizing information. I think we underestimate the importance of our homeschooled students being able to organize information on their own- without the help of a printable!
  • Remember printables are fun, but they aren’t necessary and sometimes they slow you down– like when you are spending all your time looking for ones you’ve already printed or when you can’t find just the perfect one.
  • Scientists in the field must create their own data charts since they often design their own experiments. Step boldly!

Our Findings- How Accurate are the Volumetric Tools?

Blog, She Wrote: Comparing the Accuracy of Liquid Measurement Tools

What were the results?

  • All volumetric containers are not the same!
  • The graduated cylinder has more markings and measures more accurately – it was certainly easier to determine an accurate volume with more gradations.
  • The readings on the graduated cylinder were higher than the same volume measurement in the other tools.
  • The larger the container, the larger the discrepancy. The largest beaker was off my 20 mL or more!

What does it all mean? Well, it means if you want accurate volume without using a volumetric flask, use the graduated cylinder for the best results. Always use the container that will reasonably hold your liquids. If you use the extreme opposite, your readings will be less accurate.

Does My Homeschool Need Volumetric Measuring Tools?

Some of you might be asking whether or not it’s a good idea to invest in some volumetric containers for your homeschool. Is it a good idea? Here are a few things to think on:

  • Using containers meant for science frees up your kitchen tools– I prefer to use science tools for science and kitchen tools for the kitchen. That might be the science teacher talking, but it’s more than that!
  • Some chemicals don’t belong in vessels we eat from– Perhaps your wet labs aren’t dangerous, but some of them might be.
  • Using science tools reinforces safety measures– We don’t eat in the lab! Nor should we really eat from vessels used in the lab.
  • Ensures your students know how to measure volume accurately using appropriate tools
  • Your students will be versed in labware and how to use it
  • It helps our science to be more accurate– rather than guessing at volume when your liquid falls somewhere between 50 mL marks!

It’s easy to start out with a few beakers and graduated cylinders. We have a mixture of plastic and glass, but plastic lets me relax a little more. I would recommend a 100 mL graduated cylinder, 250 & 500 mL beakers at a minimum to start. If you work in small volumes, a 10 mL graduated cylinder is a good size.

Even the simplest of labs can introduce a great deal of concepts and provide plenty of practice at homeschool science. It’s important to use scientific volumetric tools as much as possible. Your measurements will be more accurate!

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