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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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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!