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Review last updated: 2012

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Videotext Algebra

This unusual course actually combines pre-algebra through algebra 2 concepts (including serious

work with functions) in a single course. If you are considering starting this at the pre-algebra

level, you should know that most pre-algebra courses now include geometry, measurement, and

other topics that are beyond the scope of this course. This course focuses on number concepts

that are foundational for algebra: fractions, decimals, operations, prime numbers, signed

numbers, etc. It continues from there to teach algebraic concepts in a different sequence than is

common to most other programs. Equations and inequalities are taught together, concepts are

developed in order of degrees (e.g., first degree equations, then second degree equations), and it

strives to follow a logical continuity from lesson to lesson as much as possible.

The course is divided into six modules, which should take one to three months each to complete.

Consider the entire program equivalent to two years of high school algebra and a supplement to a

pre-algebra course, even though it should take less than 2 years to complete.

Five- to ten-minute lessons are presented on the videos (about 30 lessons per module, with about

10 lessons per tape). These should be paused frequently for students to consider their own

answers to questions posed by the video teacher. Parents should watch the video and discuss

concepts with students, but I suspect most parents will prefer that their teens work independently.

A booklet of course notes covering all key concepts and examples comes with each module, so

students need not take their own notes as they watch videos. Each module has a non-consumable

student worktext that presents concepts again, using additional examples, then providing practice

exercises. A Solutions Manual provides step-by-step solutions for every problem in the worktext.

A Progress Tests booklet contains quizzes, tests, and cumulative reviews. Two versions of each

test allow for retesting when necessary. Finally, Instructors Guides included in each module

offer step-by-step solutions to all quizzes, tests, and reviews plus cross references for test

problems to the appropriate lessons.

A number of different teachers present the lessons but, because all the lessons were written by a

single author, they all use a consistent style that works very well. Presentations are methodical

and clear. Videos use animated graphics to illustrate lessons. Emphasis is upon conceptual

understanding rather than memorization of processes.

This is solid algebra instruction that should work well for independent learners. The multimedia

presentation is likely to be especially helpful for students who struggle with math. If students

need assistance, a toll-free help line is available for them to ask questions. If it does not pose

problems for SAT or ACT testing, I recommend completing all six modules before tackling a

geometry course.

In 2010, Videotext introduced online/digital versions of their courses at a greatly reduced price.

Course content is identical but everything is accessed through the internet.

Pricing

All prices are provided for comparison only and are subject to change. Click on prices to

verify their accuracy.

Algebra A Complete Course (Modules A,B,C,D,E,F)

$425.00 Used at Amazon.com Marketplace

$99.95 at Rainbowresource.com

Algebra: A Complete Course: Algebra 1 and 2 (DVD Workbook Set, Module A, B, C, D, E,

F)

Thomas Clark

$450.00 Used at Amazon.com Marketplace

$99.95 at Rainbowresource.com

Videotext Algebra a Complete Course Module C (Dvd)

TOM CLARK

$61.54 at Amazon.com

$52.00 Used at Amazon.com Marketplace

$99.95 at Rainbowresource.com

Algebra: A Comple(e Course, Module D (DVD Format)

Video Text Interactive

$95.00 at Amazon.com

$99.95 at Rainbowresource.com

Module E - Second Degree Relations and Higher - Algebraic Fractions (Algebra: A

Complete Course)

VideoText Interactive

$84.50 at Amazon.com

$85.00 Used at Amazon.com Marketplace

$99.95 at Rainbowresource.com

VideoText Interactive Algebra: A Complete Course Module F DVD (Unit IX, Parts A-F)

DVD

$85.00 at Amazon.com

$99.95 at Rainbowresource.com

Algebra Complete Set 6 Progress Tests (A-F)

$119.70 List Price at Rainbowresource.com

$99.95 at Rainbowresource.com

DVD and print course: $529 for complete course or $99.95 per module

Digital course online $299 for complete course

Algebra: A Complete Course

An alternative approach to Pre-Algebra, Algebra 1, or

Algebra 2!

The reason that we named our program Algebra: A Complete Course, is that we believe the

best way to learn Algebra is to start at the beginning and end at the end! In this program you will

find a complete study of the essential material covered in a traditional Algebra 1 and Algebra 2

course.

However, we need to continue a little further with this answer because Algebra 1 and Algebra 2

are terms that refer mostly to the traditional way that Algebra has been taught. Traditional

Algebra 1 classes attempt to cover most of Algebra in the first year, but the methods that are

used, and the speed with which the material is covered, hinders student understanding of the

material. Instead, the student is just exposed to memorizing rules, formulas, tricks, and shortcuts.

By the time they get to what is called an Algebra 2 course, (sometimes after they take a

Geometry course), they have forgotten almost all of the Algebra that they memorized. So, that

Algebra 2 course (which is by definition, a rehash of whatever has been called Algebra 1),

must repeat practically all of the Algebra 1 course. In fact, it usually repeats a lot of the Pre-

Algebra material as well. This is usually referred to as the spiral method of learning, and it is

not very effective in helping students to excel, especially at this level of mathematics.

We think that this huge overlap is generally unproductive, and largely unnecessary if the

concepts are taught analytically. Therefore we call our program Algebra: A Complete Course,

because we employ a mastery-learning approach, sometimes moving at a slower pace, but

without the overlap. As a result, students often complete the course even more quickly.

PROGRAM DESCRIPTION:

There are 176 video lessons contained in 10 unit directories. The program covers Pre-Algebra,

Algebra I and Algebra II, and is a firm foundation for students advancing to VideoTexts

Geometry: A Complete Course, covering Geometry and Trigonometry. Each Algebra Program

Module includes DVDs and corresponding books (Course Notes, Student WorkText, Solutions

Manual, Instructors Guide and Progress Tests).

Materials in the complete course include:

176 Video Lessons Each of the 5-10 minute lessons explore Algebra concepts in a detailed

logical order. Because no shortcuts or tricks are used, the methods are easy to follow and

promote clear understanding.

360 pages of Course Notes These notes allow students to review the logical development of a

concept. Each page chronologically follows the video lesson, repeating exactly what was shown

on the screen.

590 pages of Student WorkText These pages review the concept developed in each lesson.

More examples are given and exercises are provided for students. The explanations are virtually

free of complicated language, making it easy for students to follow the logic of each concept.

Solutions Manuals These manuals provide detailed, step-by-step solutions for every problem

in the student WorkText. This resource is a powerful tool when used by students to complete an

error-analysis of their work, and to check their thought processes.

Progress Tests These tests, with the answer keys included, are designed to have students

demonstrate understanding, lesson-by-lesson, and unit-by-unit. There are two versions of each

test, allowing for retesting or review, to make sure students have mastered concepts.

CLAIMED CREDITS:

When a student completes Algebra: A Complete Course, the student can claim credits for all of

the following:

Pre-Algebra

Algebra I

Algebra II

With the completion of Geometry: A Complete Course, the student can also claim credits for:

Geometry

Trigonometry

Pre-Calculus

ALGEBRA PROGRAM OVERVIEW:

The VideoText Algebra program addresses two of the most important aspects of mathematics

instruction. First, the inquiry-based video format contributes to the engaging of students

more personally in the concept development process. Through the frequent use of the pause

button, you, as the instructor, can virtually require interaction and dialogue on the part of your

student. As well, students who work on their own, can simulate having an instructor present by

pausing the tape every time a question is asked and trying to answer it correctly before

continuing. Second, each incremental concept is explored in detail, using no shortcuts, tricks,

rules, or formulas, and no step in the process in ignored. As such, the logic and the continuity of

the development assures students that they understand completely. Subsequently, learning is

more efficient, and all of the required concepts (topics) of the subject can be covered with

mastery. Of course, the benefits of these efforts can be seen even more clearly in a description of

a typical session as follows:

After a brief 2 or 3 sentence introduction of the concept to be considered, usually by examining

the description and the objective given at the beginning of the video lesson, you and your student

can begin. You should pause the DVD frequently, usually every 15-20 seconds (or more often

if appropriate), to engage your student in discussion. This means that for a 5- 10 minute

VideoText lesson, it may take 15-20 minutes to finish developing the concept. Dialogue is a

cornerstone. In addition, during this time, your student should probably not be allowed to take

notes. He or she must not have their attention divided, or they risk missing important links.

Neither should you be dividing your attention by looking at notes or writing on a note pad or an

overhead projector. Everyone is concentrating on concept development and understanding.

Please understand that a student who is accustomed to working alone, or can be motivated to

study independently, has, with the VideoText, a powerful resource to explore and master

mathematical concepts by simulating the dialogue normally encountered with a live instructor.

And, because of the extensive detail of the explanations along with the computer generated

graphics and animation, students are never shortchanged when it comes to the insight necessary

to fully comprehend.

Once the concept is developed and the VideoText lesson is completed, you can then employ the

course notes to review, reinforce, or to check on your students comprehension. These course

notes are exact replications of the content that was viewed in the VideoText lesson, illustrating

the same terms, problems, numbers, and. logical sequences. In fact, at this time, if your student

needs a little more help, he or she can use these course notes while viewing the lesson again,

using them as a guide through the reexamination of the concept. .The key here is that students

concentrate on understanding first, and take care of documentation later.

Please understand that it is not the intent of the program to let the VideoText lesson take the

place of instruction. Actually, the video should never tell your student anything that hasnt

been considered or discussed (while the DVD is paused), and it should never answer

questions that have not already been resolved. As such, it becomes a new breed of overhead

projector whereby you, as the teacher, or your student working alone, can write on this

overhead simply by pressing the play button. This is a critical point to be understood and

should serve to help you examine all of the materials and strategies from the proper perspective.

Finally, your student can begin to do some work independently, either by your introduction of

additional examples from the WorkText, or by the student immediately going to the WorkText

on his or her own. The primary feature of the WorkText, beside providing problem banks with

which students can work on mastery, is that objectives are restated, important terms are

reviewed, and additional example are considered, in noticeable detail, taking students, once

again, through the logic of the concept development process. The premise here is simple. When

students work with an instructor, whether doing exercises on their own or working through them

with other students, they are concentrating more on how to do the problems. Then, when they

leave the instructor, they simply dont take the discussion of the concept with them. The goal of

the program is to provide a resource which will help students relive the concept

development on their own, whether for review or for additional help. That is the focus of the

Student WorkText.

In addition, there are detailed Solutions Manuals, which afford the opportunity to check work

and engage in error analysis. Of course, there are also quizzes, unit tests, cumulative reviews,

and final examinations to help you to further assess your students progress. In fact, the

assessment package often utilizes open-response questions which require the learners to state,

in writing, their understanding of the concept. This often reveals much more about a students

understanding of a concept than just checking to see if an answer on a test is correct.

As you can see, the highly interactive quality of this program, at a personal level, affords

students a much greater opportunity than usual to grow mathematically and develop confidence

in their ability. As well, they can review the video lessons as often as they wish to further ground

that understanding.

ALGEBRA SCOPE AND SEQUENCE RATIONAL:

There are two basic premises which drive concept development in Algebra, and these two

essentials shape the logical scope and sequence of algebraic content. First, it is generally

understood that the study of Algebra is the study of relations. In the same way that Geometry

focuses on spatial concepts, and Calculus is concerned with rates of change, Algebra is a

comprehensive exploration of mathematical relationships, including both equations and

inequalities. As such, no treatment of Algebra should ever separate equations from inequalities,

especially when it utilizes a format which addresses them in different chapters. In fact, a true

adherence to the National Council of Teachers of mathematics (NCTM) standards, requires us to

deal specifically with functions, and we know that the set of functions is a subset of the set of

relations, without regard initially to the differences between equations and inequalities.

Therefore, in this course, equations and inequalities are studied together, and distinctions are

made only when necessary, to clarify functional differences. As an aside, documentation exists to

show that students generally have little or no trouble working with all types of relations at the

same time and, in fact, understand the logic of studying them together.

The second premise is that the concepts of Algebra develop by degrees. This means, of course,

that relations of first-degree should be mastered first. In fact, as instructors, we all understand

that relations of any degree other than one must be reduced to relations of first-degree, or

factored into linear or first-degree factors, before they can be resolved. The impact of this

understanding on the scope and sequence of Algebra content, is to organize the various types of

relations, by degree. In this course, first-degree relations are examined exhaustively before

higher-order relations are encountered. Unit II deals with first-degree relations with one variable.

Unit III then addresses first-degree relations with two variables. Unit IV considers first-degree

relations with three or more variables. The idea here is to help students master first-degree

relations, before moving on to relations of other degrees (or orders). This is not only more

mathematically correct than the traditional treatment, but it allows students to reinforce more

efficiently, one-variable concepts by immediately moving to two-variable concepts, and then to

concepts involving three or more variables. And we all know that a system of relations with three

variables is resolved using the same approach as a system with only two variables.

Moving on to Unit V, students quickly review exponent notation, including the various

properties of powers and operations with powers, and investigate relations with integral degrees

of 2 or higher. Unit VI continues this exploration with a focus on algebraic fractions, in which

negative, integral exponents make a prominent appearance. In Unit VII, fractional exponents are

introduced, which obviously pave the way for a study of radicals and roots. This, of course, is the

seed from which rational-degree relations develop, or, as they are more commonly called,

relations with radicals in them.

Then, after a review of second-degree relations with one variable (Unit VIII The Quadratic

Relations) and two variables (Unit IX The Conic Sections), the study of Algebra is completed

by examining the only type of exponent not yet investigated the variable, or placeholder. This

is the start of a study of literal-degree relations, and is the basis for the development of

exponential and logarithmic functions. It is only after considering all possible degrees, that we

can say we have studied a complete course in Algebra. In that context, it is quite artificial to

define, for everyone, what Algebra 1 is, or Algebra 2, or even Pre-Algebra.

The logical scope of Algebra covers relations of all degrees, including numeric and literal, while

the sequence of concepts begins with a mastery of first-degree relations and grows systematically

to include increasingly more sophisticated degrees. One more organizational quality is

noteworthy here. The normal flow of each unit is based on the logical introduction of any new

mathematical symbolism. First, the new thing is defined and described in detail. Then,

operations involving the new thing are explored. Finally, relations involving this new thing

are examined, and strategies are developed to resolve them. This cycle is introduced and

explained in Unit I, and is evidenced in each successive unit. For example, in Unit V,

polynomials are introduced. This is new mathematical symbolism for the student, and it must be

defined carefully. Then, operations with polynomials must be examined. All of this culminates,

of course, in learning to solve relations with polynomials. This logical cycle of exploration in

mathematics is helpful to students, providing them with some anticipation of the levels of

exploration necessary to develop algebraic concepts. Please understand that the organizational

argument presented here is not meant to stifle the creativity of the instructor. Neither should it

prohibit the instructor from utilizing a modular approach to concept development. It does,

however, serve to remedy the fragmented, isolated topic, chapter approach, to a subject which

has been traditionally presented to us in textbooks, without that element of developmental

continuity. To that end, it speaks loudly to the curricular issues which all instructors face, and the

attitudinal issues students deal with when they are presented with the fact that everyone must

pass Algebra.

CLICK HERE To Download the Algebra Scope and Sequence Rational

ALGEBRA COURSE SCHEMATIC:

Homeschool Highschool Carnival: Math in the Homeschool

This month's Homeschooling High Schooling Carnival is on the topic of math.

What does your highschoolers math program look like? What influenced your

choices/selection?

I just recently wrote as a guest blogger about high school math, though through the filter of teaching

Euclid. I will link to those posts because they told a bit about our high school experience, but you don't

have to follow them unless you want to!

Teaching Euclid Part I

Teaching Euclid Part II

My main theme in these Homeschooling High School posts has been something like "you plan and

prepare with the ideal in mind, but you do what suits the child and your circumstances." The same

thing is going to run through this post on math.

I was handicapped by not having a real ideal in math. There are plenty of criticisms of high school math

out there; one recent one I read was Lockhart's Lament, and the corresponding book, A Mathematician's

Lament. I also came across some strong criticisms when I was researching for the Euclid posts linked

above, and some of them are linked in the posts.

They offer solutions, but generally the classroom type, not the kind of solutions that are easy for me, a

homeschooling mom with not a lot of math background, to adopt.

Classical education and Charlotte Mason, my main influences, generally just incorporate the best of the

conventional in math. They might advance the child the equivalent of a grade level or two, or add some

Euclid and/or living books, but they don't really change it from the ground up, at least not by high school

age. So you are stuck with the conventional math scope and sequence:

7th grade-- consolidation of basic math, plus prep for algebra

8th grade -- Algebra (at least now in California that's the ambition)

9th grade -- Geometry

10th-11th grade -- Algebra II and Trigonometry (usually a combined course in my experience, often 2

years worth of work)

12th grade -- no math, or advanced statistics, or calculus

If your child is especially strong in math, you may advance faster through this standard high school

sequence. If your child takes a little longer to get to the abstract stage, perhaps it's as well to linger

longer. My strongest two math students got up to Algebra II/Trig. The other two got most of the way

through Geometry. The three that are in college or beyond all did very well in college math

environments.

Curriculum we used for the older three:

Jacobs for Algebra I and Geometry

(if a child reached Algebra 1 during middle school, or seemed shaky on the transition to abstract

conceptualization, we used Key to Algebra, which I highly recommend for those purposes)

One of my boys went on through Foerster's Algebra 2/Trigonometry. It is very good but at least in the

older edition, seems to require much self-discipline and conceptual understanding.

The other boy who went past Geometry did so in a public school/independent study format. I think he

used Prentice Hall's Algebra II/Trigonometry. He did not like it though he struggled on and got a decent

grade. I helped him with some of the lessons and I had considerable trouble grasping the material

though I did quite well in high school math, so I sympathized with his criticisms.

My present high schooler is somewhere between 10th and 11th grade (haven't quite decided yet). He

is doing geometry using Jacob's. We use Khan Academy Geometry as a supplement.

The Great Courses also have some mathematics resources. My son and I geeked out the summer

before last on this "Secrets of Mental Math". For us, it was a fun and energizing break. We plan to

watch it again some time.

I don't know if Chari is going to post on math, but I know that she has found a solution for the challenges

of teaching math in high school. She has a good friend who is a former homeschool mom, from a math

background, who loves to tutor. Once Chari's kids reach high school age, they are tutored by this friend

and do well.

I have looked up tutoring resources in our area, especially when facing some kind of challenge, and they

are expensive and require driving 30 to 80 miles. So, yeah, no. But I've seen it work well, and I've

considered moving nearer Chari not only to be closer to one of my best friends, but to join her great

homeschool community, which we don't have here.

However, you can do it without a tutor, and to show it's possible, my oldest came close to acing his

math SATs (he was pretty upset he didn't get a perfect score; he did get perfect LA results). I remember

talking to a friend, a retired high school teacher, who was skeptical about homeschooling because he

didn't think homeschool parents could teach all subjects at a high school level. I didn't normally talk

about our kids' SAT scores because, well, you know, that's not the point, but I did mention my son's

results then. Our friend was quite surprised and I think it modified his opinion at least a trifle.

The thing is that in the homeschool, teaching is not everything (though being a support and guide is

important, and sometimes that does mean teaching or at least finding the right teaching materials or

outside resources).

Learning is the thing, and realizing that it's the learning that is key can streamline things for the

homeschooling mom who doesn't remember all her high school math and science courses.

Willa at 7:47 AM

Share

2 comments:

1.

MichelleJanuary 4, 2013 at 3:10 AM

It is nice to have high school math/high school mathematics tutoring. It's easier to grasp

on the concepts when it is taught one on one.

Reply

Replies

1.

ChariJanuary 26, 2013 at 8:58 AM

Oh, Michelle, it has probably been the best blessing of our homeschool

journey.....a friend who tutors gratis.

Unbelievable blessing.

Willa, if you moved here I would have a "wonderful homeschool

community"......I think you are mistaking my several good friends who

homeshool here as "a wonderful homeschool community" ;) For the most part,

they have children younger than mine......and they arrived long after I had lived

through the loneliest time of my homescooling. Thank God I had YOU during

some of those years. :)

BTW, moving here is an excellent option. Still. Closer to Oregon, and way, way

less rain than they have.....and way less snow than you have. Though myabe that

is not enough of a selling point as I look out my window at this time.

Plus, our younger three boys would be best friends. They need each other. ;)

Homeschool things to do for Tuesday: Math

We are using a (thrifted) textbook, Addison-Wesley's Minds On Math 8. The plan this year is to

use just the first half of the book. I also want to set up a "math journal," as outlined by Cheryl

Bastarache in her article "Mild-Mannered Math No More." In other words, math

notebooking. This particular textbook lends itself very well to notebooking, since it has a lot of

journal prompts, challenges, and discussion ideas.

A few days' work for this week:

Tuesday: "Start with What You Know," page 24-25. Answer the questions given on these

pages. Describe how you would use the given information to answer each question. Sample

question: which is larger, a giraffe or an elephant? Their weights and heights are given--but

how do you decide which is larger?

Photo found here.

Read page 26-27, about scoring figure skating. Answer the questions orally. Copy the definition

of "numerical model" into your notebook. Explain what you think it means.

Wednesday: Read page 28, about scoring other games such as hockey. Answer the questions

orally. Is there anything you can add to the definition of "numerical model?"

Thursday: Do questions 1-3, 6, and 7 on page 29. Note: question 7 asks you to use an

information disk which we do not have. Instead, look at The Movie Times: Top Grossing Films

of All Time, and choose two movies. Look up each one online (Wikipedia is good for this) to

find out if it won any Academy Awards or other major awards. Then answer part c): how do you

decide which movie is more successful? Justify your model.

Friday: Complete the following questions: page 30 questions 8, 11, 12. Look back at the

questions you answered on Tuesday. In your math journal, explain how you used models to

answer the questions (even if you didn't know what models were).

Homework for the weekend: Read pages 32 and 33, "Can you compare intelligence?" Write a

paragraph in your journal to explain whom you regard as the most intelligent of these five

people. How did you use the information given (achievements etc.) to make a decision? If you

feel such comparisons cannot be made, explain why.

Mild-Mannered Math No More

By Cheryl Bastarache

Like New Orleans cooking, math lessons can be spicy too. Children will find it hard to be bored

when they are working on problems like figuring out how long it would take to walk the full

length of the Great Wall of China, constructing a new Stars Wars racer with a given set of

geometrical shapes, or creating a skit about the powers of zero. Mothers can integrate math with

other subject areas and get their children to write without complaining. Sound too good to be

true? I assure you that no matter what your curriculum, math journaling can easily be added to

enhance your childs learning.

Writing in Math Class?

Well known math educator, Marilyn Burns, says, Writing in math class supports learning

because it requires students to organize, clarify, and reflect on their ideas . . . .1 This starts right

from the beginning with the choice of notebook. Depending on the preferences of your child, you

will want to provide a marbled composition book (or bound journal), glue stick, a plastic, three-

prong folder with both blank and lined paper, or a three-ring binder with dividers and choice of

paper. (Note: We have tried spiral notebooks in the past but found that they didnt survive the

whole school year.)

How to Make the Notebook

Have each student divide his or her notebook into the following sections: notes, copywork,

research, challenges, responses, and fun stuff.

Notes

The notes section should include vocabulary, diagrams, charts, or illustrations about new

concepts. Having a visual spatial learner, we often make use of the visual mathematics dictionary

at www.washoe.k12.nv.us/ecollab/washoemath/dictionary/mathdict.htm. The math handbooks

from Great Source are also great tools. If you have a visual spatial learner, then you will

probably want to make some graphic organizers available as well.

Copywork

The copywork section consists of sheets such as Copying the Facts by Sheri Graham of

Graham Family Ministries (my favorite). I also include lists made with my well-loved

Startwrite software (or handwritten by Mom), such as the days of the week, skip-counting

charts, etc. My read/write learner also likes to include math quotes in his notebook. I find these

by googling math quotations.

Research

The research section will have findings from math biographies, interesting information about the

history of math, and other topics of interest. Some topics that we have covered this year are the

evolution of the calendar, the history of the Canadian dollar, and early calculators. In other years,

we have explored the mathematics of cartography, tessellations, and probability and genetics.

The Canadian Mathematical Society has a great list of topics for math projects here:

camel.math.ca/Education/mpsf/. The student can choose many ways to present his research, such

as comic strips (we like the printables from Donna Young,

www.donnayoung.org/art/comics.htm), scripts for skits, lapbooks, digital scrapbooks, etc. Let

them be creative.

Challenges

Their creativity will be sparked by the challenge problems. This part is my sons favorite! The

Internet offers a wealth of challenging problems and puzzles. Visit www.mathwire.com,

www.figurethis.org, and mathcounts.org/Page.aspx?pid=355. Hands down, the best print

resources are from Prufrock Press Inc. I have used many books from the Enrichment Units in

Math series, as well as Its Alive! And Kicking: Math the Way It Ought to BeTough, Fun,

and a Little Weird, Real Life Math Mysteries, and Challenge Math. I also like The Critical

Thinking Co.s Scratch Your Brainseries. As a general guideline, dont go more than two

grade levels above the childs current capabilities, or he will become frustrated. Make sure you

require the student to explain how he arrived at an answer, whether in pictures or words.

Responses

The responses section incorporates a broad range of activities, including student problem

construction, logs about math literature, and answers to open-ended questions. It would best be

explained by examples. After reading Alices Adventures in Wonderland, one son recorded this

word problem: If Alice needs to share her cake with the Mad Hatter, the March Hare, and the

Dormouse, draw a picture of how she would divide the cake so everybody gets a fair amount.

Another son constructed this one: If the duplicator ray can make only one clone of the original

at a time, how many total robots would there be after it fired 4 times? For my part, I will ask

them questions such as Tell me about a time when you needed to use subtraction in your

everyday life or Who is your math superhero? or What kind of math tricks do you think your

brother needs to know? When I have asked them to read some math-themed literature (see

www.livingmath.net), then I will ask questions like Tell me everything you learned about

estimation from that book and How could you apply what you learned from that book to your

life?

Fun Stuff

And last of all, the fun stuff section. Here I let them insert puzzles that they have worked from

magazines or Martin Gardner books or The Everything Kids Math Puzzles Book, print-outs

from computer games (or descriptions of what they did), sketches of their answers to domino

problems, and pages from Rod-Clue Puzzles or Patternables. I also ask them to include their

work from sources like Simply Charlotte Masons Your Business Math Series

(www.simplycharlottemason.com/books/your-business-math/) or A Blueprint for Geometry

by Brad Fulton. They get credit for making file folder math games or playing math-related

games such as the ones from 25 Super Cool Math Board Games. They, of course, have to

provide proof that they have completed these games.

If you follow these guidelines for implementing math journaling in your homeschool, you are

sure to have proof that your child is learning and enjoying math. You might even become brave

enough to make math journaling the centerpiece of your curriculum, using a framework such as

Kathryn Stouts Maximum Math with textbooks only as a resource for practice problems.

Cheryl Bastarache homeschools her three sons in beautiful eastern Canada, along with the help

of her husband. She is a self-confessed math geek and freelance writer. Check out her blog at

www.HomeschoolBlogger.com/3bysea.

Endnote:

1. Burns, Marilyn. 2004. Writing in Math. Educational Leadership 62, No. 2 (October): 3033.

Copyright 2008. Originally appeared in The

Old Schoolhouse Magazine, Winter 2008/09.

www.thehomeschoolmagazine.com

Reprinted with permission from the publisher

Homeschooling High School: Math

Well, this should be short.

I am not a math person. Some of my children are not math persons. Others of them are. Over the

years, as I have dealt with both math persons and non-math persons, in the context of having to

launch them, eventually and more or less single-handedly, into the rest of their lives, I have

distilled my philosophy of math education to the following single word:

Whatever.

*

OK, that's not really acceptable as a philosophy of anything. Try again.

*

I have often observed that one of the real advantages of homeschooling is the way that it gives

the student opportunities to struggle honestly with something difficult and not (ultimately) fail.

That is, the student may fail the first time, or the fifth time, but because we're not rushing on to

the next thing, we can count those as attempts toward a summit of mastery. We work at what

doesn't come easily to us until we can get it at least acceptably right, and the getting it right is

what we count in the end. Nobody says, Oh, you didn't climb Mount Everest that time; obviously

you're a loseroid at climbing, generally, and will never climb anything ever. Maybe you're a

hole-digger, have you ever thought of that?

Homeschooling also means that what works for one child does not have to work for the next, that

a "good" curriculum is only as good as the good it does that student.

*

Thus far I have educated one person who would not voluntarily touch anything mathematical

with a ten-foot pole, and one person who embodies the title of a book I picked up once at a

library sale: A Romp Through Mathematics. The only thing that really worked for the former

student was the Teaching Textbooks series, which I wish I had bought sooner than I did, because

it would have saved us endless algebraic angst early on. She could self-teach, which was what

she wanted, and while various mathematically-inclined friends of mine have opined that the

program lacks depth and rigor, it was the right choice for a student who was, as my own college

math professor put it, "not making a career of mathematics." In this instance, the question was

not whether the student was going to learn mathematics deeply enough; it was whether she was

going to learn mathematics at all. My own experience has been that it is, truly, entirely possible

to spend fourteen years in school and not learn mathematics at all; as a parent I was eager that

my daughter not relive that part of my life. Teaching Textbooks was the answer in this instance,

and while her standardized test scores in mathematics were not that impressive, she did pass her

one college math class (Euclidian and Non-Euclidian Geometries) with a B+, which we both

regarded as a highly satisfactory closure to the mathematical chapter of her story.

UPDATE: I should add that this child completed Algebra 1, which took the better part of two

years, Geometry, and Algebra 2, finishing in her senior year. She did get into all the colleges to

which she applied, and she handled her one math credit well. Now, of course, you tend to see

that colleges want four credits in high-school math; we felt lucky to squeak by with three, but

with all my other children, I am anticipating the need to do four.

My second child, and current high-schooler, began working through Saxon Algebra 1/2, which

I'd picked up off a freebie table at a homeschool-support-group meeting, as a sixth grader. I have

never been particularly a fan of Saxon and have always said, Hear hear, when people have

described it as dull, dry, repetitive, and so on. Saxon looks to me the way math classes felt to me.

Brrrr. Prickly. Unfriendly. Inhuman. No, thanks. My son, on the other hand, credits Saxon with

awakening him to the enjoyment of math. He is also very much a self-teacher, and my approach

to his math has been to buy the Saxon books, because that's what he's requested, and to find

some video-teaching component to accompany them, either the D.I.V.E. CDs or the Art Reed

DVD class lectures, for the times when he gets stuck. He also leans heavily on Khan

Academy for help when he needs it. Thus far he has not needed actual tutoring in math, though

we do have access to a college tutoring center.

He has so far worked through Saxon's Algebra 1/2 and Algebra 1, and is currently in Algebra 2.

Though, supposedly, the two algebras are supposed to cover geometry as well, I've had him do as

much of Teaching Textbooks Geometry as he could get through last summer, for the sake of

dealing with proofs, and he will probably finish that course next summer (Because we already

own it, that's why). From there he will either move into Saxon's Advanced Mathematics or begin

taking classes at the college, as math professors advise us. His ultimate interests have to do with

science, and it will behoove him in high school to take as much math as he can as well, to be a

strong candidate for the kinds of things he wants to do in the future.

ADDENDUM: This student has also enjoyed math literature -- Flatland, which he read as a

sixth- or seventh-grader, comes to mind, though I know he's read other things, too: Game, Set,

and Math, by Ian Stewart, math puzzle books, Penrose the Mathematical Cat . . . He has Life of

Fred: Advanced Algebra, and he's read it some, but time constraints have meant that he's

mostly just concentrated on Saxon.

*

Unlike me, my friend Anne-Marie is a math person, and I rather suspected that her philosophy

with regards to mathematics would not be whatever. I was glad that she responded to a plea for

input on this subject with the following:

For my three oldest, we used Singapore's NEM, followed by Blitzer's Precalculus,

followed by Salas & Hille's Calculus (my old college text). For my fourth, we

have switched gears completely, and she is using Teaching Textbooks: algebra 1

& 2 and currently geometry. Next year, her last, she will probably do TT's

precalculus, or possibly (AP?) statistics.

I think the biggest influence on our math choices was the fact that I didn't grow up

in the US; I went to high school in Quebec and England, neither of which follows

the US algebra-geometry-trig sequence. So I didn't feel the slightest discomfort at

not adhering to that sequence; in fact, I'm not sure I was even quite aware of it till

well into my oldest girls' high school years.

Another factor was that when we first started high school, I wasn't aware of much

high school math curriculum on the market, aside from Saxon, which I hated the

look of. We'd used Singapore's Primary Maths with enjoyment and success, so

going on to NEM was the simple path.

Some people find NEM hard to teach from, but I'm a math major and a former

math teacher and it didn't bother me. There were no solutions manuals at the time,

and I enjoyed solving the problems alongside my kids.

NEM's somewhat abstract approach, though, was a disaster for my #4. Math

seems to her an arbitrary set of conventions that demand mere compliance, and

the mismatch with my contention that it's an orderly and consistent system that

demands understanding was very frustrating to both of us. TT removed me from

her math and its more incremental, algorithmic approach has been just what she

needs

It remains to be seen what the younger ones will use. #5 will probably start a

combination of NEM and Jacobs' Algebra. I haven't thought about the last two

kids' high school yet. As with most things in homeschooling, we'll see what looks

most fruitful when the time comes.

I suspect that I'm a lot like Anne-Marie's #4, and that at least a couple of my children are

as well, which would explain why MEP math, which I wanted so much to love, did not

work well for my younger two, while the basic, straightforward, incremental, algorithmic

MCP workbooks do. While I was fairly laissez-faire with the older children with regards

to most things -- when they were younger I described us as unschooly in a way that really

doesn't fit us now -- with the younger ones I do have more of a sense of the knock-on

effect of not mastering what I, in my language-y way, think of as the basic grammar of

math. I want them to get it; I want it not to be the heartrending and doomed affair that I

think I as a child and a teenager assumed it inevitably would be. I think that even the

most basic knowledge of facts is empowering and enabling because it offers a counter to

that awful sense of arbitrariness which defeats some of us. So we do the basic stuff,

which seems to make sense to them, and we read Life of Fred, which is fun and provides

mental-math practice, as well as taking us through a spiral of concepts daily, so that even

the simplest things (and the mathy ideas) don't vanish in the rear-view mirror. Anyway,

my long-term goal is to be ready to segue into high-school math by, hopefully, eighth

grade, either to leave plenty of time for lots of math, for them as likes it, or to get through

it as painlessly, and as fail-lessly, as we can, at our own pace, for them as don't.

For more math and other homeschooling-high-school discussion, visit this month's

carnival at Fisher Academy International.

For news, upcoming topics, and participation guidelines, visit the Carnival homepage.

Posted by Sally Thomas at 12:11 AM

Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to FacebookShare to Pinterest

Labels: homeschooling, homeschooling high school, math, math anxiety

6 comments:

Anne-Marie said...

"I think that even the most basic knowledge of facts is empowering and enabling"

Yes! Yes! I can't tell you how many grade-school students I've tutored who are paralysed

by fractions or by long division simply because they don't know their times tables. And

my college students often seemed to be bushwhacking through math, when knowledge of

some basics would have showed them a clear path.

Drill, baby, drill!

December 3, 2012 at 11:08:00 AM EST

Anne-Marie said...

There doesn't seem to be a link to you on the Carnival page, btw.

December 3, 2012 at 11:16:00 AM EST

Sally Thomas said...

People speak disparagingly of "drill and kill," as though this were somehow antithetical

to learning math. To me this seems to suggest something like trying to soar in reading

without knowing the boring old alphabet.

I know -- I think my contribution was a little too far under-the-wire. I did provide the link

in the combox at Fisher Academy International, so I hope people will see it!

(and I sort of wish we'd gone with a linkaround, for ease of submissions and to invite

reader submissions more readily . . . I have a hard time with the midnight-Friday

deadline, when it's so easy just to go to the host site and add a link that people will

actually see at the end of a post! But I do understand why people don't like dealing with

those link widgets)

December 3, 2012 at 11:27:00 AM EST

Sally Thomas said...

And yes, my cousin who has tutored grade-school students in math has said the exact

same thing -- it's hard to progress to those operations which underlie success in things

like algebra if you can't multiply off the top of your head. My oldest experienced just that

difficulty, and we had started homeschooling at precisely the wrong time to be very

successful at learning those basics. She was nine, had been in English school for four

years doing something like MEP, which really didn't take in her brain (and the little she

ever brought home made *no* sense to me), and then thought that learning basic facts

was "too babyish." All of that made everything so much harder.

I do find that I struggle for balance between mastering the rote stuff and understanding

that it opens onto a larger vista, something which I certainly did not understand at any

point in my own education. It just seemed like this random, arbitrary language about

nothing that mattered to me in the slightest. Now, working with my children, I catch

glimpses of the fun you can have in math, and I want to try to provide them with that

vision without shortchanging them in the math-grammar department. What we're doing

this year, MCP coupled with Life of Fred, seems to strike that balance for us. At least

nobody in my house now seems to hate math the way I did.

December 3, 2012 at 11:36:00 AM EST

Anne-Marie said...

On rote stuff vs. larger vista, John Holt has a lovely passage describing the difference

between the teacher's and the students' views of French class. The teacher loves Moliere

and French food and the chateaux of the Loire, and he imagines that he is taking his

students by the hand and accompanying them on their first steps towards this land of

delights. The only thing the students see is that French is stupid because a wall is male

and a window is female.

onday, December 3, 2012

Homeschooling High School: Math

Well, this should be short.

I am not a math person. Some of my children are not math persons. Others of them are. Over the years,

as I have dealt with both math persons and non-math persons, in the context of having to launch them,

eventually and more or less single-handedly, into the rest of their lives, I have distilled my philosophy of

math education to the following single word:

Whatever.

*

OK, that's not really acceptable as a philosophy of anything. Try again.

*

I have often observed that one of the real advantages of homeschooling is the way that it gives the

student opportunities to struggle honestly with something difficult and not (ultimately) fail. That is, the

student may fail the first time, or the fifth time, but because we're not rushing on to the next thing, we

can count those as attempts toward a summit of mastery. We work at what doesn't come easily to us

until we can get it at least acceptably right, and the getting it right is what we count in the end. Nobody

says, Oh, you didn't climb Mount Everest that time; obviously you're a loseroid at climbing, generally,

and will never climb anything ever. Maybe you're a hole-digger, have you ever thought of that?

Homeschooling also means that what works for one child does not have to work for the next, that a

"good" curriculum is only as good as the good it does that student.

*

Thus far I have educated one person who would not voluntarily touch anything mathematical with a ten-

foot pole, and one person who embodies the title of a book I picked up once at a library sale: A Romp

Through Mathematics. The only thing that really worked for the former student was the Teaching

Textbooks series, which I wish I had bought sooner than I did, because it would have saved us endless

algebraic angst early on. She could self-teach, which was what she wanted, and while various

mathematically-inclined friends of mine have opined that the program lacks depth and rigor, it was the

right choice for a student who was, as my own college math professor put it, "not making a career of

mathematics." In this instance, the question was not whether the student was going to learn

mathematics deeply enough; it was whether she was going to learn mathematics at all. My own

experience has been that it is, truly, entirely possible to spend fourteen years in school and not learn

mathematics at all; as a parent I was eager that my daughter not relive that part of my life. Teaching

Textbooks was the answer in this instance, and while her standardized test scores in mathematics were

not that impressive, she did pass her one college math class (Euclidian and Non-Euclidian Geometries)

with a B+, which we both regarded as a highly satisfactory closure to the mathematical chapter of her

story.

UPDATE: I should add that this child completed Algebra 1, which took the better part of two years,

Geometry, and Algebra 2, finishing in her senior year. She did get into all the colleges to which she

applied, and she handled her one math credit well. Now, of course, you tend to see that colleges want

four credits in high-school math; we felt lucky to squeak by with three, but with all my other children, I

am anticipating the need to do four.

My second child, and current high-schooler, began working through Saxon Algebra 1/2, which I'd picked

up off a freebie table at a homeschool-support-group meeting, as a sixth grader. I have never been

particularly a fan of Saxon and have always said, Hear hear, when people have described it as dull, dry,

repetitive, and so on. Saxon looks to me the way math classes felt to me. Brrrr. Prickly. Unfriendly.

Inhuman. No, thanks. My son, on the other hand, credits Saxon with awakening him to the enjoyment of

math. He is also very much a self-teacher, and my approach to his math has been to buy the Saxon

books, because that's what he's requested, and to find some video-teaching component to accompany

them, either the D.I.V.E. CDs or the Art Reed DVD class lectures, for the times when he gets stuck. He

also leans heavily on Khan Academy for help when he needs it. Thus far he has not needed actual

tutoring in math, though we do have access to a college tutoring center.

He has so far worked through Saxon's Algebra 1/2 and Algebra 1, and is currently in Algebra 2. Though,

supposedly, the two algebras are supposed to cover geometry as well, I've had him do as much of

Teaching Textbooks Geometry as he could get through last summer, for the sake of dealing with proofs,

and he will probably finish that course next summer (Because we already own it, that's why). From there

he will either move into Saxon's Advanced Mathematics or begin taking classes at the college, as math

professors advise us. His ultimate interests have to do with science, and it will behoove him in high

school to take as much math as he can as well, to be a strong candidate for the kinds of things he wants

to do in the future.

ADDENDUM: This student has also enjoyed math literature -- Flatland, which he read as a sixth- or

seventh-grader, comes to mind, though I know he's read other things, too: Game, Set, and Math, by Ian

Stewart, math puzzle books, Penrose the Mathematical Cat . . . He has Life of Fred: Advanced Algebra,

and he's read it some, but time constraints have meant that he's mostly just concentrated on Saxon.

*

Unlike me, my friend Anne-Marie is a math person, and I rather suspected that her philosophy with

regards to mathematics would not be whatever. I was glad that she responded to a plea for input on this

subject with the following:

For my three oldest, we used Singapore's NEM, followed by Blitzer's Precalculus, followed by

Salas & Hille's Calculus (my old college text). For my fourth, we have switched gears

completely, and she is using Teaching Textbooks: algebra 1 & 2 and currently geometry. Next

year, her last, she will probably do TT's precalculus, or possibly (AP?) statistics.

I think the biggest influence on our math choices was the fact that I didn't grow up in the US; I

went to high school in Quebec and England, neither of which follows the US algebra-geometry-

trig sequence. So I didn't feel the slightest discomfort at not adhering to that sequence; in fact, I'm

not sure I was even quite aware of it till well into my oldest girls' high school years.

Another factor was that when we first started high school, I wasn't aware of much high school

math curriculum on the market, aside from Saxon, which I hated the look of. We'd used

Singapore's Primary Maths with enjoyment and success, so going on to NEM was the simple

path.

Some people find NEM hard to teach from, but I'm a math major and a former math teacher and it

didn't bother me. There were no solutions manuals at the time, and I enjoyed solving the

problems alongside my kids.

NEM's somewhat abstract approach, though, was a disaster for my #4. Math seems to her an

arbitrary set of conventions that demand mere compliance, and the mismatch with my contention

that it's an orderly and consistent system that demands understanding was very frustrating to both

of us. TT removed me from her math and its more incremental, algorithmic approach has been

just what she needs

It remains to be seen what the younger ones will use. #5 will probably start a combination of

NEM and Jacobs' Algebra. I haven't thought about the last two kids' high school yet. As with

most things in homeschooling, we'll see what looks most fruitful when the time comes.

I suspect that I'm a lot like Anne-Marie's #4, and that at least a couple of my children are as

well, which would explain why MEP math, which I wanted so much to love, did not work well for

my younger two, while the basic, straightforward, incremental, algorithmic MCP workbooks

do. While I was fairly laissez-faire with the older children with regards to most things -- when

they were younger I described us as unschooly in a way that really doesn't fit us now -- with the

younger ones I do have more of a sense of the knock-on effect of not mastering what I, in my

language-y way, think of as the basic grammar of math. I want them to get it; I want it not to be

the heartrending and doomed affair that I think I as a child and a teenager assumed it inevitably

would be. I think that even the most basic knowledge of facts is empowering and enabling

because it offers a counter to that awful sense of arbitrariness which defeats some of us. So we

do the basic stuff, which seems to make sense to them, and we read Life of Fred, which is fun

and provides mental-math practice, as well as taking us through a spiral of concepts daily, so

that even the simplest things (and the mathy ideas) don't vanish in the rear-view mirror.

Anyway, my long-term goal is to be ready to segue into high-school math by, hopefully, eighth

grade, either to leave plenty of time for lots of math, for them as likes it, or to get through it as

painlessly, and as fail-lessly, as we can, at our own pace, for them as don't.

For more math and other homeschooling-high-school discussion, visit this month's carnival at

Fisher Academy International.

For news, upcoming topics, and participation guidelines, visit the Carnival homepage.

Homeschool Highschool Carnival: Math in the Homeschool

This month's Homeschooling High Schooling Carnival is on the topic of math.

What does your highschoolers math program look like? What influenced your

choices/selection?

I just recently wrote as a guest blogger about high school math, though through the filter of

teaching Euclid. I will link to those posts because they told a bit about our high school

experience, but you don't have to follow them unless you want to!

Teaching Euclid Part I

Teaching Euclid Part II

My main theme in these Homeschooling High School posts has been something like "you plan

and prepare with the ideal in mind, but you do what suits the child and your

circumstances." The same thing is going to run through this post on math.

I was handicapped by not having a real ideal in math. There are plenty of criticisms of high

school math out there; one recent one I read was Lockhart's Lament, and the corresponding book,

A Mathematician's Lament. I also came across some strong criticisms when I was researching

for the Euclid posts linked above, and some of them are linked in the posts.

They offer solutions, but generally the classroom type, not the kind of solutions that are easy for

me, a homeschooling mom with not a lot of math background, to adopt.

Classical education and Charlotte Mason, my main influences, generally just incorporate the

best of the conventional in math. They might advance the child the equivalent of a grade level

or two, or add some Euclid and/or living books, but they don't really change it from the ground

up, at least not by high school age. So you are stuck with the conventional math scope and

sequence:

7th grade-- consolidation of basic math, plus prep for algebra

8th grade -- Algebra (at least now in California that's the ambition)

9th grade -- Geometry

10th-11th grade -- Algebra II and Trigonometry (usually a combined course in my experience,

often 2 years worth of work)

12th grade -- no math, or advanced statistics, or calculus

If your child is especially strong in math, you may advance faster through this standard high

school sequence. If your child takes a little longer to get to the abstract stage, perhaps it's as well

to linger longer. My strongest two math students got up to Algebra II/Trig. The other two

got most of the way through Geometry. The three that are in college or beyond all did very

well in college math environments.

Curriculum we used for the older three:

Jacobs for Algebra I and Geometry

(if a child reached Algebra 1 during middle school, or seemed shaky on the transition to abstract

conceptualization, we used Key to Algebra, which I highly recommend for those purposes)

One of my boys went on through Foerster's Algebra 2/Trigonometry. It is very good but at

least in the older edition, seems to require much self-discipline and conceptual understanding.

The other boy who went past Geometry did so in a public school/independent study format. I

think he used Prentice Hall's Algebra II/Trigonometry. He did not like it though he struggled

on and got a decent grade. I helped him with some of the lessons and I had considerable trouble

grasping the material though I did quite well in high school math, so I sympathized with his

criticisms.

My present high schooler is somewhere between 10th and 11th grade (haven't quite decided

yet). He is doing geometry using Jacob's. We use Khan Academy Geometry as a supplement.

The Great Courses also have some mathematics resources. My son and I geeked out the

summer before last on this "Secrets of Mental Math". For us, it was a fun and energizing

break. We plan to watch it again some time.

I don't know if Chari is going to post on math, but I know that she has found a solution for the

challenges of teaching math in high school. She has a good friend who is a former homeschool

mom, from a math background, who loves to tutor. Once Chari's kids reach high school age,

they are tutored by this friend and do well.

I have looked up tutoring resources in our area, especially when facing some kind of challenge,

and they are expensive and require driving 30 to 80 miles. So, yeah, no. But I've seen it work

well, and I've considered moving nearer Chari not only to be closer to one of my best friends, but

to join her great homeschool community, which we don't have here.

However, you can do it without a tutor, and to show it's possible, my oldest came close to acing

his math SATs (he was pretty upset he didn't get a perfect score; he did get perfect LA

results). I remember talking to a friend, a retired high school teacher, who was skeptical about

homeschooling because he didn't think homeschool parents could teach all subjects at a high

school level. I didn't normally talk about our kids' SAT scores because, well, you know, that's

not the point, but I did mention my son's results then. Our friend was quite surprised and I think

it modified his opinion at least a trifle.

The thing is that in the homeschool, teaching is not everything (though being a support and guide

is important, and sometimes that does mean teaching or at least finding the right teaching

materials or outside resources).

Learning is the thing, and realizing that it's the learning that is key can streamline things for the

homeschooling mom who doesn't remember all her high school math and science courses.

Teaching Euclid in the Homeschool, Part I {by Willa}

This is the third in our series of guest posts for Math Week on Afterthoughts. I broke Willa's original post

up into two parts, one focusing on the more philosophical and historical aspects of teaching Euclid, the

other on more practical matters. You may want to read the preceding posts first. Here is the series Table

of Contents:

Series Introduction

Teaching Maths the CM Way {by Jeanne}

Five Strategies for Teaching Mathphobics {by Tammy Glaser}

Teaching Euclid in the Homeschool, Part I {by Willa} <--you are here

Teaching Euclid in the Homeschool, Part II {by Willa}

Willa is the wife of a computer game designer and mother to six sons and one daughter, currently ages

9 to 26. Her family has been homeschooling for 18 years. She currently blogs at Take Up and Read and

has contributed chapters for Literature Alive! and A Little Way of Homeschooling.

At the age of eleven, I began Euclid, with my brother as my tutor. This was one of the great events of my

life, as dazzling as first love. I had not imagined there was anything so delicious in the world. From that

moment until I was thirty-eight, mathematics was my chief interest and my chief source of happiness.

The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell

Why would a student of today want to learn Euclid--not just about him, but from him and his ideas? And

if a student did want to do this, how would he or she start? And how would a homeschool parent guide

this study?

Euclid's Elements of Geometry was the core math text for close to 2000 years. Abraham Lincoln studied

Euclid's books, as did Albert Einstein. Bertrand Russell was dazzled by Euclid, though he became

disillusioned later in life. Anne of Green Gables was glad to be "done with geometry, learning or

teaching it," as she "thumped a somewhat battered volume of Euclid into a big chest of books, banged

the lid in triumph, and sat down upon it". The men of the Scientific Revolution, though they discarded

most of Aristotle and Galen and other ancient scientists, kept the format and much of the substance of

Euclid for their new physical models of the universe and its workings. Even some living today remember

studying Euclid. In spite of the advances of the modern world, if Euclid looked in the Plane Geometry of

a modern high school geometry textbook he would find much familiar to him, albeit ordered differently

and somewhat altered in format.

Geometrical proofs are according to some reports slowly dropping out of the high school curriculum,

perhaps because they can't easily be put on standardized tests. But something similar to the Euclidean

method of constructing proofs is still employed by mathematicians today, so this de-emphasis may be a

matter for concern. Some have proposed that Euclid, because of its emphasis on close reasoning and

precise formulation, is a good bridge to college mathematics both for mathematics-oriented students

and for those who major in the humanities.

Recently, the Great Books and classical education revival has led to a return to Euclid by some high

school programs--Great Books Tutorial is one, Regina Coeli is another, The Lyceum is a third--and some

colleges--St John's College is one, Thomas Aquinas College is another. The University of Denver offers

Greek for Euclid.

If you are reading this, you probably have some interest in the idea of studying Euclid. Perhaps you have

heard that the children in Charlotte Mason's PNEU schools studied Euclid in middle and high school, and

want to follow that example; perhaps you prefer to focus on Great Books and avoid textbooks,

especially modern ones; or perhaps you are a classical homeschooler who wants to prepare your child to

tackle Euclid, Descartes and Newton in a liberal arts college.

My family is sort of a combination of the above. I have four grown children and three still in the

homeschool. We use a classical/Charlotte Mason blend in our homeschool, and try to include a fair

quantity of great books and a minimum of textbooks in our studies. But the immediate practical

motivation for two of my older children to read Euclid was their admission into a liberal arts college.

Both of them wanted to get some familiarity with the Euclidean method before actually studying him

formally in a college environment. I would like to do some Euclid with the three remaining students at

home before they graduate. That's where I am now.

From that perspective, here are some steps I think are important in teaching Euclid in the homeschool,

especially since Euclid is not a standard textbook, and most of us {I, for one} were not taught

mathematics in this way during our school years.

Know your goals.

The traditional goal of studying Euclid was to learn to reason well. A proof-oriented geometry course is a

course in basic reasoning. There is a useful {and short} booklet in public domain: On Teaching Geometry.

It makes the point that proofs are extended syllogisms. Given the premises, the result must follow, if the

reasoning is valid.

Abraham Lincoln apparently used Euclid's system of logic in order to build his arguments in speeches

and debates throughout his life, and recounted of his earlier days:

I said to myself, What do I do when I demonstrate more than when I reason or prove? How does

demonstration differ from any other proof? ... I consulted all the dictionaries and books of reference I

could find, but with no better results. At last I said,- Lincoln, you never can make a lawyer if you do not

understand what demonstrate means; and I left my situation in Springfield, went home to my fathers

house, and stayed there till I could give any proposition in the six books of Euclid at sight. I then found

out what demonstrate means, and went back to my law studies.

One of Euclid's excellences is that every word and detail is chosen for a reason and so those words and

details matter. They are not interchangeable. My son who studied Euclid in college said that he found

that if he could not demonstrate a proposition in precise words, it usually meant that there was an error

in his thinking -- he had taken something for granted, or made a shortcut in his reasoning. Since

geometry is simpler than, say, political or philosophical argumentation, it is a suitable training ground

for younger people.

One aim of education is to enable us to articulate what we see, and Euclid is superb at occasioning this

activity. Euclid begins with simple geometrical objects that are presented to the mind in three ways:

through canonical depictions on paper, through images readily held before the minds eye, and through

careful language.

--Even the Flaws are Perfections {PDF}

One more reason for studying Euclid's ideas is that they are part of our intellectual heritage. The school

math curriculum of today is often not only disassociated from its logical underpinnings, let alone its real-

life applications, but from its place in the history of thought.

Start reasoning before Euclid.

This article makes the point that informal "proving" or justification of arguments should start before

high school, and this sequel gives some ideas of how to do so.

This doesn't have to be complicated. If you are educating your child in a Charlotte Mason or classical

Great Books style, hopefully you are already hearing narrations, discussing books and ideas with your

child, observing the world around you and talking about it. This is a precursor for the kind of thinking

done in mathematical reasoning, because you are already modeling and allowing time to observe,

distinguish, trace cause and effect, etc.

Also, I think it's important that the children get real-life {or at least visual and interactive} geometrical

experience. Montessorian manipulatives can be helpful. There are various geometry games and visuals

online. Some practice in drawing shapes also seems like a good precursor to formal demonstrating of

propositions. Playing with blocks certainly can't hurt, either.

Understand the Euclidean method and structure of argumentation.

When I first looked at an edition of Euclid, I had trouble seeing it as a math book. After all, there were no

"problems," no arithmetic or even algebraic equations. Perhaps that is an advantage for modern

students, who become accustomed to using their brains as calculators. This kind of mathematics uses

the part of the brain that thinks and wonders and puzzles. But reading the Elements is not the same as

reading a work of literature or history. You have to read carefully, and understand the structure of the

arguments, and keep your mind active as you read. Perhaps you might even want a notebook or slate

next to you as you read.

A book called Class Lessons on Euclid, in public domain, has given me some of the background I felt I was

missing. The first 3 chapters give some reasons for studying Euclid {along with some information about

his life}, discuss the definitions and axioms that precede the propositions, and tell about the structure of

a Euclidean proposition. Even if a student or parent got no further than this, it would not be time

wasted, because the logical paradigm of defining terms, listing presuppositions, and building syllogistic

arguments is used in many Great Books. These are useful habits or skills for deciding any kind of serious

issue in life, as well.

November 2012

Teaching Euclid in the Homeschool, Part II {by Willa}

This is the last in our series of guest posts for Math Week on Afterthoughts. I broke Willa's original post

up into two parts, the first focusing on the more philosophical and historical aspects of teaching Euclid,

today's focusing on more practical matters. You may want to read the preceding posts first. Here is the

series Table of Contents:

Series Introduction

Teaching Maths the CM Way {by Jeanne}

Five Strategies for Teaching Mathphobics {by Tammy Glaser}

Teaching Euclid in the Homeschool, Part I {by Willa}

Teaching Euclid in the Homeschool, Part II {by Willa} <--you are here

Willa is the wife of a computer game designer and mother to six sons and one daughter, currently ages

9 to 26. Her family has been homeschooling for 18 years. She currently blogs at Take Up and Read and

has contributed chapters for Literature Alive! and A Little Way of Homeschooling.

There are many resources available for studying Euclid. The Google Books repository

has the classic Heath-Heiberg annotated version of Euclid in three volumes {Books 1-2, Books 3-9, Books

10-13}. An interactive {Java-enabled} online version of this definitive work is available. Personally, I find

Heath confusing because the commentary is so extensive, though the Dover facsimile edition is the one

both my high school son and daughter used. The Green Lion edition in one volume is recommended at

the college where they studied.

Another route might be to use one of the several Euclid textbook editions in public domain. This one

arranged by HS Hall covers books 1-6 and 11-12 of Euclid and is targeted towards secondary schools.

Though it only covers the first two books of the Elements, I like the Class Lessons on

Euclid which I mentioned in my previous post, because it explains the significance of some of the

Euclidean ideas and words. For someone like me whose degree is in literature and who was not taught

math using Euclidean methods {to say the least}, this provides extremely helpful context.

There are video demonstrations of the first 26 Euclid props on Youtube. These were not available when

my older children were in the homeschool, but I plan to use these or similar ones with my current high

schooler.

In the late 1800's, when Charlotte Mason was still alive,the PNEU schools founded by

her used Euclid in the curriculum, but by the 1920's A School Geometry by HS Hall was being used in

Form III {grades 7-8}. It is very Euclidean in format, with some adaptations in arrangement and method.

For younger students in Form II {grades 4-6} a book called Practical Exercises in Geometry was in use in

the PNEU schools. Also, for younger students, Sam Blumenfeld has recommended a book called First

Lessons in Geometry, which is from the 1850's and has a simple, conversational format.

Put Euclid in the weekly/daily schedule

There are close to 500 propositions in the 13 books of the Elements, plus sundry definitions. However,

not many courses I have seen cover the whole 13 books. More commonly, high schools in the past

couple of centuries focused on the first six books, which cover Plane Geometry and have not been

outdated by advances in mathematics, and sometimes on only the first two. The first six books have only

171 propositions and 72 definitions. If you tackled only the first two books, that would be 61

propositions and 25 definitions. That seems doable for 1-2 lessons a week.

From looking at the PNEU Timetables, which used the methods of Charlotte Mason, I see that in 1908

there was a Euclid lesson 2-3 times a week, while Arithmetic or Algebra was studied 4-6 times a week.

My two highschoolers, who were seniors when they read Euclid, simply spent a few weeks on it

alongside their ordinary work in a math textbook. My son carried the book around with him and did the

demonstrations in his head {being that type of thinker}. My daughter used a whiteboard and colored

pens and sometimes corralled a younger brother to teach the prop to in order to help her retention and

memory.

Alternately, a student could work on Euclid while studying Algebra 1 as a sort of introduction to

geometry before taking geometry as a course. That might be valuable in getting the student introduced

to proofs and logical reasoning before embarking on the infamous double columns of the standard US

proof.

I plan to work with Euclid once or twice a week with my present high schooler. We plan to review the

proposition from the preceding week or two, then read the new one, discuss, and work through on the

whiteboard. Since he is in the middle of Jacob's Geometry right now, we can use Euclid just to deepen

understanding and contrast the older method with the newer one.

"Deliberate Practice" takes time

...They say that Ptolemy once asked {Euclid} if there was in geometry any shorter way than that of the

elements, and he answered that there was no royal road to geometry.

some one who had begun to read geometry with Euclid, when he had learned the first theorem, asked

Euclid, But what shall I get by learning these things? Euclid called his slave and said, Give him

threepence, since he must make gain out of what he learns.

The importance of Euclids elements was recognised by the Greek philosophers, who posted on the

doors of their schools: Let no one enter here who is unacquainted with Euclid. {Science-History of the

Universe}

Looking through the Google Book repository and through the Parent's Review magazine archives at

Ambleside Online, I found that around the turn of the 20th century, there was quite a bit of criticism

leveled at the use of Euclid in middle and high schools. If you are interested, you can look at these

articles from Parents' Review. The criticism is targeted as much towards poor, mechanical teaching as

towards the propositions themselves, and brings to my mind Charlotte Mason's quote of Ruskin in

regard to students:

'they cram to pass and not to know; they do pass and they don't know,'

We are fortunate not to have our kids tested on Euclid, but exams and hurry are

characteristics of modern education, and if we are going to study a work like Euclid's, we should keep in

mind that it should be something we do liberally, for the sake of becoming better, not just to get

through it. It would probably be better to cover less, and do it thoughtfully and conversationally,

perhaps with lots of drawing of lines and circles, even including a kindergarten sibling in the lessons as

my daughter did, rather than memorize huge sections in a rush.

Euclid's Elements are part of a liberal, philosophical education. Such an education cannot take place in

haste, though timeliness certainly has a place.

Recently I read a book that discussed the concept of Deliberate Practice.

When you practice deliberately, you identify the tasks or knowledge that are just out of your reach,

strive to upgrade your performance, monitor your progress, and revise accordingly. Deliberate

Practice...takes intense concentration...requires deep motivation, often self-generated....involves

working on the task thats most challenging to you personally. The book mentioned that this best takes

place with some time and space to think and work. I think that freedom from too many media

distractions and activities on the schedule helps with the kind of thinking required for Euclid and other

"great books".

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