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Homeschool educators are constantly faced with the dilemma of deciding whether or not their son or daughter needs to take a separate high school geometry course because some academic institution wants to see geometry on the high school transcript. Or, because the publishers offer it as a separate math textbook in their curriculum — implying it is to be taken as a separate course. Remembering, of course, that selling three different math textbooks books brings in more revenue than selling just two different math textbooks will. John Saxon's unique methodology of combining algebra in the geometric plane and geometry in the algebraic plane all in the same math textbook had solved that dilemma facing home school educators for these past twenty-five years. However, unknown to John, this same problem had been addressed over a hundred years earlier at the University of Chicago. Knowledge of this information came to me by way of a gift from my wife and her two sisters. Since 2003, after their mom and dad had passed away, my wife and her sisters had been going through some fifty years of papers and books accumulated by their parents and stored in the attic and basement of the house they all grew up in. When asked by friends why it was taking them so long, one of the daughters replied Among some of the treasures they found in the basement were letters to their great-grandfather written by a fellow soldier while both were on active duty in the Union Army. One of these letters was written to their great-grandfather while his friend was assigned to "Picket Duty" on the "Picket Line." His fellow Union Soldier and friend was describing to his friend (their great-grandfather) the dreary rainy day he was experiencing. He wrote that he thought it was much more dangerous being on "Picket Duty" than being on the front lines, as the "Rebels" were always sneaking up and shooting at them from out of nowhere. The treasure they found for me was an old math book that their father had used while a sophomore in high school in 1917. The book is titled The authors of the book were professors of mathematics and astronomy at the University of Chicago, and they addressed the problem facing high school students in their era. Students who had just barely grasped the concepts of the algebra 1 text, only to be thrown into a non-algebraic geometry textbook and then, a year or more later being asked to grasp the more complicated concepts of an algebra 2 textbook. The book they had written contained algebraic concepts combined with geometry. It was designed as a supplement to a geometry textbook so the students would continue to use algebraic concepts and not forget them. John never mentioned these authors â€” or the book â€” so I can only assume he never knew it existed. For if he had, I feel certain that it would have been one more shining light for him to shine in the faces of the high-minded academicians that he â€” as did these authors â€” thought were wreaking havoc with mathematics in the secondary schools. In the preface of their textbook, the professors had written:
So, should you blame the publishers for publishing a separate geometry textbook? Or is it the fault of misguided high-minded academicians who — after more than a hundred years — still demand a separate geometry text from the publishers? I am not sure, but thankfully, this decision need not yet face the homeschool educators using John Saxon's math books for the original Homeschool third editions of John Saxon's Algebra one half, Algebra one and Algebra two textbooks still contain geometry as well as algebra — as does the advanced mathematics textbook. In fact, John introduces some basic algebraic and geometric concepts as early as the sixth grade in the second and third editions of his sixth grade Math 76 book. Any home school student — using John Saxon's Homeschool math textbooks — who successfully completes Algebra one, (2 When home school educators tell me they are confused because the school website offers different materials than what is offered to them on the Homeschool website, I remind them that - unless they want to purchase a hardback version of their soft back textbook - they do not need anything being offered on the Saxon school website. In fact, they are getting a better curriculum by staying on the Homeschool website. You can still purchase the original versions of John Saxon's math textbooks that he intended be used to develop "mastery" as recommended by the University of Chicago mathematics professors over a hundred years ago. Because many of you do not have a copy of my book, I have reproduced that list from page 15 of the book so you can see what editions of John Saxon's original math books are still good whether acquired used or new. These editions will easily remain excellent math textbooks for several more decades.
Over the past forty-some years, I have noticed that parents, students, and educators I have spoken to, either strongly like or - just as strongly - dislike John Saxon's math books. During my workshops at home school conventions, I was often asked the question about why this paradigm exists. Or, as one home school educator put it, "Why is there this Love - Hate relationship with Saxon math books?" It is easy to understand why educators like John's math books. They offer continuous review while presenting challenging concepts in increments rather than overwhelming the student with the entire process in a single lesson. They allow for mastery of the fundamentals of mathematics. More than forty years ago, in an interview with William F. Buckley on the FIRING LINE in 1983, John Saxon responded to educators who were labeling his books as "blind, mindless drill." He accused them of misusing the word "drill." John reminded the listeners that:
John went on to explain that
As John would often say,
It is my belief that, Just what is it that creates this strong dislike of John Saxon's math books? During these past forty-some years I have observed there are several general reasons that explain most of this strong dislike. Any one of these - or a combination of several - will create a situation that discourages or frustrates the student and eventually turns both the parent and the student against the Saxon math books. Here are several of those reasons:
Every time I have encountered this situation, I have students take the on-line Saxon Algebra 1 placement test - and without exception, these students have failed that test. That failure tends to confuse the parents when I tell them the test the student just failed was the last test in the Saxon Pre-Algebra textbook. Does this tell you something? This same entry level problem can occur when switching to Saxon at any level in the Saxon math series from Math 54 through the upper level algebra courses; however, the curriculum shock is less dynamic and discouraging when the switch is made after moving from a fifth grade math curriculum into the Saxon sixth grade Math 76 book.
But when you start with a first edition of the Math 54 book in the fourth grade and then move to a second or third edition of Math 65 for the fifth grade; or you move from a first or second edition of the sixth grade Math 76 book to a second or third edition of the seventh grade Math 87 book, you are subjecting the students to a frustrating challenge which in some cases does not allow them to make up the gap they encounter when they move from an academically weaker text to an academically stronger one. The new second or third editions of the fifth grade Saxon Math 65 are stronger in academic content then the older first edition of the sixth grade Math 76 book. Moving from the former to the latter is like skipping a book and going from a fifth grade to a seventh grade textbook. Again, using the entire selection of John's original first edition math books is okay so long as you do not attempt to go from one of the old editions to a newer edition. If you must do this, please email or call me for assistance before you make the change.
"But the lesson was easy and I wanted to finish the book early, so I skipped the easy lesson. That shouldn't make any difference." Or, "There are two of each type of problem, so why do all thirty problems? Just doing the odd numbered ones is okay because the answers for them are in the back of the book." Well, let's apply that logic to your music lessons.
We will just play every other musical note when there are two of the same notes in a row. After all, when we practice, we already know the notes we're skipping. Besides, it makes the piano practice go faster. Or an even better idea. When you have to play a piece of music, why not skip the middle two sheets of music because you already know how they sound and the audience has heard them before anyway.
My standard reply to these questions is
Doing daily work is like taking an open book test with unlimited time. The daily assignment grades reflect short term memory. However, answering twenty test questions - which came from among the 120 - 150 daily problems the students worked on in the past four or five days - reflects what students have mastered and placed in long term memory. John Saxon's math books are the only curriculum on the market today that I am aware of that require a test every four or five lessons. Grading the homework and skipping the tests negates the system of mastery, for the student is then no longer held accountable for mastering the concepts.
In March of 1993, in the preface to his first edition Physics textbook, John wrote about
If you use the books as John Saxon intended them to be used, you will join the multitude of other successful Saxon users who value his math books. I realize that every child is different. And while the above situations apply to about 99% of all students, there are always exceptions that justify the rule. If your particular situation does not fit neatly into the above descriptions, please feel free to email me at art.reed@thesaxonteacher.com or call me at
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