Knowing that students often raise their scores on the SAT and the ACT when they take it more than once, I can't believe more of them don't take advantage of the opportunity to take a practice run at the PSAT in their sophomore or even freshman years of high school. But they probably don't know that they can, or they think that it will count against them.

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**math**. Show all posts## Monday, October 9, 2017

### Taking a practice run at the PSAT

Did you know students can take the PSAT for practice, without it counting against them, as long as they take it before their junior year? That's what my twins are doing, and frankly, I'm a little jealous.

## Thursday, August 3, 2017

### What comes after Algebra 1?

"What should my high school student take after Algebra 1?"

That's one of the most commonly asked questions among homeschoolers, and it's not so simple to answer. Where do you go next, into Algebra 2 or Geometry? Ask this question in any large homeschool group and you are sure to get a lot of debate.

When I was in school, most students enrolled in Geometry right after Algebra 1, but I chose to enroll in Algebra 2. It made more sense to me to cover that material immediately following Algebra 1, and I did well taking the courses in this order.

There is a strong argument to be made, however, for taking Geometry immediately after Algebra 1, because a student would have more exposure to those concepts before taking the PSAT, thus potentially raising their score.

As my twins were approaching the end of Algebra 1 this year, I realized it was time for our family to make this difficult decision. I had curriculum for both courses ready to go, and had reviewed the first several chapters of each. I just needed to pick which one we would do first.

After a lot of thought, I decided to try a different approach. We're going to do both Algebra 2 and Geometry simultaneously. Now, that doesn't mean I am doubling the workload on my kids. No, in fact, they will be maintaining the same weekly schedule as they did with Algebra 1. But instead of doing one full course and then the other, we are going to do one small section at a time, and switch back and forth between courses.

Some folks have called me crazy for trying this approach, and others have called me brilliant. I'll settle for a little of both, so long as the plan works well for my kids. We can always revert to doing one course at a time if the alternating schedule doesn't work out, but I think that my twins are bright enough to handle switching back and forth.

The best part of this plan is that both Algebra 2 and Geometry will be fresh in their minds when it is time to take their PSAT next fall. We do a year-round schedule with intermittent breaks, and they should be finished with most of both math courses by next October. If everything goes the way I hope it does, this will give them their best chance to score well, and hopefully earn some scholarship offers.

I'd love to hear what you have planned following Algebra 1, or if your students have already moved on through higher math, how they did using one approach or another.

That's one of the most commonly asked questions among homeschoolers, and it's not so simple to answer. Where do you go next, into Algebra 2 or Geometry? Ask this question in any large homeschool group and you are sure to get a lot of debate.

When I was in school, most students enrolled in Geometry right after Algebra 1, but I chose to enroll in Algebra 2. It made more sense to me to cover that material immediately following Algebra 1, and I did well taking the courses in this order.

There is a strong argument to be made, however, for taking Geometry immediately after Algebra 1, because a student would have more exposure to those concepts before taking the PSAT, thus potentially raising their score.

As my twins were approaching the end of Algebra 1 this year, I realized it was time for our family to make this difficult decision. I had curriculum for both courses ready to go, and had reviewed the first several chapters of each. I just needed to pick which one we would do first.

After a lot of thought, I decided to try a different approach. We're going to do both Algebra 2 and Geometry simultaneously. Now, that doesn't mean I am doubling the workload on my kids. No, in fact, they will be maintaining the same weekly schedule as they did with Algebra 1. But instead of doing one full course and then the other, we are going to do one small section at a time, and switch back and forth between courses.

Some folks have called me crazy for trying this approach, and others have called me brilliant. I'll settle for a little of both, so long as the plan works well for my kids. We can always revert to doing one course at a time if the alternating schedule doesn't work out, but I think that my twins are bright enough to handle switching back and forth.

The best part of this plan is that both Algebra 2 and Geometry will be fresh in their minds when it is time to take their PSAT next fall. We do a year-round schedule with intermittent breaks, and they should be finished with most of both math courses by next October. If everything goes the way I hope it does, this will give them their best chance to score well, and hopefully earn some scholarship offers.

I'd love to hear what you have planned following Algebra 1, or if your students have already moved on through higher math, how they did using one approach or another.

## Sunday, February 12, 2017

### Get four times the fun with this free worksheet

You may have seen the meme that the Facebook page, Math is Awesome, shared this week. Using addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, square roots, factorials and carefully placed parentheses, students can solve expressions using four fours to equal every number from 0 to 13.

I thought this would be a neat exercise to give my own homeschoolers, so they could see the good old order of operations in a creative way. With a little bit of work, and a refresher on how to type the division symbol, I turned the meme into a worksheet.

Click here to get a free copy of the worksheet you can use with your students. And just in case you don't remember everything from your algebra class, in the problems near the end, 4! means 4 factorial, which is 4x3x2x1. Have fun!

I thought this would be a neat exercise to give my own homeschoolers, so they could see the good old order of operations in a creative way. With a little bit of work, and a refresher on how to type the division symbol, I turned the meme into a worksheet.

Click here to get a free copy of the worksheet you can use with your students. And just in case you don't remember everything from your algebra class, in the problems near the end, 4! means 4 factorial, which is 4x3x2x1. Have fun!

## Wednesday, September 30, 2015

### Don't skip the word problems

I recently read a post from a new homeschooler, who said that her daughter liked math, but hated doing word problems to the point that it was often a battle just to get her to do them. She asked whether word problems are really necessary, or if her child could skip them, since she knew how to do the math anyway.

I say, emphatically, don't skip the word problems!

I know, your kids may hate word problems, and you might be wondering why they really matter, especially if you are confident that your children already knows how to do the math required to solve them. But here's the thing. Word problems require different skills than simple equations, and your students need to master both types of skills for a few good reasons.

Word problems require students to first determine from the information provided what math is required in order to find a solution. This is a completely different skill than being able to complete math problems laid out as simple equations.

In real life, we're seldom presented with problems that are already laid out in an equation. Instead, we find ourselves answering questions like, how many pizzas do we need to feed our son's hungry baseball team if each of the nine boys can eat three slices of pizza and the pizzas are cut into eight slices.

We need added skills in order to parse out the information provided by a scenario like this and then determine how to come to a solution. That's the main reason why word problems are so important, they prepare you for real life math.

You'll want to pay special attention to word problems, especially if your child is college bound, because exams like the SAT, ACT and PSAT all have them. And if your child is not adept at solving word problems, their scores will suffer.

There may be no worse feeling for a student than freezing up on an exam question, knowing that the timer is ticking and the problem doesn't make any sense. Precious moments tick away, as you sit there, confused and frustrated.

Being unprepared for tricky word problems may cause your child to not only lose points on those questions, but also other math problems that they are unable to complete because they've run out of time.

I've told my own kids, who dislike word problems as much as any average middle schoolers, that these types of problems really are what separate the good math students from the great, especially with respect to scholarship contenders. Everyone competing for scholarships will have learned the basic math required to do well on the tests. But that added skill, of being able to read a complicated word problem and deduce what solution is required, is what will set the best scorers apart.

If you've neglected word problems, it's not too late. You can always start building your child's problem solving skills. Start with word problems that require math your child is already proficient at doing, so they can become confident at looking at math outside of neat little equations. Help them learn to think like a detective, and hunt for clues within the word problem that will tell them what question is being asked and how they'll go about solving it.

As the word problems get easier for your child, move along to more complicated math. Your goal is to help them learn to solve word problems confidently and in a timely manner, without confusion and frustration standing in their way.

I say, emphatically, don't skip the word problems!

I know, your kids may hate word problems, and you might be wondering why they really matter, especially if you are confident that your children already knows how to do the math required to solve them. But here's the thing. Word problems require different skills than simple equations, and your students need to master both types of skills for a few good reasons.

### Preparation for real life scenarios

Word problems require students to first determine from the information provided what math is required in order to find a solution. This is a completely different skill than being able to complete math problems laid out as simple equations.

In real life, we're seldom presented with problems that are already laid out in an equation. Instead, we find ourselves answering questions like, how many pizzas do we need to feed our son's hungry baseball team if each of the nine boys can eat three slices of pizza and the pizzas are cut into eight slices.

We need added skills in order to parse out the information provided by a scenario like this and then determine how to come to a solution. That's the main reason why word problems are so important, they prepare you for real life math.

### Preparation for exams

You'll want to pay special attention to word problems, especially if your child is college bound, because exams like the SAT, ACT and PSAT all have them. And if your child is not adept at solving word problems, their scores will suffer.

There may be no worse feeling for a student than freezing up on an exam question, knowing that the timer is ticking and the problem doesn't make any sense. Precious moments tick away, as you sit there, confused and frustrated.

Being unprepared for tricky word problems may cause your child to not only lose points on those questions, but also other math problems that they are unable to complete because they've run out of time.

### Scholarship money is at play

I've told my own kids, who dislike word problems as much as any average middle schoolers, that these types of problems really are what separate the good math students from the great, especially with respect to scholarship contenders. Everyone competing for scholarships will have learned the basic math required to do well on the tests. But that added skill, of being able to read a complicated word problem and deduce what solution is required, is what will set the best scorers apart.

If you've neglected word problems, it's not too late. You can always start building your child's problem solving skills. Start with word problems that require math your child is already proficient at doing, so they can become confident at looking at math outside of neat little equations. Help them learn to think like a detective, and hunt for clues within the word problem that will tell them what question is being asked and how they'll go about solving it.

As the word problems get easier for your child, move along to more complicated math. Your goal is to help them learn to solve word problems confidently and in a timely manner, without confusion and frustration standing in their way.

## Friday, July 24, 2015

### Improving memory work with music: A review of Cross Seven Classical Education

One of the most common questions homeschoolers ask is how to teach math facts to their kids in ways that will actually stick. It's so frustrating to go over and over the material, only to discover that your children have not retained much, if any of it. Unfortunately, this is often the case when it comes to basic math facts, like sums and multiples, and it's enough to make many new homeschoolers want to throw in the towel.

Sometimes it's just a matter of finding the right way to present the material, though, that makes the difference and finally allows the information to register in your child's long term memory. Worksheets and computer games may not be doing the trick, for instance, because your child may be an auditory learner.

Auditory learners, and almost all students, really, can benefit from having material presented in ways that stimulate more of their brain. Combining music, rhythm, and visual cues can give your child's brain more ways to process and store the information, and to remember it later.

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