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Homeschooling Thru High School
You can Before H.S. During H.S. After H.S. Resources FAQs Blog

Carol Becker

Diane Kummer
Diane Kummer

Upcoming Speaking Engagements

March 5, 2016: Christian Home Educators of Colorado (CHEC)—Parker, CO (Carol)

March 17, 2016: Capital Baptist Homeschool Co-op—Fairfax, VA (Carol)

April 1-2, 2016: Nebraska Christian Home Educators Association (NCHEA)—Lincoln, NE (Diane)

April 28-30, 2016: MassHOPE—Worcester, MA (Diane)

May 21, 2016: Christian Home Educators of West Virginia (CHEWV)—Getting Started High School Workshops, WV (Carol)

June 16-18, 2016: Christian Home Educators of Colorado (CHEC)—Denver, CO (Diane)

July 15-16, 2016: Arizona Families for Home Education (AFHE)—Phoenix, AZ (Carol)

Not able to attend one of Carol or Diane’s high school events? Purchase a recording of HSLDA’s High School at Home: Turning Possibility into Reality event and watch sessions on developing a high school plan, creating transcripts, charting a course for post-high school plans, and receiving encouragement for the high school years!

“Both of HSLDA’s high school consultants homeschooled their children from kindergarten through the 12th grade.” Learn more >>

High School Math: Tips, Resources, and Encouragement

Dear Friends, March 3, 2016

As you review this year’s academic courses and all that your teen has accomplished, it seems appropriate to look at high school math courses. After a particularly difficult tug-of-war over math with her eldest teen, Carol realized just how fundamental humility, kindness, and creativity are to teaching high school math. Teens benefit more from your encouragement than your technical proficiency. For some homeschool parents, teaching high school math can seem bewildering or intimidating, while others seem quite comfortable with higher level math courses. Wherever you find yourself on this spectrum, we have resources, supplements, and teaching options to help you.

Math Basics

We suggest you keep these basics in mind when you teach math:

  • Students benefit by working on math when their minds are fresh, so choose instruction times deliberately.
  • Be persistent because daily math problems provide your student with consistent practice, identify areas of weakness, and help avoid the pitfalls of procrastination.
  • Exercise discretion in the number and types of problems you assign to not overburden students.
  • Consider ways to add interest to problem solving.

Please keep abreast of your teen’s high school math progress because your involvement reinforces the importance of this subject to your teen.

Creatively engage your teen in math by finding alternatives to pencil and paper. Some students enjoy working on a whiteboard with colored markers. Instead of students completing all of the problems on their own, ask your student to pick out three to five problems with which she would like help, and then do these problems together with her on a whiteboard. Turn the tables on your teen and have her explain the math concepts to you to see how well she understands problem-solving techniques. Some days, act as your teen’s scribe and ask her to direct you to complete each step to solve the assigned problems. Be flexible in the use of your curriculum. If lesson plans dictate weekly tests, consider turning some into 10-problem quizzes. Another quiz option is asking your teen to complete three to five problems on a whiteboard, explaining each step in the process.

Defeatism is contagious! Now is the time to set aside personal phobias you may have acquired about high school math. When you actually read lessons and work problems, you’ll be surprised to find that vocabulary, concepts, and comprehension return as you tackle this tiger. The math course that was traumatic for you in high school may no longer be as difficult as you remember.

Math Course Options

We recommend that you choose an option based primarily on your teen’s needs rather than on your teaching preference.

Parent-taught courses: Please don’t underestimate your ability to teach a high school math course because today’s publishers offer many tools to help parents. You can purchase detailed lesson plans, answer keys, solution manuals, tests banks, and teacher textbooks. Some math curriculum publishers provide helplines to call when your student is struggling with the material; others sell instructional DVDs which your teen can watch with you or independently. Every family has a different situation, so before you decide to teach a math course, take into account your willingness, responsibilities, and time commitments.

Computer based: Several interactive computer-based math curricula are available on the market. Please understand your teen’s learning style and motivational level before you invest in this technology. Some students thrive with computer interaction, while others wilt. Often students struggling in math will do far better under adult tutelage rather than computerized instruction.

Co-op classes: Homeschool co-ops offer families a viable alternative to teaching math at home. Before signing your student up for a co-op class, understand the responsibilities of the instructor, parent, and teen. Find out if the instructor evaluates your teen’s work and awards a final grade. Co-op teachers only see students for two to three hours a week, so parents should supervise completion of homework between classes.

Private tutors: If co-ops are not available in your area, consider hiring a private tutor. For problems with wrong answers, students often need assistance to see where mistakes occur. This is where a brief weekly session with a tutor can really help. If a tutor seems too expensive, enlist help from family, friends, church members, co-op teachers, or neighbors. Other sources for tutors include homeschool moms, former teachers, graduates, or retirees.

No matter which method of math instruction you choose, all teens can take advantage of free online math supplements for Pre-Algebra, Algebra 1, Geometry, Algebra 2, and Pre-Calculus. Just match your teen’s textbook chapter title with the appropriate title online.

General High School Track

If your teen plans to enter the workforce or enlist in the military directly after high school, we recommend that these students complete three years of high school math. To prepare teens for life after graduation, consider adding a practical course such as consumer math or business math. These teach life skills such as buying a car, selecting a loan, budgeting, and investing. For budding entrepreneurs, an accounting course would be useful.

You will find math curriculum from complete curriculum providers here, specialized providers here, and the HSLDA Curriculum Market. Take advantage of used curriculum sales at state homeschool conventions, local homeschool groups, or online. Teens in the general high school track have the greatest flexibility in math course selection:

  • General math
  • Business math
  • Consumer math
  • Accounting
  • Pre-Algebra
  • Algebra 1
  • Geometry
  • Algebra 2

Keep in mind that some trade and vocational schools may prefer that students complete foundational math courses such as Algebra 1, Algebra 2, and Geometry. See “Is Your High School Student Interested in Trade School or a Formal Apprenticeship?” for tips from an electrician that underscore why algebra is important.

General College Prep Track

For teens preparing for college, the fundamental three math courses are Algebra 1, Geometry, and Algebra 2. For most students, the study of algebra marks a pivotal change in the study of mathematics. Some teens who were average arithmetic students suddenly find themselves understanding algebra’s logic and finally find math interesting. Other students who could learn arithmetic lessons on their own now need real assistance to understand new principles. Students who could accurately solve arithmetic problems in their head previously in the younger grades must learn the discipline of writing down numerous steps and double-checking their answers, especially when they use calculators.

Algebra 1, Geometry, and Algebra 2 form the foundation for the math sections of college entrance exams such as the SAT and ACT. Teens generally take these exams in the spring of the junior year and fall of the senior year. Teens who complete the majority of these math courses prior to taking these tests will be better prepared. In addition, SAT or ACT prep resources help keep math skills fresh.

College-bound teens who plan to major in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields will need advanced courses such as Pre-Calculus/Trigonometry and Calculus. This necessitates that students begin studying Algebra 1 in middle school. Some parents successfully teach Algebra 1, Geometry, Algebra 2, Statistics, Pre-Calculus (with Trigonometry), and Calculus, while others prefer options such as:

Most community colleges require students interested in taking dual-enrollment math courses to take a math placement exam. Doing well on the untimed math placement test is crucial. When students begin to select wrong answers, the placement test ends at the appropriate level. Depending on how well they place on the exam, teens may have to retake certain math courses in community college before they can advance to higher-level courses.

Math skills affect the timing of certain science courses, specifically chemistry and physics. To help students succeed in these important courses, we recommend that students complete Algebra 1 and at least be concurrently enrolled in Algebra 2 when tackling chemistry. Prior to attempting a physics course, students should complete Algebra 2.

Rigorous College Prep Track

Students interested in attending a rigorous or selective college should consider taking pre-calculus and calculus (AB, BC). Good options for these courses are community colleges and Advanced Placement providers.

Rigorous and selective colleges seek students who excel in difficult subjects and score highly on college entrance tests (SAT and ACT). The math portions of these exams cover additional math courses beyond Algebra 1, 2, and Geometry, so students in upper level math courses will score higher.

Students benefit when parents find creative ways to approach teaching math in the high school years. Join us next month as we look at CLEP and AP tests.

Looking forward to spring,

Carol Becker and Diane Kummer
HSLDA High School Consultants