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saxon math Aug 18, 2021

Saxon's books are different in three ways, the first difference is that the book can be read by the students. The English language is used to explain the concepts by using straightforward declarative sentences. The example problems are numerous and each one is fully explained.

The second difference is that the concepts are presented in increments so that one increment can be practiced for several lessons before the next increment of the same concept is presented the third and most important difference is that the emphasis and every homework problem set is on review. Every topic previously presented is reviewed in every homework problem set, thus each problem set is 85% review and only 15 % on the new topic.

I really love and appreciate the story behind Saxon Math the writers who persevered against all odds, the uniqueness in the methodology of incremental development with continual review.

"We must have highly effective programs that have been tested in hundreds of schools nationwide and proved to be effective that are teacher independent."

But truth be told, It hasn't always been smooth sailing for us, now having talked to the author of the earlier book Stephen Hake, John Saxon's biographer, Nikki Hayes after reading countless articles, the actual textbook introductions, and more, I realized one big thing, any troubles or issues we've had in the past have been user error on my part.

I’ve not taken advantage of all the tools available to me and I didn't zoom out enough to see the big picture. I couldn't see the forest through the trees, and because of that, It was so tempting to throw out the baby with the bathwater.

This post can change your homeschool experience and in turn your children's lives. I hope at least it can be helpful to you, save you time and frustration or at least be an encouragement to you.


Let’s talk about how to correctly use Saxon Math and set your kids on the path for greater success. Now it doesn't mean that all kids will need all these things but these resources are available to you, if you feel your kids could benefit from them please take advantage of them.


  1. They must complete all the problems in all the books in a specific order; now the Robinson curriculum recommends you start with 54 and then 76, 87, Algebra half, Algebra 1, Algebra 2, Advanced Mathematics, and Calculus. every lesson, every problem, no skipping problems. The goal is to build automaticity with continual review.

 "Why not automate some of these basic skills and concepts and equivalences and just make life easier for yourself." Stephen Hake

The well-known fact here is that adults and kids alike, enjoy what we're good at and the only way we can get good at something is by practice, a lot of practice. In the book Outliers, the author talks about the 10 000 hours necessary to have mastery of a subject. Do not skip lessons or problems. If they are switching over from public school or a different math program you can have them take the assessment test to see what book it's recommended they start in, if they're at a point where it's really easy for them you can let them test out of those lessons, if they score 80 or higher on that math test.  This leads me to the next point.

  1. Take the Test: I used to not see the point in them to be honest because I thought well if they don't move on unless they have a 95 correct rate on their lesson what's the point of doing the test but the test can still be very helpful when homeschooling. First of all, it can give parents great peace of mind especially if they're using Saxon in this self-teaching way. If the kids are reading it on their own working the problems on their own grading themselves and correcting their errors this will give parents great peace of mind that after seeing fresh new problems on a test they can still score 80 percent or higher to advance. See in every lesson there is a cumulative review of the whole book up until that point tests them on their knowledge it's not just a pump and dump where they learn something in one chapter and then they're tested on that in that chapter review no this is every five or four lessons a test cumulative with the whole book up until that point where they are anything scored less than 80% is an indicator to stop and provide some kind of intervention. 

"Every lesson gets harder so it's not going to get easy again so you really have to keep on top of it". Stephen Hake

It's only going to get more and more difficult and with less than 80 mastery, it will only be a matter of time before they feel like they are not good at math and before you know it they will dislike math don't let them slip or fall behind don't let them get off with easier math like business math especially in this day and age. 

"It's the power of achievement especially in the quantitative disciplines that just keeps the doors open to a person's future." Stephen Hake

Give them the gift of choices in their adult life like Stephen Hake says "sometimes a teacher's willpower has to exceed the students won't power."

Now there are intervention activities that you can employ even with the self-teaching methodology they can work on the supplemental problems in the back of the math book if they have an older sibling that has already passed the material they can tutor them and that will benefit both parties one to learn and when to reinforce they can go back to the point in the book where it felt easy for them and then go slow from there maybe just half a lesson a day stick to six days a week if possible because when you take two days off, it's really like taking three days off to your brain and of course don't even think about skipping summers. They can also use the method outlined in the overnight student where they take a sentence or two a bite-sized chunk of the instructions and then pretend to teach it to somebody else because we retain so much more when we teach versus actually just listening or reading.

  1. Don't skip the warm-up drills and the mental math: Practice these exercises have so many benefits, from reinforcing math backs to waking up your brain and getting all your capabilities ready before diving into the actual lesson. There's something about a time crunch and seeing yourself beat your record to start the lesson with genuine self-confidence and it's one of the things where I regret and wish I could go back and have implemented from the very beginning.

In  summary, the Saxon philosophy is;

  • Simple declarative sentence.
  • No chapter format with hunk swallowing of topics 
  • Page space used for explanations and multiple examples instead of expensive color or photos 
  • Incremental development of a concept with understanding its parts linear progressions before trying to work with the total concept.
  • Continual review every day with required homework that has 85 percent of problems from previous lessons and no skipping of lessons unless students show 80 percent mastery of problems from that lesson no working every other problem
  • Practice with creative problems of repetition for learning not for drilling
  • Real world problems replaced with fantasy problems
  • Frequent cumulative assessments after every five lessons
  • Rare use of calculators in grades k through five restricted use in middle school prior to algebra.
  • Show 80 percent competency before moving to next concept.


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