Is Your Math Program Not "Working"?

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I used Saxon Math for years. Then, the year I hit Algebra 1/2, my progress ground to a standstill. After failing to muscle my way through the textbook, it was time to try a new math program.

I switched to a different approach and rocketed ahead in math again.

Sometimes a math program simply doesn't "work" for your student. Like me, the same approach may have worked for years before you need to change it up. One of the beauties of homeschooling is that we have the ability to change programs as needed.

The first step in resolving an issue is figuring out what the problem is. I rather dislike troubleshooting, but it's a part of life--especially in the world of websites. For example, we kept getting reports that some testimonials were disappearing when people were trying to upload photos for Sonlight's Photo Contest. We tried to replicate the problem and couldn't. It wasn't until late Monday morning that I realized the problem may have been a character limit somewhere. We ran some tests and, what do you know, that was it: The only people who experienced the problem were those who were writing long testimonials. How frustrating for you! We quickly fixed the issue, but it was so late in the game that most of you had already encountered the problem.

In the case of math programs, it may take a while before you can put your finger on the problem: Not enough hands-on? Too much repetition? Not enough review? Too many new concepts? Not enough explanation? Too much explanation?

The second step is to find the program that will work. This is often much easier once you know what the problem is. You can read about what each math program offers, and find the one that addresses your child's need.

Still not sure? Have a few questions? Want a second opinion? Chat with a Sonlight Advisor who can help you decide based on her own experience with math programs.

And, as always, if you're looking for an excellent math supplement, I'd be remiss not to remind you of those fantastic MathTacular DVDs. ...granted, I'm a little biased <smile>.

Have you ever had to change your math program? Do you enjoy troubleshooting when something isn't working?

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Empty Nester

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  1. Fortunately, we haven't had to change yet. Horizons is working well for us, although I sometimes think it's holding my son back a little. I don't really like to tinker with stuff like that. It could get expensive!

    • Remember that if you purchased the math with your core, you can likely return it for full credit with Sonlight's "Love to Learn Guarantee". Bless their hearts, it's something that lets me sleep at night... Curriculum IS such a huge investment, I'd feel so afraid if getting "stuck" with something bad without such a guarantee.

  2. I must say that this year (using Sonlight for the first time) has made a HUGE different in my daughter's desire to "do math." All through first and second grade, she hated math. Math was her worst subject, the thing left til the end of every day and was often done with tears. This year we knew we needed something new. We are trying Sonlight, Core D, with the Teaching Textbooks program for Math. My daughter LOVES the fact that it's on the computer (anything done on the computer is more FUN, right?). From Box Day on, she has wanted to do one lesson of math each day, first thing in the day. Now she is enjoying math. Thank you, Sonlight, for math curriculum choices that are great and that parents and students can both enjoy.

  3. Dawn

    I did switch and let me say I switched TOO QUICK. Be careful and really think about the questions in this write up because I did not. I just jumped on what the next person recommended and although it was not terrible, it did not have enough review and we ended up switching again to another program (AOP) that has lots of review. I felt really bad for having to switch 2x but the first switch was just too quick without much thought.

  4. Sarah B

    We tried Horizons K, but it just never clicked with my daughter. She would also be in tears throughout most of it. She just wasn't ready yet for workbooks yet. She needed a solid hands on approach so we switched to RightStart. She has really enjoyed it with all the games and one on one. I know we won't be able to do this for a long time, but at least it has gotten her over hating math right now. I'm thinking of switching to MathUsee after we use RightStart for a couple years and then using Teaching Textbooks because she loves computer games, but that is something we will work on when we get there. That's the joy of Homeschool, we get to find out what works best for the child and then we can actually use it! On the other hand, I have a very curious 3 yr old who may be a perfect fit for Horizons! She is learning a lot along side big sis.

  5. Sample pages and placement tests are your friend! I don't take a lot of stock in them to evaluate who is doing "well" or "on grade level," but the people who put out the curriculum would SURE like to sell you the same thing next year, so it's in their best interest to place you well. I'd also do a google search for reviews but keep in mind that the *best* curriculum is the one you actually use. :)

  6. I hear ya there, Sumpteretc. Glad Horizons is working out thus far.

    Thanks for sharing, Shannon! So glad to hear it <smile>.

    Great point, Dawn. Thanks for the reminder!

    Glad you've found a program that's working for your daughter, Dawn. And you're right: That is absolutely one of the benefits of homeschooling. <smile>

    Right on, Mrs. C. Having your kids check out the samples can be so useful when choosing a program. Great point that totally slipped my mind when I was writing my post. Thanks for the "assist" there <smile>.


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  8. Dara

    I switched from Horizons to Teaching Textbooks for my Core 5 son and Core 3 daughter. I'm a little concerned the program is too easy for them. I'm hoping they are learning what they need to know and that they are not falling "behind."

  9. Crista F

    Or, if you're like us, you find that there isn't a single math program that really fits your child. My daughter hates Math U See worksheets (over and over and over again). She LOVES the Life of Fred books but doesn't always "get it" with Fred. So..... we use both and now she's doing well. We use Fred as a base to keep her going and motivated, but when she gets stuck in Fred we pull out the corresponding MUS video and worksheets until she's ready to move on with Fred again. It's our little compromise, but it's worked like a charm!

  10. Dara, I haven't used Teaching Textbooks, but I know that your concern is shared by many other parents. If you have any questions as you progress with the programs, please don't hesitate to chat with an Adivsor.

    That's a great idea, Crista! Glad to hear you've found what works for your daughter. I love how homeschooling gives us that kind of flexibility.


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  12. Hello Dara,

    We used Teaching Textbooks from pre-Algebra through through Geometry and are currently graduating two kids in Applied Math (Summa) and Statistics (Magna) from "big state U". Both have funded PhD's next year that depend heavily on Math. Our issue with some of the other programs is that they were just too repetitive. We tried Saxon in the early grades but moved to Singapore when we saw that it was so repetitive and boring it was slowing the kids down so we moved on to Singapore Math which we thought was absolutely stellar. We moved on to Teaching Textbooks after 6th grade and then into Thinkwell when we hit pre-calculus. We bought all of these materials through Sonlight because we received (by far) the best combination of prices and support from Sonlight.

    P.S. I am not a shill. I have an issue or two with a few pieces of the Sonlight program (not huge ones), but math certainly was not one of them and Matt (through this blog) stays in contact, so he knows my story.

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