When you're using colorful bear counters to teach your kindergarten student the basics of addition, math might not seem that scary. But by the time your high school student is trying to navigate the fearsome waters of polynomials and linear inequalities, those happy days of plastic manipulatives long gone, is there even any way to help them? Or do you leave them to face certain mathematical frustration alone?
If you have some determination and time, turns out there is a way you can help your high schoolers reach the safe harbor of math proficiency. Prentice Hall High School Mathematics covers Algebra 1, Geometry, and Algebra 2 thoroughly and in accordance with current Common Core state standards. But this isn't a course your students can sail alone—the kids are just deckhands, and you're the captain.
How Do These Work?
There are several components to each level: a hardcover student textbook, a 2volume hardcover teacher's edition, a Practice and Problem Solving Workbook and accompanying answer key, an Answers and Solutions CDROM, and a Teaching Resources DVD. The most important tool for you is the teacher's edition, where all of these resources are integrated and a plan for using them is mapped out.
Each book is designed to be completed in one normal school year. This means quite a bit of work for both you and your student, but it is relatively easy to tailor the content exactly to your child's personal needs, either on your own or using the suggestions in the teacher's editions. And while there is a lot of work involved, a lot of it has already been done for you in the form of lesson plans, suggestions for presenting the material, ideas for facilitating discussion, and even periodic instruction for helping kids who need remedial help.
The student textbooks all follow an identical format. Each chapter contains several lessons, and revolves around an overarching "Big Idea" like solving equations or measuring shapes. The lessons within that chapter all relate in some way to that Big Idea, and are meant to help students think about the main concept mathematically through extensive use of problem solving and activities with a realworld emphasis.
Throughout the student textbooks you will find references to online access videos that illustrate a point or apply the problem at hand to a real life situation. Unfortunately, home school users do not have access to these videos. However, there are homework help videos on the Teaching Resources DVD that are very helpful. Mr. Jones narrates, and walks students through the stages of various problems, ensuring they understand the concept and aren't just following the steps blindly.
Practice is heavily emphasized throughout. Not only are there several practice questions in every lesson, some problem sets have as many as 85 problems, and that doesn't include the lessonbylesson worksheets (usually four pages per lesson) in the Practice and Problem Solving Workbook, or the myriad extra activities, worksheets, exercises, etc. available in PDF form on the Teaching Resources DVD.
The elements of problem solving (think, know, need, plan) are utilized throughout to move students beyond mere memorization of the steps of various functions to the ability to think through each one as it is presented. The constant review is intended to undergird this approach, and it is effective. However, if the work gets to be too much, you can cut out problems as you see fit.
The teacher's editions contain each page of the student textbooks in reduced form, surrounded by a border with teaching notes, suggestions for activities, and answers to the intext problem sets (without solutions—those can be found on the Answers and Solutions CDROM). There are also a number of resources included on separate pages for each lesson. Teachers shouldn't have to put in too much prep time, though collating the quizzes, tests, extra workpages, etc. may end up taking an hour or two per week.
Lesson plans and a scope and sequence are to be found in the front of every teacher's edition. These are divided into three ability levels (Basic, Average, Advanced) as well as Traditional and Block teaching periods. There are 160 days of student work—students on the Traditional track study for 45 minutes each of those 160 days, while students on the Block track study 90 minutes a day and get done earlier.
One of the real treasures of this course is the Teaching Resources DVD. It includes a literal plethora of resources (surprise, surprise!) for teachers and students, including a Student Companion, Find the Errors! and Solve It! exercises, games and puzzles, cumulative review, Progress Monitoring Assessments, podcasts to help parents know how to teach the content, and much, much more.
Like all Prentice Hall curriculum, this one pays close attention to students' futures. Not only do these three courses overlap and build on one another, but throughout the student textbooks and the supplemental materials there are chances for students to prepare for standardized testing with select problems. While this could conceivably go out of date pretty quickly, most standardized tests change very little from year to year in terms of actual content (only the problems themselves change), so these will be a good guide for the foreseeable future.
Our Honest Opinion
Sailing takes a lot more effort and knowledge than most people suppose. So does math, especially when you get into algebra and geometry (and anything above those), meaning you need the right guidance. A concept not fully understood can turn into a rocky shoreline later on that wants nothing more than to sink the ship of your child's academic progress. Fortunately, there are plenty of options that provide the guidance needed to make it back into gentle waters—Prentice Hall High School Mathematics is one of them.
Here's what's good about it: while parents will have to exert some effort, most of the work is done for you, you just have to put it all together for your student. The teacher resources for this program are the kind that users of other courses can only dream of, and the student book is one of the more thorough we've seen. It isn't full of pictures and other distractions, but the text is readable and there's enough of interest to keep kids going, especially if they like math even a little bit. And if you're concerned about this, it's Common Core.
And, the notsogoods: It's Common Core. This means that students get the same information thrown at them a variety of different ways, to the extent that many will probably just throw up their hands and surrender as the algebra pirates storm their hold. Of course, this is a highly customizable course, so while the sheer amount of information is daunting, there are workarounds. Another downside is that you're probably going to have to come to Prentice Hall High School Mathematics from elsewhere, and find another course after you're done.
Overall, this is a very good program. Students will not only learn what they're supposed to, they'll learn it in such a way that its usefulness in the real world will be apparent, and they'll be able to think in mathematical terms rather than simply to be bound by the process. This doesn't mean they aren't expected to reach answers the right way—at every stage, they must show their work and justify their answers. We'd probably recommend this most highly for students looking to a mathbased career, or who want to study the subject more at the postsecondary level. Or for any who want to get through the Algebraic Ocean in one piece.

Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.

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