As math curriculum options continue to flood the U. S. homeschool market, the old standard Saxon Math books are increasingly rejected in favor of more "innovative" programs. Art Reed, with years of teaching high school students from Saxon Math books behind him, offers Using John Saxon's Math Books as a defense of what he calls the best math books available.
Words like "incremental" and "automaticity" often confuse parents who just want the best math textbook for their child. Reed explains these terms in a way non-educators and non-scholars can understand, showing why Saxon's methodology really works, and how to get kids to use his booksand get the most out of them.
Reed stresses over and over that students should NOT skip any part of any Saxon Math book—not lessons, not problems, not review. Automaticity means that kids do the same kinds of problems over and over and over until they can perform those functions without consciously thinking about it, and Reed emphasizes that that's impossible without constant repetition.
He also discourages using instructional DVDs and CD-ROMs to help kids "get" concepts. A good mathemetician reads and researches competently alone, not simply regurgitating what they've seen or heard. Again, if students complete every problem in every book and aren't allowed to move ahead when performing poorly, they should have no trouble.
For the frequent criticism that Saxon Math is too light on student-teacher interaction, Reed uses the analogy of piano lessons: the teacher doesn't sit on the bench watching every move of the student and correcting them immediately. The teacher sits apart, observing, and only steps in when necessary.
Other topics include what kind of calculator to use, student placement, and helping struggling students, always in non-technical language. At the end are extensive guidelines for using each book from 5/4 to Physics; there's a lot of repetition, but parents need only read the section appropriate for the book their child is currently working through.
This is as much a defense of the Saxon methodology as it is an instruction manual for using the books. Reed's advice is sound, his arguments are compelling, and this book is sure to lift many families out of the mire of math despair. Addressed specifically to homeschool parents, Using John Saxon's Math Books is almost as valuable as the Saxon Math texts themselves.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and 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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