Episode 56: How to Homeschool Math in High School with Less Stress

Overview: Find out what you need to know to homeschool math in high school with confidence. From a former math teacher who has graduated five teens!
 
Math is one of the most intimidating high school subjects for many homeschool moms. In this episode you’ll hear all my best tips for homeschool math during the high school years, to reduce the stress and get your kid all the way through.
 
My kids were not math whizzes, even though I used to teach math way back when! So this episode is for REAL people, LOL.
 
Sometimes all it takes is a little bit of information to give you the confidence you need. You can do this!
 
Things I’ll talk about:
Math sequencing
Pre-Algebra
Algebra
Geometry vs. Algebra 2
How to grade math assignments/tests
And more!
 
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Get the info you need to homeschool math in high school with confidence. Listen to the best tips from a veteran homeschool mom.

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Episode 56: How to Homeschool High School Math with Less Stress

Related Resources:

Our Homeschool Math Curriculum Sequence K-12
Episode 57: What to do about High School Math Struggles
How to Plan High School Core Courses in Your Homeschool
ACT and SAT Math Practice with Mr. D
How to Keep up with Homeschool Paperwork

TRANSCRIPT:

0 (0s):
You’re listening to episode 56 of the, It’s Not That Hard to Homeschool High School podcast. And if your kid is frustrated with math, maybe this is one of the reasons why, if you’re constantly grading their practice and they’re getting B’s and C’s on their practice, then they’re going to feel like this really stinks. I can never get ahead.

1 (29s):
Welcome to another episode of It’s Not That Hard to Homeschool High School, the podcast for real people. So you can confidently competently and even contentedly provide the high school education that best fits your teen and your family, and live to tell about it. I’m your host Ann Karako from annieandeverything.com. Hi, everybody whoo hoot today we’re going to talk about high school math, which is probably one of the most intimidating subjects that scares people when they’re thinking about homeschooling high school. So

0 (1m 8s):
I’m hoping to reduce some of that intimidation today. Let’s get started with a story, which is about me. I used to be a public school math teacher right out of college. I got hired by a school system outside of Dallas, Texas, and I taught sixth, seventh, and eighth grade math. First of all, it was very awkward too, because I was not the initial teacher. I got hired about six weeks into the school year. So the students were looking at me funny from the first day. Anyway, and I was a scared little 23-year-old; was I even 23? Yes, I guess I was 23 because it was also right after I got married. So I’m a scared little 23-year-old, and I’m in front of these kids who are expecting me to teach them math.

0 (1m 54s):
And while I felt fairly confident in my ability to do that, I wasn’t necessarily confident in my ability to control the classroom, to relate to the kids. I was just scared. And that led to me making mistakes on the chalkboard as I went through problems, not all the time. But also the math teacher is supposed to be always right and is supposed to never make mistakes. I made mistakes on the chalkboard and I was really embarrassed by that, but I just kinda, rubbed it off as, oh, you know what? I got that wrong. Let’s look at that again. Here’s the interesting thing. I was totally afraid of how that was going over.

0 (2m 35s):
I was thinking the kids were thinking I was an idiot. I did get some feedback at one point during that year, though, that a parent had told one of the administrators, my son says she makes mistakes on the chalkboard. And I’m like, oh great, what’s next? But the second statement was, but he says that makes him feel better about making mistakes too. And at the time it felt like a backhanded compliment, but it still really was a good result. You know what people do make mistakes of all kinds and math mistakes are easily fixed for the most part. They are not life mistakes.

0 (3m 15s):
They’re just little math mistakes. And we don’t need to give off the impression or feel ourselves that math has to always be a hundred percent, right? Math is very detailed and missing even the slightest little thing can mean a big problem further down. And that’s okay. People are human beings and we’re human beings and our kids are human beings. It’s okay to not always get it right. So let’s remember that as we are thinking about high school math, and as we are communicating with our teens and even our younger kids about math, it doesn’t have to be scary.

0 (3m 58s):
Mistakes are not a big deal. They’re just part of the learning process. And if we can ease our own fears and our kids’ fears about not getting it a hundred percent perfect, then we have done most of the job in math because all they need is the willingness to try again. And the willingness to learn something that’s different. That’s all that needs to happen, and then math can be achieved. So let’s start talking about high school math and how we can do it without as much stress in our home. What I want to talk about is the math sequence.

0 (4m 41s):
Now, traditionally Algebra I is the first course that is considered a high school level math course. So it comes first. And then for many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many years, Geometry came next and then Algebra II and then Pre-Calc and Trig, and then Calculus. And it was only kids who started Algebra I in eighth grade that made it all the way to calculus as a senior, and that is totally fine. Your kid does not have to do algebra in eighth grade. Your kid does not have to get all the way to calculus or maybe even pre-calculus.

0 (5m 21s):
That all depends on college requirements. You know, this is a refrain of mine. Check the college requirements and see how many credits of math they require. Most of the time for non-stem majors they’re only going to require two to three credits. So that makes life pretty easy. So Algebra I would be that first credit. Now after Algebra I, as I said, Geometry is traditionally the one that came next, but it’s not always the one that comes next. Some people prefer to put Algebra II right after Algebra I because they’re very similar obviously. Geometry is a completely different animal, and they like to keep their kid rolling on Algebra and then go to Geometry.

0 (6m 3s):
Well, I see some good points about that, but I still prefer the traditional way. And here’s why Algebra I is very basic algebra. And then Geometry uses only Algebra I and not even a whole lot of it, but it is another type of way to learn logical thinking. And then when they get to Algebra II, they’re just that much more prepared for the much more intense level that Algebra II is. Do they use a lot of Geometry and Algebra II? Not really. So, no, you don’t need Geometry to do Algebra II, but you don’t need Algebra II to do Geometry either.

0 (6m 43s):
It was almost like taking a step backwards. If you do Algebra I, then Algebra II, then Geometry, it’s like going backwards. There’s no necessarily horrible evil about that, except for this, Algebra II is acquired on the ACT, SAT, and CLT. It is there on that test, those tests, and so if your kid hasn’t done Algebra II in a while, because they’re immersed in Geometry while they’re taking those tests, then that could be a problem. There is Geometry on those tests as well to me, it’s a better idea to get all the way through Geometry.

0 (7m 24s):
So they have that under their belt and be working on Algebra II when they go to take those tests so that everything is really fairly fresh in their brain. That’s just my preference. And it worked well with my kids. But again, those who propose putting Algebra II after Algebra I, there’s nothing horribly awful about that. It really comes down to preference. And what you think is better for your kid. Let’s talk for a second about Algebra I, as far as when to start it, because here’s the thing, Algebra I is the first time that there is abstract, largely very abstract thinking involved.

0 (8m 7s):
The fact that X or A or Z or B can mean any number at all until you figure out exactly what number it really stands for. That’s the abstract thinking and to work through an entire problem without even knowing what X stands for can be a lot for a kid’s brain to try to work with. Right around the age of, oh, I’m going to say like 12 to 15 is when abstract thought becomes a thing in the human brain. It’s when the human brain develops enough to be able to handle the type of thought that algebra requires.

0 (8m 49s):
That’s why not everybody is ready for it in eighth grade or even ninth grade. Some kids take longer to develop in this area. That’s totally within the range of humans. Individuality is not a bad thing, and trying to force them to do Algebra I before their brain is ready, is a huge exercise in frustration. And there’s really no need to do that. If they only need three credits of math before graduating from high school, that means they could start Algebra I as late as 10th grade and still get through three high school credits in plenty of time for graduation. And it’s also interesting to note that if necessary, you could have the kid take Geometry and Algebra II at the exact same time since they are not dependent upon one another.

0 (9m 35s):
So in that sense, then your kid could wait to take Algebra I until junior year and then take Geometry and Algebra II at the same time during senior year and still get those three credits in. So the timing of Algebra I is not a big deal. They don’t have to start it in ninth grade. Eighth grade is for advanced students, not for every student, not for the average student, and tenth grade or even eleventh grade for the kid that really needs that time. Those are both totally fine. You know, a couple of my kids, I started them in algebra one in eighth grade and they weren’t ready for it.

0 (10m 15s):
And so we just went super slow and took two years to do it. Now, in that case, I put it on their ninth grade transcript, not their eighth grade transcript because I put it in the year that they finished the course. And if you want more discussion about when to put credits on the transcripts when they’ve taken longer like that, my new book, Taming the Transcript has a section in there about that. So, Algebra I is the first high school, considered the first high school level course by colleges. So then what about pre-algebra? Can you put that on your high school transcript? You totally can. If your kid has taken pre-algebra in ninth grade, now, if your kid’s taking pre-algebra in eighth grade, it doesn’t belong on the transcript.

0 (11m 0s):
It’s not a high school level course, and they’re not taking it during the high school years if they’re doing it in eighth grade. So it doesn’t belong on the transcript at all, but if they’re taking pre-algebra in ninth grade, it can totally go on the transcript. It is part of your high school requirements. That does not mean that colleges will accept it as high school level math credit. So it would not count towards the two or three or four credits the college is requiring for your kid to apply.

0 (12m 4s):
So that is just something to keep in mind. Pre-Algebra can totally go on the transcript but it is not going to be considered by colleges as a high school level course. Is it necessary? No. Pre-Algebra is not necessary. Many kids go straight from general math to Algebra I. And that is totally fine, but Pre-Algebra is not a bad thing to do either. It’s kind of like a gentle introduction to X, and Z, and B, and A. Doing some of the easier parts of algebra with lots of practice, but also there is a lot of general math.

1 (12m 6s):
So it’s kind of a good review of general math as well as a gentle introduction to algebra and for a lot of kids, that can be very helpful. So if you’ve got time to put it in there, I would say, go ahead and do that. Especially if your kid struggles with math in general. Now I do have to put a plugin here. I didn’t even actually have this on my outline, but I’m going to say that if your kid is struggling with math, make sure they have their math facts down, particularly their multiplication and division facts. Although addition and subtraction obviously would fall under that as well. But their multiplication and division facts are so crucial to understanding algebra, geometry, algebra two, any higher-level math with more ease.

0 (12m 50s):
If they are constantly having to look at a multiplication chart or they’re getting those multiplication facts wrong as they go through their algebra and geometry, etc problems, that’s going to cause a lot of frustration. So before starting Algebra I, take some time and get those math facts down. And what I mean by down is if they’re doing flashcards, they’re getting that fact out of their mouth within about two seconds or less, should not take long for them to get it out of their mouth. And since we’ve already talked about how much freedom you have as to when you start at Algebra I, I’m going to say take as long as it takes with the flashcards, the worksheets, the quiz led, wrap-ups, whatever tool it takes or multiple tools to get your kid doing those math facts quickly and randomly like not in any particular order, they have to be able to do it in completely random order fast.

0 (13m 55s):
That is probably the crucial skill that will help them the most with high school-level math. And certainly, that’s not intimidating for you if you know yours. And if you don’t, then maybe you should learn them together, because that takes a lot of the difficulty out of math. I cannot stress this enough. I do have a blog post about that, I will link to it in the show notes. And a reminder, if you want to go to the show notes at any time, go to my blog annieandeverything.com, then hit podcast in the top menu, and then look for this episode, which is episode #56, I had to look that up, sorry.

0 (14m 40s):
Just jumping in here quick to say that this episode has been sponsored by schoolhouseteachers.com. Schoolhouse teachers.com. The quintessential homeschooling solution provides a high-quality Christian education, supplying all the necessary tools for successful home education to over 9,000 Christian families around the world. Join these families and create a strong faith-based foundation for all your children. As you homeschool using the learning style that works for your family. Homeschool outside the box by picking and choosing courses that fit the individual needs of your child. Visit schoolhouseteachers.com today and search the subjects that interest your child the most.

0 (15m 22s):
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0 (16m 7s):
Totes are available to new members only, sorry, no refunds. Totes are the publisher’s choice and the US only. Schoolhouseteachers.com also provides support and encouragement through an engaging Facebook group, members-only webinars, free print magazines, and a chat option, for course-related or general homeschooling questions. Join today and receive access to complete full-year curriculum downloads, electives, self-paced video lessons, streaming educational videos, including Drive-Through History and the Torchlighter Series, record-keeping materials, and more. Schoolhouseteachers.com, every grade, every subject, every student. So we’ve talked about the math sequence and just a quick review there.

0 (16m 53s):
You don’t need to start Algebra I, even in ninth grade, eighth grade is going to be for advanced students. As long as you know what colleges are going to require and you know whether your kids are thinking about a stem major or not is gonna determine as well how many credits you want to fit in there? You can do Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II, Pre-calc calc, or you can do Algebra I, Algebra II, Geometry. But again, I’m going to visit that again and say, then you’re starting pre-calc having not done Algebra II for over a year. I just, geometry is not one that carries over as much as algebra. So I just am, again, going to say, I greatly prefer Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II, Pre-calc, Trig, and then Calc, if your kid gets that far, none of my kids ever did.

0 (17m 44s):
The furthest one of my kids got was to pre-calc, but the others, nope, didn’t happen. So just keep that in mind as well. Okay. What else do we want to talk about when it comes to math? Let’s talk a little bit about grading math and here’s where I might say something that surprises you. And that is this, do not grade their daily work. I have said this before, so this might not be new information to you, but for those who it is, let me explain. Daily work is when the kid is still learning the topic for the day, they are still practicing the topic for the day. And I don’t think it’s fair to give somebody an actual grade on something where they’re still practicing.

0 (18m 32s):
Grades are for evaluating work or knowledge. That is already a fact knowledge that they’ve already learned. It’s not for evaluating their practice. And if your kid is frustrated with math, maybe this is one of the reasons why. If you’re constantly grading their practice and they’re getting B’s and C’s on their practice, then they’re going to feel like this really stinks I can never get ahead. Don’t give a grade to their daily work, only grade their chapter tests. And I don’t know of a single math curriculum that doesn’t have some kind of chapter test evaluation after a certain number of lessons. That gives the kid the chance to practice through all of those lessons and then study before taking the test so that they can confirm for themselves that they know all of these things that they need to do.

0 (19m 18s):
And then when the test is placed in front of them may have a much better chance of scoring well, and then their grade is something that they’re proud of. And it’s not being brought down by all of the lower grades that they’re getting when they’re still learning and practicing from that daily work. So don’t grade the daily work. Instead, have the kid check their own daily work. Yes. Give them the answer key, let them check their work. They’re going to mark wrong what they’ve gotten wrong. Then they’re going to close the answer key and they’re going to figure out each problem, why they got it wrong. And it might be a simple error, they forgot a negative sign. You know those, they don’t have to spend a whole lot of time on as soon as they can identify, what’s gotten, went wrong.

0 (20m 2s):
Others, might need to redo the problem and that’s a great learning tool. Do not discount this. And if your kid isn’t used to doing this, you might need to be sitting near them and encouraging them. And because they’re going to get frustrated, why do I have to do this? You know, they’re teens, this is what they do. But this is huge for learning math, which is figuring out why you got it wrong. Not you figuring out why they got it wrong, but them figuring out why they got it wrong for themselves. And then correcting it as need be. This will give them so much more confidence going into the test. Now, the test, they are not going to check.

0 (20m 43s):
They’re going to do the test. They’re going to pass it over to you. This is when you have the answer key, and you’re going to check the test, and you’re going to give them a grade. Now, when you’re grading the test, if you are a mathy person and or if you have the entire solution in front of you, some math curriculum does give you a solutions guide and that is super helpful. And if you can find out where they got it wrong, and you want to give them partial credit for the parts that they got right; maybe it is just a simple negative sign that got left off, but otherwise everything is right so you only, instead of taking the five points off for that question, you only want to take off one. That is totally fine.

0 (21m 23s):
And that’s what I did with my kids. Now, as a math teacher, though, it was pretty easy for me to figure out if this was a big Mondo mistake or a little mistake. If it’s not easy for you to figure out, then don’t worry about it. Partial credit doesn’t have to happen. I think it’s more encouraging for the kids when they know, okay, she’s only going to take off a little bit if I make a small mistake. There is a difference between making a small mistake versus not knowing how to do the problem at all. So, my preference would always be, if you can give partial credit, do it. But it’s not necessary and there are teachers in the public school system, math teachers in the public school system who don’t give partial credit. The one I student taught under is a perfect example.

0 (22m 4s):
He gave all the kids a scantron for tests, all of the tests were multiple choice and they had to fill in bubbles and then he took them over to the scantron machine and ran them through. He didn’t even look at the kid’s work and they just got whatever score, the scantron punched out. And he was a public school math teacher, and the kids had to live with that. And so if your kid has to live with that too, that is fine. You don’t need to feel guilty about that. You know what, perhaps it will make them be more careful with all the details who knows. But here’s another thing about chapter tests if you are only giving a grade for their chapter test if they’ve had plenty of time to work through the lessons, check those lessons, find out what they got wrong on the lessons.

0 (22m 49s):
And then they’ve had a day or two to study for the test, which means going back over all the lessons, doing some spot checking, spot problems, making sure they know how to do every single type of problem. They don’t have to go back and redo the entire lesson. But the best way to study for math is to go back and try some problems. A few from each lesson to make sure they know how to do each type of problem. And if they’ve had plenty of time to do that, then hold them accountable for the grade they got on that math test. Do not allow them to go back and make corrections till they get a hundred percent. Now there’s a balance here, but the reason I’m saying this is because accountability for first-time work is important for college.

0 (23m 38s):
They’re not going to get the opportunity to redo stuff in college. And math is one of those things where it’s pretty cut and dried. There’s really no reason for them to do poorly, other than they didn’t prepare well enough. There needs to be some accountability for that. So definitely hold them accountable first time for that test and don’t expect them to review over and over and over again until they get a hundred percent. Now, when I said there’s a balance; what I like to do is set a line in the sand that if my kid does start to get a grade below that they are going to review. But that doesn’t mean they have to get a hundred or even an A by the time they’re done.

0 (24m 19s):
So my line in the sand was always an 80. I am fine with my kids getting A’s or B’s. That is totally fine with me. So as long as they got above an 80, we didn’t, I didn’t ask them to review. We just kept moving. Sometimes they’ll pick something up later as it continues to build, and that’s fine. It’s not going to kill them for life. If they get an 81 on a math test, it doesn’t mean that they don’t understand. It just means that they missed some details or maybe there’s one type of problem they didn’t understand or two, but it doesn’t mean that they are failing and that they’re going to be lost forever. If they did start to get below 80, then we would review until they could bring it back up to a reasonable level again.

0 (25m 1s):
But I did not expect my kids to get a hundred on everything. I, we would have been here for 20 years in high school if I expected that. We were an ordinary family, y’all, and we’re real, and we didn’t do anything perfectly. And my kids aren’t perfect. And some of them absolutely hate math, even though I’m a math teacher. So go figure.

2 (25m 25s):
So,

0 (25m 26s):
next, I’d like to talk about a few ideas for making math go a little bit easier on the daily. So for instance, and this applies a lot to Saxon. If you’re doing Saxon through high school, there are so many problems there. But other curricula I’m sure are like this too, where there’s just so many problems, and your kid takes three hours a day to do the math; and okay maybe that’s an exaggeration, but really anything over an hour to an hour and a half is too long for them to be doing math. If they’re working diligently. So what can you do to lighten this load and to get them through the course a little quicker and with less time expenditure?

0 (26m 9s):
So I’m going to suggest having them do either evens or odds for a while and see how that works. Now, if it’s Saxon in particular, I would suggest evens one day and odds the next and then evens again and then odds just because of the way they structure their lessons. But in general, most math curriculum provide a lot of instruction that isn’t necessarily going to help more, it’s just more repetition. So did I say instruction? I meant to say problems. A lot of the problems are just repetition of the same type of thing over and over again. So if you can reduce that load so that the kid is still learning and progressing, but doesn’t have to do quite as much busywork that’s always helpful.

0 (26m 56s):
Now you do want to temper that with now if their test grades start going down, because they’re not doing all the problems, then maybe we need to ramp back up again, but give it a shot and see how they do. Most of the time for us, it’s worked out just

2 (27m 12s):
fine. Some

0 (27m 12s):
people ask about midterms and finals and they can be really intimidating. And I suppose high school students might still do those. I’ll be honest with you I don’t remember having them in every single solitary class going through high school. And I’m also pretty sure that with the dumbing down of our society and with education as a whole, I doubt kids are getting midterms and finals in every class at the public school anymore. Anyway, if gearing up for a midterm or a final is difficult, or if it messes the schedule too much, or, whatever, I guess what I’m trying to say is they don’t have to happen. If you feel like that’s a valuable exercise that your kid is forced to go back over the stuff they learned from the beginning of the year and be able to account for their learning there at a midterm or end or a final situation.

0 (28m 9s):
If that’s important to you, then nobody’s telling you not to do that. I am just saying it’s not necessary. Especially since math tends to build upon itself so much, especially during the high school years. They’re really using the stuff from the first chapter of Algebra I when they get to mid-semester. They’re still using it every day, regardless of what curriculum. So to make them go back and have to prove the simplest of stuff when they’re already using that in more complex stuff every day now, to me, that seems like overkill. But again, if that’s important to you as an educational exercise, then definitely do it. But I am trying to reduce stress around here, so if you’re not liking that then don’t mess with it. Lastly, let’s

0 (28m 53s):
talk about what if you don’t finish the curriculum. You know what a lot of people talk about getting through about 75% and that’s okay. With math, I never felt comfortable with that type of percentage. I felt that that was too low. But there are often chapters at the back of the book that are extensions, that of the learning that the kid doesn’t need to do. Like I remember at the end of our geometry book, there was a chapter or two on a completely different type of geometry than Euclidean geometry, which was what the whole rest of the book was about; I didn’t make my kids do those. I’m going to say 90%, 85 to 90% of the curriculum is good enough. And also remember math is so much review and it is in high school too.

0 (29m 32s):
They’re not going to start them out at the beginning of Algebra II, expecting to have remembered every single thing from Algebra I. That stuff that’s towards the back of the book in Algebra I, they’re going to go over again at the beginning of Algebra II. So there’s so much review built-in if you don’t completely finish the course, don’t worry about it. Get as far as you can, within reason. Again, I’m going to say 85 to 90%, but if it is less than that, but you are comfortable with the fact that there’s going to be a review later or that these chapters are not really crucial to their understanding of the course in general then you, even if you’re not a mathy person, you can make these choices for yourself.

0 (30m 15s):
Trust me. When I tell you that at the public school they never ever, ever, ever, ever get through the curriculum. And especially these days with so many, schools going to four-day weeks, or the COVID situation or just all of the assemblies and testing and other things that take away from their actual instructional time, don’t even give it a second thought. There’s all my best advice about math. Let’s go over just quickly. We talked about the math sequence and how I prefer Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II, Pre-calc, Trig, and then Calculus, but it’s not necessary for your kid to get that far.

0 (31m 5s):
Definitely check college requirements. We talked about Algebra I and when to start it and how every kid is going to be different there. We talked about grading; that you should only be giving a grade to chapter tests and letting the daily work be allowed to just be practiced and holding them accountable. The first time when they turn in that test, do not expect them to keep reviewing until they get a hundred percent. And we also talked about some ideas as far as may be lightening the load up a little bit by not requiring every problem to be done and or not requiring midterms and finals. And then if you don’t finish the curriculum, remember that it’s probably okay.

0 (31m 46s):
It’s gotta be within reason if you get definitely get over 50% and I’m still recommending over 75%, but beyond that, it’s all within reason and you are capable of judging. I have confidence in you. I hope this has helped. My whole desire is to help you feel more confident, more comfortable homeschooling high school. Not to be afraid as some others would have you feel because there’s a list of shoulds that they’re going to give you. I’m not going to give you shoulds.

1 (32m 18s):
I’m going to tell you what your options are, and then I’m going to give you the confidence to make these decisions for yourself. That is my goal. And if you want to hear more about all of that all the time, please sign up for my email list. You can do so on the sidebar of my website. And you know what, I’ll put a link on the show notes as well to enable you to do that. And there are some free resources that you’ll get when you do sign up, so that’s always fun. Also, my website is annieandeverything.com. So feel free to visit there. Lots of good articles, lots of good curriculum reviews to help you through this journey. And so next time we are going to talk about when your kid struggles in math.

1 (32m 60s):
It’s going to be a great topic and I’m looking forward to sharing all of my thoughts with you.

0 (33m 5s):
So come back, it’ll be in about two weeks. It’ll be published as the podcast is that’s what’s going on this year is I can’t handle it every week, but I can handle it twice a month. Sometimes it’ll be three times a month, but this month is not one of them. Okay. Thanks so much, see you then.

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