Overview: Use these homeschool high school math tips to reduce frustration and give your teen the best opportunity to succeed. Note: this post is sponsored by My Math Assistant, but all opinions are my own.
I call it the Math Meltdown. And it's a frequent occurrence in high school, at least in my household—and I'm not just talking about the kids, LOL!
Here's the recurring scenario: They ask for help, but then everything you suggest is wrong. You take a moment to look at the book, but they sigh in frustration, get impatient, grab the book back, and say “Forget it. I'll figure it out.” Even when you are confident you know what the issue is, they won't accept your input. “That's not what the book said!”
And so on, until you are completely ready to LET them figure it out by themselves, even if they never do. That'll show 'em!
Except that's not how we want our homeschool to be. We want happiness and daisies and unicorns, not frustration and anger and giving up. We want our kids to learn it and maybe even enjoy it, not just grit it out so they can check the box and then run gleefully far away.
Plus there is college to think about, when they will probably see all this stuff again, and it will be easier for them then if they can get a decent grasp on it now.
As a former math teacher, I have some ideas for how to make math easier for everyone so that you can get the job done without ruining the relationship or your own sanity. These homeschool high school math tips are the result of years of experience not only in the classroom but also with FIVE ordinarily-ornery teens.
I can't promise unicorns, but maybe there can be a little more happiness, or at least a little less frustration. (Sometimes ya gotta take what you can get; am I right?)
**Hey, if you're a Saxon Math user, I've got a recommendation for a GREAT resource that will reduce your frustration level BIG TIME! Keep reading all the way to the end (or scroll down if you're the impatient type)!
Here are my favorite homeschool high school math tips:
1) Make math the first subject your teen starts learning on their own.
I recommend that a high schooler be completely in charge of their learning by junior or senior year, and you can start them on that path with the subject of math (haha I'm a poet).
Have the teen start teaching themselves by reading the lesson and doing the practice problems, and even grading their daily work for themselves. This takes you out of the daily instructional loop; instead you are the supervisor, the coach, and sometimes even the one who knows the answers. (Which as we know rarely happens with teens, LOL!)
It's a process, so don't expect perfection the first day, but it's well worth the effort. If you want more detail about how to teach independent learning, read my blog post about it here: How to Teach the Most Valuable Skill Your Child Will Ever Need.
As your teen begins to feel more confident about learning on their own, there is less dependence on you and therefore a corresponding decrease in snark directed your way. Phew!
2) Don't give them a grade for their daily work.
In my opinion it's not fair to actually give a grade when they are still learning. That's what daily work is: the chance to practice a new skill until they get it right. Yes, obviously make sure they know which problems are wrong and how to fix them, but don't record the score anywhere to be averaged in later.
Do you grade the rough drafts of their papers?
Do you grade their daily practice on their instrument?
Do you grade their attempts at parallel parking? If you survive alive, that is?
Of course not. So why do we think we need to grade their daily math work? We don't.
Just base their semester grade on the tests at the end of each chapter. These show what they actually LEARNED.
As a sub-point of this, let them correct wrong test answers for partial credit back. Part of true learning is not only accountability for the first time but also the chance to figure out what went wrong. Right?
This is not cheating; there is no guilt needed here. Teachers in public school give extra credit; allowing corrections for points is not much different than that. No worries!
The beauty of not giving a grade for daily work is that it takes a lot of pressure off of both of you. You won't have stacks of papers that need to be graded, and the teen feels more fairly treated. Less tension all around—that's a good thing!
3) Have them do one problem at a time.
THEN check it to see if it's correct, and fix it as necessary, before moving onto the next problem.
There is nothing worse than getting done an entire problem set to find out they did the first problem wrong and carried that same incorrect methodology through the entire assignment. (Don't ask me how I know.)
It's better to check each problem as they go, so they can fix whatever is wrong before they tackle the next one. It may seem slower, but in the long run it's a much better use of time; trust me on this one.
If you're worried about “abuse” of the teacher's guide, ahem, then hang onto it for yourself and have them tell you what their answer is each time. Then you can respond with whether it is right or wrong.
This is a great way to make sure they are actually progressing forward with the assignment rather than pretending to do so. Teens are good at making no work look like lotsa work, aren't they?
4) Make sure they know their math facts.
This is one of my favorite homeschool high school math tips, but it's not a popular one.
But here's the thing: Not knowing math facts slows everything WAY down and inhibits understanding of new concepts. I can't stress this enough. High school math is almost impossible to learn easily when the student is still having to think about what 7 times 9 is.
Factoring, for example, is one of the building blocks of Algebra. Factoring is completely based on multiplication and division facts. If your teen doesn't have those facts DOWN, then factoring—and the rest of Algebra and everything that comes after it—will be a struggle.
More about this here: Why Your Kid Hates Math and What to Do About It.
If your teen is still unsure of their math facts, then you can expect a lot of frustration for both of you. Take the time to solidify these; it will be worth it!
5) Use whatever supplemental resources you can to make the process go smoothly.
a) Calculator? Check.
In high school math they should no longer be forced to do everything with pencil and paper. That will take FOREVER and lead to many frustrating mistakes.
“But wait, you just said to make sure they know their math facts, and now you say it's ok to use a calculator?”
Yes. Knowing math facts is the first step, and it does make so many math problems go much quicker. There is a lot that can be done “in your head.”
But sometimes, especially in the higher levels of math, the calculations are complicated or lengthy, and expect them to be done by hand is to invite complaining and frustration and the potential for a small mistake to derail an entire day.
In fact, the calculator is a tool that is used best by someone who does know their facts, because they can evaluate when it makes sense to rely on their memory and when it's wiser to crunch it out with technology.
Knowing the facts is UBER important. But after that, using the calculator saves LOTS of time and frustration. Let your teen use one once they have the know-how to use it wisely.
b) A kitchen timer? Mm Hmm!
Don't let math take all day! Set a timer and when it dings, math is done. If the kid hasn't gotten very far, that might mean they are doing some intense learning and tomorrow will go much faster.
It's OK to not finish an entire lesson in one day. Some days they might get through one whole lesson and some of the next one to catch themselves back up. Math is like that; some days are easier and some are more difficult.
If it's a matter of not using their time wisely, then you might try implementing the Pomodoro method with that timer, which I describe in detail here: Homeschooling Teens who are Easily Distracted.
When they know math is for a limited time each day, they are more motivated to keep marching on. It's super frustrating to know you could be stuck there for hours; take that weight off their mind—and yours!
c) My Math Assistant? You bet!
“Wait, what?” you ask. “What is My Math Assistant?”
My Math Assistant is an online platform that will correct your kid's Saxon Math problem sets and tests FOR YOU.
Use this exclusive coupon code to get 25% off: 25OFF20600
Your kid puts in their answer to each problem, one at a time (see #3 above), and they are given immediate feedback about whether it is right or wrong (see #1 above).
YOU DECIDE the number of tries you want them to have (even on tests!) and you can also determine whether they will do all the problems, or only evens or odds, or alternating evens and odds. You can even set how much credit they'll get for their corrected answers (see #2 above).
You get everything reported to you on your own dashboard, so you can see your kid's progress and also where they need more help. You can also manually change any grade as necessary.
My Math Assistant can check your kid's answers in any book from Saxon 3 up through Advanced Math, and the price is a no-brainer when you consider all of the time saved and frustration avoided.
Get your kids' daily work and tests graded for only $4.99 per month for one student or $8.99 per month for the whole family! (and that's BEFORE any discount!)
Now they even have the Saxon Facts Practices that your kid can do online (see #4 above). Another thing that YOU don't have to grade!—but that will help your student get better at doing math, thus reducing everyone's stress.
For starters, sign up for their FREE TRIAL.
You'll see how easy it is to get your kid set up and cruising through their Saxon Math lessons faster than ever before—and then you'll be hooked!
(And then don't forget to come back to this email and use code 25OFF20600 to get 25% off when you purchase!)
=>Big picture final thought don't skip this:
Don't let math bog you down, taking more of your mental and emotional energy than it needs to for your situation.
Try these homeschool high school math tips — and My Math Assistant if you are a Saxon family — and remember that math is not the sole determiner of homeschool success.
You are raising a kid whom you will like hanging out with as an adult. Keep that as your focus, and let math be just one factor in the entire equation.
(Ha! See what I did there?)