Saxon Math

Saxon takes an incremental (little by little) approach to math, introducing a new skill or principle each day, then reviewing these concepts and skills day after day for weeks. This approach helps build students' confidence in their ability to "do" math successfully. Students who have used this program receive consistently high scores on standardized math tests.

The early elementary program includes and requires a lot of manipulative activities; indeed, it cannot be done without the appropriate manipulatives. It also includes lots of teacher's help in the form of instructions concerning exactly what to say and what to do. Saxon Publishers does not provide the necessary manipulatives for its early elementary program. Sonlight Curriculum, Ltd., as a service to our customers, has put together manipulative kits that include all the necessary manipulatives.

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The Saxon Math homeschool kits for K through 8/7 include everything you will need to teach one child. All books are softbound, black and white, and can be used with additional or successive students with purchase of additional consumable tests/worksheets.

The Saxon Math Home Study Kits for Algebra 1/2 and higher include hardback student books, answer keys to the homework problems, and a series of examinations with answers. Student books are hardback, black and white, about 400 pp, and non-consumable. Answer keys and tests are paperback. Tests are consumable.

Unless you were -- and still are -- an absolute whiz in algebra, you will find the Saxon Home Study Kits inadequate from Algebra 1/2 up. You truly need the solutions manuals that document how to acquire the answers.... (I speak from experience! I tried to do without. It was no fun...and I was an algebra whiz in high school.)

Note that it is not by choice that we "force" you to purchase the answer keys and test packets in addition to the solutions manuals in the upper grades. Saxon Publishers will not sell the student text by itself to homeschoolers. You must buy the full home study kit, including answer key and tests; then Saxon will permit you to purchase the solution manual as well.

My daughter HATES math. She would rather be tarred and feathered than to sit down and do her math. Yesterday we started her math program with Saxon and the DIVE CD. After two lessons, she was BEGGING me if she could go ahead and do a few more! Unbelievable!

— Liz, 18 August 2005

Strengths

Saxon Math prides itself on its ability to help marginal students acquire relatively high scores in standardized tests. It is extremely strong in the areas of arithmetic computation and mathematical principles (i.e., the "distributive principle," "commutative principle," etc.). It is relatively easy to teach and, from fourth grade up, requires little parental involvement.

Weaknesses

For students who don't require the drill, Saxon Math can be boring. In early elementary grades, it is relatively pricey. Compared to other programs on the market, it is weak on application1 and presentation.2

1. Saxon's emphasis on drill and repetition allows a student to perform well within a concept; thus, the results on standardized testing are good. But it does not emphasize problem solving that requires creatively moving from one concept to another or thinking "outside the box" -- precisely the sort of skill necessary to excel in higher mathematics.

As Tonya in VA put it, "Standardized tests tend to test computation more than concepts. To use math in physics, chemistry, and other applications computational skills are not enough. Students must understand the concept behind the computation and be able to apply the concept to a problem they may never have seen in math class. Saxon is weak in concepts."

2. It also tends to be weak on both application-oriented problem solving and "modern" presentation (use of charts, graphs, spreadsheets and other effective teaching tools).

At high school level, Sonlight recommends Teaching Textbooks and Thinkwell Math Programs as "Best in Category."