10 Things I have Learned Teaching High School Math in our Homeschool
This post talks about high school math in our homeschool!
I have a similar post a few years ago that covers math in the earlier years: Click here to visit that post if you have elementary or middle school age kids: 10 Things I’ve Learned About Homeschooling Math (and 30 Math Activity Ideas!)
This post is focusing specifically on high school level math: Geometry, Algebra II, PreCalculus, etc.
I made a lot of assumptions when my kids were younger about how math would go once they were older.
- I assumed that my kids would be more (i.e. completely!) independent.
- I assumed that they would be able to work problems out on their own and that they wouldn’t “need” or “want” me around anymore. I guess I was thinking of all those long hours doing math homework on my own when I was in high school.
- Math came pretty easily to me and I think I assumed that math would come easily to my kids as well. I didn’t even realize I was making that assumption until I started seeing how differently they processed math concepts and how they jumped into problem solving. One of my kids is like me and jumps in whether they understand the concepts behind it or not. Another processes things slowly and wants to make sure they completely understand the concepts behind it all before they jump in.
- I also thought high school math would be “too hard” for me to help my kids. But, what I didn’t think about when the kids were younger is that I would be standing on the sidelines all the way along through all these years of homeschooling… and that I too would be building up my math skills along the way.
I made all kinds of assumptions before my kids hit high school. Of course, that’s because I was listening to what other people said about how things went in their homeschool. From what my sister said (she homeschooled her three kids who are 2, 4, and 6 years older than my oldest)… my nieces and nephew were able to tackle math on their own. My close friend had her kids enrolled in an outside/online math class and she never had to do math with her kids.
Maybe your kids will whiz through high school math and be done with calculus by the time they are 14 (I have a friend who’s son started 2nd year college calculus at the age of 15!) Or, maybe like mine, your kids will want a partner to join them in the high school math journey!
All that is to say, don’t be surprised if math time for your high schooler looks completely different from any other homeschool family!
What high school math looks like in your homeschool depends on so many factors! It depends on the curriculum you use AND the personalities of your kids. There are many, many options for high school math… everything from traditional math curriculums and homeschool math curriculums to online and in-person homeschool classes.
We settled on Thinkwell for math. We have used that for Geometry, Algebra II, PreCalculus and (next year) Calculus. My kids love it! And, so do I!
It is a program where Professor Burger spends 2-9 minutes teaching a math concept (on video). He walks through the problems and explains things thoroughly. Then there are about 4-5 math exercises to practice that concept.
You then watch the next video and solve the next few problems. There are lots of exercises (as well as review problems) and the answers (and solutions) are provided. It’s a great program as far as I am concerned.
If you are interested you can get 15% off through my referral link: Thinkwell 15% off: http://thinkwellhomeschoo.refr.cc/lieslm
What did I learn about teaching (and learning) math with my high school age kids?
- My high school age kids want me to do math with them. Both my son and daughter started out doing Geometry alone, but they found it lonely and tedious doing it on their own. They also got frustrated when they were stuck and didn’t enjoy having to figure out what was going wrong on their own. So, I wound up making the time to sit with them all (separately) during our homeschool day. The others would work on other things on their own during the time.
- We like using a timer for math time. We set it for 45 minutes when they were in 8th/9th grade but by 10th grade+ we (almost) always did an hour of math each day.
- Math can be Hard and Takes Time to Click: Sometimes my head wanted to explode and the math concepts (like logarithms) were HARD for me at first! It gave me a lot more sympathy and empathy for what my kids were going through when confronted with new concepts.
- Take Time Off When Needed: Sometimes *I* needed to cut math short for the day because it was just “too much.” Again, that made me much more understanding and willing to cut math short for the kids when they needed it. (Let me add that we’re not super rigid… but the math curriculum we have covers a lot so we need to do math most every day to make our way through everything.)
- For Algebra II and PreCalc we split math time… we did 30 minutes of algebra type problems and the other 30 minutes doing the chapters on logarithms, trig and conic sections. This worked out well for us.
- Make sure your kids have a good background in right triangles. Have them memorize the main right triangles early on… 3,4,5 — 5,12,13 — 8,15,17 — 7,24,25 It is SO useful if they have those down!!
- Also, it was really useful for them to memorize the squares (13×13=169, 17×17=289). We have a free game and worksheets for memorizing the squares here. I can’t give you specifics at the moment, but this is something I’m glad we spent time learning, memorizing and reviewing.
- I wish I had known that all that per-algebra and algebra 1 work was building towards graphing… and I wish I had seen these basic graphs years ago… It has been a very long time since I was in high school!
- Use flashcards! We have flashcards from geometry (and beyond) that we review *all the time* (i.e. see number 6 above!)!
- It’s really helpful if you can hang some math posters that you use and refer to all year. We have some free high school math posters like the colored ones you see on our wall there here.
- Laminate and save the unit circle (for trig). We were constantly grabbing that and referring back to it.
- If your kids take standardized tests be sure to go over Mean, Median and Mode! It’s not covered in high school math, but standardized tests seem to include problems on this all the time! We have some free worksheet materials on mean, median and mode here. Also we found Khan Academy’s videos and practice on mean, median and mode quite helpful.13. Again, don’t be surprised if math time for your high schooler looks completely different from any other homeschool family!
SAT Math Prep: (I guess this is #14!) My high schoolers have used Khan Academy to study for the math portion of the SATs. They like the practice problems and explanations. If you would like our “Important SAT Things” highlights drop me an email and I’d be happy to share an informal set of our (handwritten) study notes as we’ve gone through the SAT prep math materials. We also have a couple of other SAT study guide books that they’ve been reading through.
That’s all I can think of for now! Remember, every homeschooling family handles things differently… and different curriculums will work for different kids. These days there are a lot of options out there so be sure to ask around to see what has worked for other homeschooling families too!
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