FAQ — About Saxon Math Books
by Linda Schrock Taylor
by Linda Schrock Taylor
Readers often write to ask for advice as they try to decide: which Saxon Math books to use; which specific books should be used for each specific school year; and where to purchase the hard-backed Saxon books (Saxon 54 — Calculus and Physics.)
The following are my personal opinions, developed while homeschooling our son using Saxon Math books 76 through physics; from discussions with other homeschooling parents; and during my decade of using Saxon Math books for special education students in public schools.
How do we know where to start our children in the sequence of Saxon Math books?
I make my decisions in two ways. First, at the Saxon website I print out the appropriate placement test and have the child take it as instructed. I then use the test results and accompanying suggestions to choose the book that should best meet the child's needs.
- Placement Test for Primary/K-3rd
- Placement Test for Middle Grades/4th-8th
- Placement Test for Algebra I
- Placement Test for Algebra II
When the child begins working in the recommended book, I carefully observe the process to note if the book is a good fit for the child's skill level. If the early lessons in the book prove to be too easy for the child, I change my plan, setting the book aside while I administer one test after another until the child scores less than 85—90%. At that point, I put the child back into the book — for the lessons covered by that specific test, and I begin instruction at that point. I remain attuned to the child, and flexible in my thinking, as I decide whether the child's existing, and developing, skill base warrants slower or more rapid progress through each book.
What sequence should be followed in using the various Saxon books?
On this issue, I find that Saxon does not even agree with itself. On one part of their website, they say to use the Saxon 87 book and if the child does well, to skip the Algebra ½ book and move directly into Algebra I.
However, the placement chart that has been up at the site for as long as I have been going there, does not support that advice and neither do I. It has always been my understanding, as well as my observation from using Saxon 87 in my classroom, that the 87 book is more or less a remedial book. I was advised that if a student has done well in Saxon 65 and Saxon 76, one should skip Saxon 87 and place the child directly into Saxon Algebra ½ (pre-algebra). I have found that advice to work well for my students, as well as for my son.
I would suggest a modification in the chart sequence for more advanced students. I see no reason to waste a year of instruction by extending the time during which a student studies Saxon Advanced Math. My son completed the book, with no problems, in ninth grade — with all lessons and all tests completed in time for summer vacation. That was even before we learned of the D.I.V.E. instructional CDs. If high expectations are placed on the student, all Saxon math books can be completed by the end of 11th grade, at the latest. Such a schedule then leaves time in 12th grade for studying Saxon Physics, or for enrolling in a higher math class offered at a community college or university, or for both. There is no time to waste.
Additionally, your child may already be adept at using the skills taught in Saxon 54, which will allow you to use Saxon 65 in 5th grade, and move through the sequence from that point, saving yet another year.
Frequently we are asked, "When do you end the school year in homeschooling?" My answer is always, "When the last math lesson has been completed and the final exam passed with flying colors." I think it is important that students complete books, especially math books. Each year I would note that even the best math teachers in the public school where I taught were only completing about 42% of each math book prior to the start of summer vacation. The students then went home for eleven weeks, and returned to face the next book in the sequence—even though they were never taught the last 58% of the material in the prerequisite class! Still people wonder why American students fall ever further behind in math!
Where can one purchase hardback Saxon math books?
Before you begin shopping, please note the importance of having edition numbers, as well as printings, match for ALL parts of the math curriculum you will be using for a certain child; for a certain year. If you buy a book at eBay, then carefully order your supplements to exactly match it. (I recently purchased one teacher book, plus 6 student texts of Saxon 54. I made sure that the editions were the same, but it turned out that I only have 2 student texts with problems and answers that match the teacher book. The ‘printing dates' are different.)
Supplementary materials you should consider:
- Test booklet
- Answer booklet
- Solution manual (especially for the higher maths)
- D.I.V.E. CDs with instructor teaching each lesson (again, especially for higher maths)
Supplementary materials can be purchased separately from many sources, so search for those hardback books first, then find matching materials to go with them. I normally use Rainbow Resources for they carry so much of what I need, but there are others, as well.
(I apologize that my other links are not at my fingertips, but I am traveling for the Holidays and my files are home.)
Places to buy hardback Saxon Math books:
- EBay — (Be careful not to get carried away and pay more than you would by ordering from another vendor.)
- Follett — (a dealer in used textbooks)
- Check with sellers everywhere, including used bookshops.
- Do a Google search.
- Do an Amazon search.
BE CREATIVE. Use other search engines. Use different wording for your searches. If you are only seeking "Saxon 65" then do a search for only that. You will soon find sellers in all areas.
Hardback Editions: Read descriptions carefully prior to purchase; even phone the vendor to make absolutely sure that you are ordering what you mean to order! Roughly the hardback editions should include the following:
- Saxon 54 — 1st and 2nd
- Saxon 65 — 1st and 2nd
- Saxon 76 — 1st, 2nd, 3rd
- Saxon 87 — 1st and 2nd
- Saxon Algebra ½ — 2nd (I do not care for the 1st edition)
- Saxon Algebra I — 1st and 2nd
- Saxon Algebra II — 1st and 2nd
- Saxon Advanced Math — 1st and 2nd
- Saxon Calculus — 1st (I am not sure about the 2nd edition)
- Saxon Physics — 1st
Check prior to purchase!!
Note: The K — 3rd (and the new 4th) grade materials have never been available in hardback editions.
I continue to oppose the rewriting and the format changes of the New-Saxon books. I strongly believe that the new-new-math tidbits, such as ‘stem and leaf patterns' that have thus far been added, bodes ill for the future of Saxon math books. I expect that rewritings will become more frequent as New-Saxon changes much in the books in order to better compete with other textbook companies that are already selling new-new-math books to gullible school districts.
I object to the financial burden that homeschooling families will face if they are unable to find hardback books and so must buy a second, third, even additional copies of the same consumable workbooks in order to meet the needs of several children in their household.
Never lose sight of the fact that homeschooling families are forced to financially support public schools, despite their strongly held beliefs that State schooling is not in the best interests of children. Homeschoolers must pay for their textbooks and supplementary materials out of the money that remains after paying taxes to support the very questionable policies, as well as the no-accountability-to-taxpayers purchase rights of State schools. It hardly seems fair that schools are offered better bargains from Saxon Publishers — "Buy three kits, get one free; buy one book, get one free."
Only a few weeks ago the Saxon site included a link stating that hardback books were still available for sale, but I have not been able to locate that link during several recent visits. I apologize to those I directed to Saxon for hardback editions. Those books appear to be no longer available for homeschooling families. It makes me wonder about a rumor I recently heard — that it was hoped that homeschoolers would be forced to buy the new-Saxon books, yet schools would be allowed to buy sturdy, reusable, hardback books. I will have to investigate that.
Beat them at their game. Search for the used earlier editions that John Saxon truly wrote, instead of these new rewritten softback books that list him as author. Come on!! Never in a million years could I picture John Saxon condoning "stem and leaf" instruction for children!
December 27, 2004
Linda Schrock Taylor [send her mail] is a free-lance writer and the owner of "The Learning Clinic," where real reading, and real math, are taught effectively and efficiently.
Copyright © 2004 LewRockwell.com