Posted on There is no wrong way to grade. It’s completely up to you. You are in charge.

But sometimes we need some help deciding where to even begin. Our advice is to remember that the goal is learning, not grades. Grades are a reflection to OTHERS of how much you’ve learned. Most people can game this system and make great grades while knowing very little. This is especially true in math. Students are great at crunching the mechanics of math and can make the grade, but then actually have little understanding.

The ACT/SAT exams are geared to catch those deficiencies. They test for understanding rather than crunching. On those exams there isn’t enough time to crunch out the answers, there is a few seconds to guess the correct answer based on your understanding and elimination of impossible answers.

Math is critical thinking. Logic.

Learning and understanding is your goal.  At this point, your child is in high school – young adults. If they aren’t already, its time for them to own their education. Let them check their work. Help them understand, if they cheat, they are only cheating themselves.

Below are some options to choose from for grading. Using these methods, you may discover a combination of them or a completely different method works best for you. But here’s some ideas to start from:

Option 1:

With our children, we did not give a grade for daily work. We did have them check their work and redo the problems they missed.  The key here is to have the STUDENT check their OWN work. Then have them rework the missed problems – this is where learning happens!

Option 2:

Have the student check and rework their problems and give some credit, not for correct problems but, for the work being done as a percentage of their total grade.

Example:

30% of the total grade for homework (100% of this if they do and check all their problems)

70% of the total grade for tests

This option takes some pressure off the tests and incentive to do homework, however, if you follow our test grading guide that gives points back for corrections (again, where real learning happens), then the tests aren’t too pressured anyway.

We also give our tests as open book tests. Math books are good resources and everything in there can’t be memorized as you continue on into higher math. You will need the resource. If you are not comfortable with open-book testing, you could allow them a “cheat sheet” or “note sheet” where they put down the formulas, theorems, and anything from the sections the test is on to use during the test. Even in college math, we were allowed a cheat sheet of a certain size (usually a large notecard or half 8.5×11 paper) for formulas or anything we wanted to put on it.

The goal is to know how to use all the math tools, not to keep the toolbox in your head with no understanding of what they do.

In our AskDrCallahan Teacher’s Guide, you will find a test grading guide (mentioned above) that allows for regaining points for reworked problems.

Example:

Attempt # 1

a)  Number of problems correct ___30___

b) Total number of problems   ____50____

c) Grade  (100*a/b)            ____60____(round up to nearest integer)

Attempt #2

d)  Number of problems fixed  ____10___

e) Points added (70*d/b) ____14____(round up to nearest integer)

Attempt #3

f) Number of problems fixed  ____8____

g) Points added  (50*f/b)        ____8____(round up to nearest integer)

h) Final Grade  (c + e +g)      ____82____(round up to nearest integer)

You can find the test grading guide for your course on the Everything You Need page for your particular course. Click on the box below for your course. Scroll way down to the square that has your course name (looks just like the square below)  in it to download the FREE PDF and find the test grading guide after the syllabus.

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## Homework Help Complex Problems – Moving Deeper into Concepts

As you move deeper into each textbook (Algebra, Geometry, Calculus, etc), the problems will contain several concepts you’ve learned earlier – all in one problem.  This complexity can make it difficult to find the “how-to” or examples in the book to help us understand how to work it.

Recently, we received this question from our student support page: There doesn’t seem to be any examples or teaching that I can find that helps me solve this problem.

This is a common question – not this particular problem, but in general, as the problems develop into including several simple concepts stacked into compound calculations. However, the explanations are there, they just may be back a few, or several, chapters.

For example, Jacobs Algebra Chapter 12 Summary and Review Problem 14h. Concepts include but are not limited to:

• Chapter 12: Square Roots. Simplify radical as much as possible. Example of this step page 480-481
• Chapter 5: Equations in One Variable. Specifically for this review problem, Equivalent Equations (Lesson 3) page 162-163.
• Chapter 12: Square Roots: Radical Equations. Page 505 has examples of squaring both sides to eliminate the radical.

Math builds on itself. As you learn more and more concepts, the problems reach back and build on calculating and analyzing skills learned earlier in the book or even in an earlier course. These complex problems can be hard to find “how-to” when we just can’t see it! The solutions manual is a good resource to help with steps, but sometimes even with those steps, we need to see where it was explained or taught.

We are here to help! Send us your homework questions and let us help. Filling out this form makes it easy to be sure you’ve told us what we need to know to help you, but you can also send an email to support@askdrcallahan.com.

## Be sure to tell us:

1. the course,
2. the chapter,
3. the lesson,
4. the problem,
5. YOUR issue as best as you can explain it.

We love to help.

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## Calculus Textbook Evaluations

Look for the following material or heading in the contents.

• Limits and Derivatives
· Limit of a function
· Calculating limits
· Limit laws
· Continuity
• Differentiation Rules
· Rates of change
· Derivative rules (polynomials and exponentials)
· Product rule
· Quotient rule
· Derivatives of trigonometric functions
· The chain rule
· Implicit differentiation
· Derivatives of logarithmic functions
• Applications of Differentiation (subtitles may differ widely here)

Notes for use: This course should be equivalent to a Calculus One course at a local university. If you know what school your child plans to attend, find out which textbook they use and go with it. In fact, ask for a syllabus and sample tests. A good deal of information can be gleaned from the UAB website on the screening test and the UAB test bank. (See the resources at the end of the chapter.)

Also, note that these books are often written for Calculus I, II, and III. So your text will be a lot bigger than what you will teach in high school. Also, if you do go with a college textbook you will pay a hefty price. An alternative is to find the previous edition on eBay – much cheaper with probably little change in material.

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## Pre-calculus (or Algebra II with Trig) Textbook Evaluations

Look for the following material or heading in the contents.

• Review of Algebra
· Basic operations
· Factoring
· Exponents
• Equation and Inequalities
· Linear equations
· Absolute value
· Complex numbers
· Polynomials
• Graphs and Functions
· Circles
· Straight lines
· Functions
· Graphing functions
• Polynomials
· Finding zeroes of polynomials
• Rational Functions
· Graphs of rational functions
· Partial fractions
• Exponential and Logarithmic Functions
· Exponential functions
· Logarithmic functions
· Common and natural logarithms
· Exponential and logarithmic equations
• Trigonometric Functions
· Angles
· Right triangle trigonometry (Basic trig functions)
· Sine, Cosine, Tangent
· Graphing
• Analytic Trigonometry
· Trigonometric identities
· Law of Sines
· Law of Cosines
· Vectors
· Complex numbers

Optional material included in some courses.

• Systems of Equations
· Solving systems of equations
· Linear programming
• Matrices and Determinants
· Basic operations
· Square matrices
· Determinants
• Sequences and Series
· Arithmetic sequences
· Geometric sequences
· Binomial formula

Notes for use: While everything above is needed material, it is key to get through the trigonometric material – possibly leaving off systems of equations and the later material. At the Algebra II level and above college material should be used.

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## Geometry Textbook Evaluations

Look for the following material or heading in the contents.

• Reasoning and Proof
· Proofs
· Deductive reasoning
· Direct and indirect proofs
• Lines
· Parallel and Perpendicular Lines
· Angles
• Triangles
· Congruent
· Isosceles
· Equilateral
· ASA and SAS
· Parallelograms
· Rectangles
· Squares
· Trapezoids
• Area
· Squares
· Rectangles
· Triangles
• Similarity
· Ratio and proportion
· Similar figures
• Right Triangle Trigonometry
· Pythagorean Theorem
· Proportions
· Tangent, Sine, and Cosine
• Surface Area and Volume
· Geometric solids
· Rectangular solids
· Spheres
• Circles
· Chords
· Tangents
• Transformations
· Reflections

Notes for use: One of the keys of geometry is learning deductive reasoning or how to do proofs. This can be a challenge to teach, so getting a teachers manual will really help here. The second main idea of geometry is getting used to thinking in space with shapes and the relationships between them. Lots of figures should be drawn.

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## Algebra Textbook Evaluations

Look for the following material or heading in the contents.

• Variables
• Exponents
• Order of Operations
• Equations and inequalities
• Word problems (converting words into symbols)
• Real Numbers
• Subtracting
• Multiplication
• Division
• Distributive property
• Linear Equations (might be equations in one variable)
• Graphing
• Slope
• Intercepts
• Point-slope and or slope-intercept formulas
• Systems of linear equations (or simultaneous equations)
• Linear inequalities
• Solving
• Graphing
• Absolute Values
• Exponents
• Products
• Divisions
• Scientific notation
• Polynomials
• Factoring

Notes for use: All the material on the above list needs to be covered in algebra. Instead of moving fast, the students should understand these concepts pretty well.

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## How to Evaluate Math Textbooks and Material

Steps to evaluate a math textbook:

1. Make sure the basic material is covered. Look at the outlines below as a guide. The wording and chapter arrangement may be different, but you should see these key ideas in the contents.
3. Since you will be using the material for homeschooling, look for material with lots of worked examples. Go through some yourself and determine if they are easy to read and follow.
4. Look for plenty of problems to work.
5. Do you have the answers? We like the textbooks that have the answers to the odd-numbered problems for the students and then have the solutions to all the problems in the teacher’s manual. If they do not have the answers to many problems, your students will never know if they are doing the problems correctly.
6. Look for some real-world examples and problems. Do the problems tell about real situations? This is key to helping your child see the use of the material.
7. Look at some chapters. Are the key points of the chapter outlined in boxes or color so that they stand out? This makes it easy to use as a reference now and later.
8. Is there a teacher’s reference that tells you how to use the book? If so, is it useful to you? Does it make sense to you?
9. Is there an index?
10. What does your student think? If you can, let them compare a few and ask which they like better.

Math materials (such as textbooks, videos, or computer-based teaching) should all cover the same material per course title. In fact, many textbooks will have the exact same chapter titles. So you can do a pretty good job evaluating the coverage of material based on the chapter and subchapter titles. Here are some typical titles or subtitles that should be keywords in your comparison of material. Note that these topics may not match your textbook exactly or be in the same order as listed below. But, a majority of the key points listed should be found.

To use this guide go to the table of contents and look for these keywords. You should not have to search the entire text or videos to find them.

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## Can my son/daughter do this course on their own without my help?

Yes. We know, we homeschool too. Parent overload is common. We have designed all of our courses so that you can either do it with them or have them do it on their own.

At our home we teach our children to do everything on their own. We help them plan out a schedule for the term at first using the syllabus. Then each week we review progress. They work on their own except when they have questions, need group interaction, or need to have a test graded.

Our view is that we are preparing our kids for college and life, and we want to teach them to learn on their own, to have a love for learning, and to develop personal responsibility.

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## TI Calculator Emulators

Texas Instruments (TI) are our calculators of choice. There are many other great companies – so this is a personal preference.

• Algebra, Geometry, Biology, Chemistry  – For these courses, the TI-30 Scientific Calculator is perfect. It is inexpensive and does all you need.
• Algebra 2 with Trig, Calculus, Physics, Statistics, and beyond – These courses require a bit more horsepower as well as some graphical tools. Our choice is the TI-84 Plus CE.

Note: The TI-84 Plus CE is approved for use on the following exams: PSAT, SAT, and ACT college entrance exams and AP Exams that allow or require a graphing calculator.

Web Base Calculators

Scientists and engineers are using more powerful tools today. One such tool that is free to use is Wolfram Alpha. It has APPS and extensions for web browsers etc. If you ask us a question on support, this is the tool we use. But, you cannot take it into the ACT/SAT or other tests – so you need to be able to use your calculator also.

Emulators

Emulators are software programs that operate like the calculator. For the TI graphing calculators you can find some here. You may find others by searching You can also find some apps for these and even so a search “TI Emulators”