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Help with Grading

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. 

Grading Homework

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. 

Grading Tests

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)

  Test Grade

    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
    · Quadratic Equations
    · 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
  • Additional Topics in Trigonometry
    · 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
  • Quadrilaterals
    · 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
    · Radius
    · 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
  • Adding
  • 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
  • Quadratic equations
  • Factoring
  • Radicals

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.
  2. Is there a well-written table of 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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The Homeschool Math Problem

The U.S. schools are weak in math – almost all of them regardless of public, private, or homeschool. The national weakness in math (and science – which is related) is a growing problem. Math and science are required for all STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) careers. Math is also required for technological research, and research (like it or not) is required for national security. The fact is a majority of U.S. university graduate students in technology areas are from other countries – many with less than stable political systems. Congress and agencies that deal with national security are well aware of the problem – but fixing it is another challenge.

But what about homeschoolers?

Homeschoolers typically outperform everyone in everything – right? Wrong. Homeschoolers are weak in math.

“Homeschoolers need to do better in math. Our reading and language skills are excellent, even though we could always use a little improvement. But our math skills need real help. We only do slightly better than public schools here. We need to drill basic facts, teach concepts, and make sure we take our children through algebra II and geometry at a minimum.” [Mike Farris, “Aim high(er):,” World Magazine, April 28, 2001, Vol. 16. ]

Even though that quote is from years ago – not much has changed.

Besides the personal implications of future employment in a technology world, we need to consider the apologetic issues. Many Christians have been taken out of scientific debates about the origins of the universe, evolution, astronomy, etc due to their raw lack of basic knowledge about math and science. Remember – theologians of the past have been astute students of both the Bible and nature – what systematic theology calls special and general revelation from God.

(Note – our courses are not faith-based – but we are Christians. We firmly believe that we do not need to force our faith into places like math – we just speak the truth. Many who have chased truth who do not believe in the God of the Bible have found the path to truth led them to their faith – including me.)

But the problem we have as parents is that we too were raised in a school system that was often inadequate to prepare us to teach our own children. Even then, most of us who did take the advanced math and science course have long since forgotten the skills we once had in the areas of math and science.

Are we preparing our children to live in an age of technology? …defend the faith against scientific attacks? …teach their children? Just as language is the way to study the written word of God or special revelation, math is the language used to study nature or general revelation.

 

So we have written this part to answer some other specific questions we often get about math.

What types of textbooks should I buy?

We suggest you lean toward college-level textbooks in the Algebra II w/ Trig and Calculus courses – if not before. If you know where your child plans to go to college, find out what math they will need, get a syllabus, and use that text. (Our daughter would have to take one course in Calculus in her degree field, so we taught her the same calculus in the same book. She found the college calculus course just a review.) High school textbooks tend to be written with easier problems than the college level textbooks. See the From the Trenches below.

From the Trenches

As a fairly new member to the engineering faculty, I had learned that graduation rates in engineering and science had been down in all United States colleges and universities for the past twenty plus years. Most of this was because the high schools did not provide adequate training in math, so incoming students often got discouraged and moved into other fields. My curiosity drove me to call our math department and ask how students in general did in our calculus courses. The head of the undergraduate program explained that two local high schools outperformed all other students in math. (Both were public schools.) So I went to the math department at one of these schools and I asked what they did that made them better. The biggest issue was they used college level textbooks. They explained to me that the high school textbook publishers competed on how easy the problems were to work. The college level publishers would never survive if they watered down the material.

So the schools that use watered down material in their textbooks have built a large gulf between their math courses and the universities math courses. The few hours we spent at the local high school were convincing – and we have never turned back from college textbooks.

What about Saxon Math?

We often get asked about the Saxon math material. It seems people either love Saxon or hate it, but few are neutral. In our view, Saxon provides an excellent base in the younger years when we are starting to learn the concepts of math as well as the basic facts. However, we steer away from Saxon in high school math courses (algebra, geometry, algebra 2 with trig, and calculus). Now before you send us letters of how well your children did in Saxon let us say that any math material can do a great job depending on the student. Some students can learn math from a rock.

Our problem with Saxon is the way it teachers in a choppy and circular manner – or as Saxon refers to it – incremental. The incremental method is a big selling point of Saxon – but it falls terribly short in the later grades for two reasons:

  1. Saxon textbooks are difficult to use as a reference. Good math textbooks (algebra and above) should be good reference material for future math courses. Since Saxon does things incrementally, it is difficult to go and find a reasonable treatment of any subject in one place, therefore making the Saxon material less than adequate for math reference. This also creates a challenge to parents trying to help their son or daughter with a concept. When we try to get to the root of an issue we often need to go back to where that subject was covered to make sure we (as the teacher) understand what the author is trying to do. In Saxon, this is very difficult to do.
  2. Lack of practical applications. One thing we have learned from teaching math, science, and engineering courses is that application is very important. Often I am asked questions such as “why would anyone ever use this?” (I must agree, that is how I – and probably you – always viewed math.) When I hear this question I will discuss how these elements are used in engineering, sales and marketing, construction, medicine, and yes homemaking. We have had discussions about aircraft, electronics, lighting, the space shuttle, relativity, high blood pressure, lung capacity, cooking, household cleaners, and chemicals, (on and on) as part of the answers to these questions. When these discussions take place with students I see an element of excitement in the students that were not seen before. Teaching someone what a hammer is and does is nice, but showing them how it is used to build a house is an education! Saxon (and others) is weak in this area.

So, if you want to use Saxon, I encourage you to do two things. 1) Find a good math reference material. Some books such as Schaum’s outlines or related inexpensive material might suffice here. 2) Find a source to get at applications of the math. The best source of this material is to use the web and have your children find ways in which the math they are using is used in the “real” world. However, this might be a challenge at times, so a supplement of another type of math text on the same subject would be useful.

How does math fit into Classical Education?

Classical education has become very popular, and we are big fans of it. But frankly, it is weak in math, and possibly weak in science. Conventional wisdom on classical homeschooling has the higher math courses as electives at best. Yet many sources for classical education recommend reading material written by Copernicus, Kepler, and Einstein as part of the science curriculum. Without knowledge of calculus, these works would be overwhelming. So if you like the classical approach we applaud you – just do not skip on the math! At the very least, your children should get through Algebra II with Trig.

What math material should I use?

Here is a big question! We have often been asked to review math material – and overall we are disappointed in what is available for homeschooling in the area of math. Not that the concepts are missing, but the method of presentation is similar to the presentation given in the public and private schools. Dry and without any application to the real world. College textbooks are (in general) richer in their treatment and application of the concepts. However, you may need some outside help with the textbooks since they are designed to be instructor based.

Any curriculum is OK as long as it meets the basic objectives of the course title. The rest is how well your child takes to it. If they love it, you have found a perfect match. The section Evaluating Math Texts will give some guidelines for picking the proper math curriculum.

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How Do I Get Help if I Get Stuck?

As a customer of AskDrCallahan (directly or if you bought from a vendor such as Rainbow Resources or Veritas Press) you can get support. Whether you need help with homework or test problems, have a question about the solutions manual, or need something more involved like video tutorials on a specific concept and ideas for at-home activities, all of these features are included, and FREE, for as long as your student -nor any of their siblings – are using our video course.

How to Get Help

 

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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.