Friday, May 25, 2012

Homeschool Review: Saxon Math 2

First Son completed Saxon Math 2 in second grade. We've used Saxon now in kindergarten (see my review here), first grade (review here) and second grade. I continue to be pleased with it for our homeschool.

As with the earlier grades, Saxon Math 2 begins each lesson with a "meeting" during which the student completes a calendar entry for the day and reviews concepts from earlier lessons (like skip counting). The lessons themselves are short, usually 10-15 minutes, and rely heavily on manipulatives. At the end, there's a time for fact card practice, a timed fact sheet and a worksheet. The book recommends completing the front of the worksheet immediately after the lesson and the second half later in the day, both with the active involvement of the teacher. Every fifth lesson includes a written assessment. Every tenth lesson includes an oral assessment.

The meeting part of the lesson is by far the most time consuming. As the year goes on, it becomes longer as more concepts are practiced. For example, in lesson 80, the meeting included five questions on the calendar, three questions on the weather graph, six or seven items to practice counting, a prompt to ask questions about a graph, a daily pattern, counting coins and trading coins, four questions on telling time and number sentences for the day. Yikes! We never did all those. We consistently did the calendar and weather graph (without all the questions), the pattern and the number sentences (in which the child comes up with sentences that equal the date, which First Son loved). For skip counting, we listened to One Hundred Sheep at other times. (I love that CD more and more; First Son immediately picked up on how it can be used to figure out multiplication problems and "sings" the answers to his questions a lot. I really cannot recommend it highly enough.) If we were short on time, I would skip the meeting part of the lesson entirely. What I like about the promptings for the meeting is that they serve as a good reminder for the teacher to repeat material with which the student may be struggling. Once First Son mastered something, we skipped it in the meeting.

At the beginning of each lesson, the teacher's manual clearly lists everything necessary for the lesson. Most of the time, I needed no more than five minutes to prepare. The lessons themselves were generally short (10-15 minutes) and nearly always used manipulatives, either something from the kit like geoboards or color tiles or something we'd pull from around the house like coins, cans of food or apples to slice in halves and fourths. I love having a math program for the early grades that includes so much hands-on work. We skipped the first twenty lessons or so. (I sat down with First Son and asked a few questions at the beginning of the year to figure out where we should start.) We usually did four lessons a week, with a good number of weeks with only three lessons so we could work around appointments or have a fun "game" day when we played dominoes or Double Shutter. Skipping the first twenty lessons gave us some extra free time for such things.

The beginning of the year includes lessons on things like numbers to 100, telling time to the hour, creating and reading a pictograph, dividing shapes in half, addition facts, measuring with one-inch tiles. At the end of the year, First Son was designing and drawing his own graph, making and labeling arrays, multiplying by three and four, locating points on a coordinate graph, identifying perpendicular and parallel lines and dividing by two (among other skills).

Saxon Math is a spiral math program, so a concept is introduced in one or two lessons. The student practices it every day on worksheets and then returns to the concept five or ten lessons later to learn a little more. I prefer this to one in which we'd spend weeks doing only multiplication. First Son never knows what I'll be pulling out for math!

The lesson is always followed by math fact card practice. We switched from these to XtraMath in January. For each lesson, there is a fact sheet, either 25 problems to complete in one minute or 100 problems to complete in five minutes, and a double-sided worksheet. Once we started using XtraMath, I would give First Son the fact sheet, but not time him on it. (He did like the timer at the beginning of the year.) First Son always completed the worksheet, but only one side of it and without my help.

Math 2: An Incremental Development [Home School Teachers Edition] - This book is essential to teaching Saxon Math 2. It contains all of the lessons themselves. Each lesson has an actual script the teacher can follow, so there's no need to feel competent to "teach" math concepts, though you will need to be able to understand the concepts themselves. I have purchased almost all of my math teacher's manuals used (specifically at Cathswap) and am pleased with how well these books hold up. The spiral binding and page quality are good so they will last through many children. Answers for the assessment and worksheets are included in the manual, but not for the fact sheets. I almost never bothered to look up the answers, but I think it would have been nice if I could just read the fact sheet answers to First Son and let him correct his own paper.

Saxon Math 2: An Incremental Development Home Study Meeting Book - This book contains a calendar (August through July) and weather graph for each month. The weather graph becomes more complicated as the student learns to read a thermometer in the lessons. Later in the book are blank charts and graphs to be completed as part of lessons in the teacher's manual, as well as counting strips, also referenced in the manual. I think you could make something comparable for this if you don't want to spend the money, but it doesn't seem very expensive to me and is very handy to have rather than juggle creating something for the lessons. (As an aside, whenever there's a graph, the book would say to have the student call something like twenty people to get answers for the survey question. I would note when one was coming up and ask First Son who he wanted to include, then email them ahead of time so we'd have the answers ready. Calling all his friends would have taken hours! His survey questions nearly always involved something about Star Wars, LEGOs or LEGO Star Wars.)

Saxon Math 2: An Incremental Development Part 1 and 2 (Workbook and Fact Cards-2  volume set) - We eventually stopped using the fact cards entirely, but we used the workbooks. All the pages are three-hole punched, so I cut them out of the workbooks and put them into a big binder. Each day, I'll put in the completed sheets and pull out the new ones. I kept a file divider in the current place so I could easily find my spot.

I prefer to purchase consumable workbooks new. I think it would be ethically permissible to purchase a used copy of a consumable workbook if the previous student copied the work into another paper, but not if the previous student completed photocopies of the worksheets. Because I can't be sure how they were used, I just skip the issue by buying new ones. I'm probably being too picky, but the purchase price is low enough I am comfortable with this decision.

Manipulative Kit for Saxon Math K-3 - I purchased the Saxon kit back when First Son was starting kindergarten and have been pleased with it. I did replace the balance scale with one I preferred. Many of these items could be made or substituted with other items at home. If you can manage the price, though, I think it's a good investment. It comes with a large number of great manipulatives that can be used by every child in the family and saves lots of time and trouble running around figuring out how to substitute something else for a lesson. My children all love to play with them and I always provide free time after lessons. I also like to pick up extras if I see them at used curriculum sales, but it could be hard to create an entire set that way.

Next year, we'll be using Saxon Math 3 for First Son in third grade and Saxon Math 1 for First Daughter in kindergarten. (Read about why we're doing Saxon Math 1 in kindergarten here.) We'll see how it goes with two using Saxon math at the same time as the time commitment from the teacher (me!) is one of the disadvantages of Saxon in the early grades.

I've found and Sacred Heart Books and Gifts to be good places to consistently find good prices on new Saxon math materials. I'm not an affiliate with either of those stores. I am an affiliate with and will receive a small commission if you follow any of the Amazon links above and make a purchase. The One Hundred Sheep CD can be more difficult to find. I've linked to Adoremus, which I think is where I purchased it. I am not an affiliate at that store and receive nothing if you purchase anything there after following the link.


  1. Aha, I think I read this before, but now that I've received my Saxon 2 teacher's manual in the mail (used from Cathswap) and looked through it a bit, everything makes more sense.

    I'm on the fence in respect to how to start the year and whether to go with 4 day weeks. My rising first grader (who completed Saxon 1 at school last year) is working through his addition math facts at Xtramath this summer. He has green "mastered" spots on everything that sums to 10 or less and is improving on the higher sums. He currently scores 66 of 100 (he started the summer at 24). I suspect that by the time we start the year 8/29, he'll be pretty close to mastering the 100 addition facts.

    When I looked at the book, I realized how much repetition there is from Saxon 1. It looked like the first 30 lessons went through the addition facts he currently has mastered and maybe 50 or 60 by the end of the addition facts. I suspect that continued practice of the harder facts would really help him. But I’m not sure if we should bother with those first 30. I’m leaning towards giving him each of the cumulative assessments and stopping when he stops getting 90-95% correct. But I was just reading Art Reed’s articles saying how critical it is to do every problem and now I’m doubting myself. He refers mostly to Saxon 5/4 and higher, but it seems like the same principal would apply. Option B would be to start at lesson 1 but not skip that 5th weekday so we could get through the easier material faster. Then I’m also unsure what to do with that 5th weekday once we’re doing daily lessons. Math games? Nothing at all? Review?

    Do you have your son do the second worksheet later in the day as described, or something else? With so much writing, I’m thinking about having my son do some of the work orally so it doesn’t seem so overwhelming.

    Do you have any suggestions? I’m just glad my oldest will be in 5/4 so he can do his independently. FWIW, he’s doing Xtramath too and he has just about passed out of subtraction. He didn’t learn all the multiplication facts in Math 3, so I’m curious about what his initial score will be there and how he copes with new facts. He started around 60 for both addition and subtraction and has taken about 15 tries to master them. You mentioned using xtramath instead of the fact cards – how often do you do it and how much has your son progressed? I like it as a summer tool but I wish it didn’t quit addition after those were mastered. I have the feeling that some of the harder facts will be fuzzy once they move into the next operations for awhile.

  2. Well, I haven't read the Art Reed articles, but I'd just go ahead and skip anything you think he knows well. A few years ago, my son was getting very bored and frustrated with math when we kept doing stuff he knew. You could also double up lessons if you think he's got it pretty well down but want to refresh his memory - do the meeting part, then two lessons, then the fact sheets and worksheets (or one fact sheet and the front of each worksheet -- whatever seems to feel right to you).

    We only do math four times a week. On the fifth day, we do nothing math-related at all. Usually this allows me to juggle around appointments and field trips, stuff like that. In Math 2, I arranged every third week or so with only three days of Saxon Math and one day of math games (dominoes, Double Shutter, Phase 10 dice or something like that). I think we'll have fewer days like that in Math 3. I did try to have him do XtraMath every workday we were home.

    We switched to just the first half of the worksheet very early in Math 1. He does that half by himself and if he gets every question right, he doesn't have to do the second half at all. The sheets seemed good for reinforcing the skills; once he showed he understood the topic, I didn't see the need for the second half. If he had struggled on the assessments, I might have changed my strategy. I think you could definitely do the exercises orally if his writing caused issues. My son struggled with that in first grade, but seemed ready for it in second.

    I haven't been using XtraMath this summer! I had planned on it and frankly just keep forgetting to send him to the laptop for it. Sigh. We need to start it up because he definitely needs the practice. Ideally, we'd do XtraMath seven days a week, but during the school year we averaged about four. I thought fact cards and XtraMath would be overkill (and boring), but it could be done. I think I'd separate them by a few hours if I were doing both.

    I haven't tried it yet, but I wonder if XtraMath starts the addition over if you start a new school year. You know, set them up as fifth grade and second grade instead of fourth and first. I do think it would be beneficial to continue some of the addition longer, but I haven't had any student complete addition yet, so I'm not sure. Maybe I'll set aside the higher addition math cards to use for even more practice once he's out of addition -- perhaps go through them once a week or something.

  3. Thanks for the info. I think I still feel nervous deviating from the course suggestions but that will get easier once I have some homeschooling experience.

  4. Yes, Amy, it really does get easier to deviate! I take all syllabi and course outlines purely as suggestions now. It doesn't take long - my oldest is only going into third grade in the fall.

  5. I'm so glad I found this review. My daughter is working through Saxon 2. I get so frustrated with the "Meeting". It is SO time consuming and it is all stuff she already knows. You've given me the "okay" to skip through some of the busy work. Thanks!

  6. Kati, glad to help! In third grade, we've been doing math four to five times a week, but I never do the Meeting more than three times. On the other days I skip it in its entirety!

  7. Can I ask what balance scale you replaced the Saxon manipulatives set balance with? I am wanting to find a better/sturdier one myself and randomly found this post when looking for meeting strips that I could print (vs having to constantly make copies).

    1. Hi Rainey. I think I have an older version of this one: (affiliate link). And for the meeting strips, have you thought about scanning one and then just printing them from your computer?

  8. I've only used Saxon for my older kids, now I am doing Saxon 2 with my 7yo and it keeps referring to the "birthday graph" I was going to just have her do a survey and make her own, then I saw the question "which month has exactly 2 birthdays" I can't find the graph anywhere, any leads?

    1. Christine, it's been a while since I used Saxon 2, but I think there was a birthday graph in the meeting book. The student was to ask siblings and friends in which month their birthdays fall and then graph it. Then you use the graph to answer a few questions every day for a while for practice in reading graphs.


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