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January 2019

ARE JOHN SAXON'S ORIGINAL MATH BOOKS GOING THE WAY OF THE DINOSAUR?

I am often asked by home school educators whether or not I will create my teaching DVD “videos” for the new fourth editions of Algebra 1 and Algebra 2, and the resulting new first edition of Geometry now being sold on the Saxon Homeschool website by the new owners of Saxon Publishers.

The answer is no, I will not do so. My creation of the current DVD video series for John’s math books, based upon rock solid editions created by John Saxon, was not to make money.  Using my Saxon classroom teaching experiences, I wanted to create a classroom environment for home school students who wanted to master high school mathematics using John’s unique math books. However, publishing math textbooks redesigned to be like all the other math textbooks on the market are not what John intended when he created his unique style of math books.

John Saxon would not have sanctioned gutting his Algebra 1 and Algebra 2 textbooks of their geometry to create a separate geometry textbook.  He believed that using a separate geometry textbook was not conducive to mastering high school mathematics.  More importantly, each of John’s math books had an author - an experienced classroom mathematician - behind them. These three new editions, created under his Saxon title, do not.

When Harcourt-Achieve bought John Saxon’s dream - Saxon Publishers - from his children, I made the comment that the new owners were certainly smart enough to recognize the uniqueness of John’s books. I predicted that they would not change the content of John’s books. Certainly, I commented. “They would never take their prize winning bull and grind it up into hamburger” – or so I thought!

Well the new owners of Saxon Publishers appear to have done just that, and the time has come for me to apologize because they are now selling the hamburger on the Homeschool website. I have previously cautioned home school Saxon users not to use the new fourth editions of Algebra 1 and Algebra 2 then offered only on the school website because the company had gutted all geometry from them to enable them to publish a separate geometry textbook desired by the public school system. But they are now selling them on the Homeschool site as well.

Having been affiliated with one of the larger publishing companies - after Saxon Publishers was sold - I observed that the driving force in the company was not so much the education of the children, but the quarterly profit statement. And that is okay, but being around their VP’s and upper level executives showed me that to them “a book - is a book - is a book.” I still believe they have not the foggiest idea of just how unique and powerful John’s math books are when used correctly. However, I may be wrong, because they may have already observed that it is this “uniqueness” that requires special handling - and that requires special training - and that costs money – reducing quarterly profits.

I do not believe the publishing company will long suffer the expense of publishing both the third and fourth editions of Algebra 1 and Algebra 2. It is my opinion they may well stop printing and selling the third editions of Algebra 1 and Algebra 2 when current stocks run out. This will then require that home school educators using Saxon math books buy the separate geometry book also. After all, “Don’t you make more money from selling three books than you do from just selling two?”

Maybe the new owners of John Saxon's math books will not stop printing the third editions of Algebra 1 and Algebra 2 - but then I could be wrong - again!  If you are serious about using John Saxon’s original math series through high school, I recommend you not buy these new fourth editions of Algebra 1 and Algebra 2. I strongly recommend you immediately acquire the home school editions of John’s math books that I discussed in my book - which include the third editions of Algebra 1 and Algebra 2. 

Listed below are excerpts from my book about each edition of John’s books from Math 54 through Calculus. If after reading this, you feel your particular situation has not been addressed, please feel free to email me at art.reed@usingsaxon.com or call me at 580-234-0064 (CST) before you purchase any math textbooks.

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Math 54 (2nd or 3rd Ed):  You can use either the hard cover 2nd edition textbook or the newer soft cover 3rd edition as they have identical math content.  In fact, they are almost word for word and problem for problem the same textbooks. The page numbers differ because of different graphics and changed page margins, and the newer soft cover 3rd edition homeschool packet has an added solutions manual.  However, my experience with that level of mathematics is that most home school educators will not need a solutions manual until they encounter Math 76.  If you can acquire a less expensive homeschool kit without the solutions manual, I would recommend acquiring that less expensive set. Calculators should not be used at this level.

Math 65 (2nd or 3rd Ed):  This book is used following successful completion of the Math 54 textbook.  Successful completion is defined as completing the entire Math 54 textbook, doing every problem and every lesson on a daily basis, and taking all of the required tests.  To be successful in this textbook, students must have scored eighty or better on the last four or five tests in the Math 54 textbook.  As with the Math 54 textbooks, the 2nd edition hard cover book and the newer soft cover 3rd edition have identical math content.  The newer 3rd edition series also has a solutions manual, but if you’re on a tight budget, I do not believe that it is necessary at this level of mathematics either. Calculators should not be used at this level.

Math 76 (3rd or 4th Ed):  The kingpin book in the Saxon series.  This book follows successful completion of the Math 65 textbook.  Again, successful completion of Math 65 means completing the entire book as well as all of the tests.  To be successful in Math 76, students should have received scores no lower than an eighty on the last four or five tests in the Math 65 course.  Either the hard cover 3rd edition or the newer soft cover 4th edition can be used.  As with the previous two math courses, there is no difference between the math content of the hard cover 3rd edition and the softcover 4th edition textbooks.  I recommend acquiring a copy of the solutions manual as this is a challenging textbook.  Students who score eighty-five or better on the last five tests in this level book indicate they are ready to move to Algebra ½, 3rd edition.  Student’s who encounter difficulty in the last part of Math 76, reflected by lower test scores, can easily make up their shortcomings by proceeding to Math 87 rather than Algebra ½. Calculators should not be used at this level.

Math 87 (2nd or 3rd Ed):  Again, there is little if any difference between the hardcover 2nd edition and the softcover 3rd edition textbooks.  Even though the older second edition does not have “with pre-algebra” printed on its cover as the 3rd edition softcover book does, the two editions are identical in math content.  Students who successfully complete the entire textbook and score eighty or better on their last five or six tests can skip the Algebra ½ textbook and proceed directly to the Algebra 1, 3rd edition textbook.  Both the Math 87 and the Algebra ½ textbooks get the student ready for Algebra 1; however, the Math 87 textbooks start off a bit slower with a bit more review of earlier concepts than does the Algebra ½ book.  This enables students who encountered difficulty in Math 76 to review earlier concepts they had difficulty with and to be successful later in the textbook. Students who encounter difficulty in the last part of this book will find that going into Algebra ½ before they move to the Algebra 1 course will strengthen their knowledge and ability of the basics necessary to be successful in the Algebra 1 course. Their frustrations will disappear and they will return to liking mathematics when they do encounter the Algebra 1 course. Calculators should not be used at this level.

Algebra ½ (3rd Ed):   This is John’s version of what other publishers title a “Pre-algebra” book.   Depending upon the students earlier endeavors, this book follows successful completion of either Math 76 or Math 87 as discussed above.  Use the 3rd edition textbook rather than the older 2nd edition as the 3rd edition contains the lesson concept reference numbers which refer the student back to the lesson that introduced the concept of the numbered problem they’re having trouble with.  These concept lesson reference numbers save students hours of time searching through the book for a concept they need to review - but they do not know the name of what they are looking for. From this course through calculus, all of the textbooks have hard covers, and tests occur every week, preferably on a Friday. To be successful in John Saxon’s Algebra 1 course, the student must complete the entire Algebra ½ textbook, scoring eighty or better on the last five tests of the course.  Students who encounter difficulty by time they reach lesson 30 indicate problems related to something that occurred earlier in either Math 76 or Math 87.  Parents should seek advice and assistance before proceeding as continuing through the book will generally result in frustration and lower test scores since the material in the book becomes more and more challenging very quickly.   Calculators should not be used at this level.

Algebra 1 (3rd Ed):  I strongly recommend you use the academically stronger 3rd edition textbook. The new owners of the Saxon Publishers (HMHCO) have produced a new fourth edition that does not meet the Saxon methodology.  The new fourth edition of Algebra 1 has had all references to geometry removed from it and using it will require also buying a separate geometry book. While the associated solutions manual is an additional expense, I strongly recommend parents acquire it at this level to assist the student when necessary.  Depending upon the students earlier successes, this book follows completion of either Math 87 or Algebra ½ as discussed above. Calculators are recommended for use at this level after lesson 30.  While lesson 114 of the book contains information about using a graphing calculator, one is not necessary at this level.  That lesson was inserted because some state textbook adoption committees wanted math books to reflect the most advanced technology.  The only calculator students need from algebra through calculus is an inexpensive scientific calculator that costs about ten dollars at one of the local discount stores.  I use a Casio fx260 solar which costs about $9.95 at any Target, K-Mart, Wal-Mart, Radio Shack, etc.  If the 3rd edition of Saxon Algebra 1 is used, a separate geometry textbook should not be used between Saxon Algebra 1 and Algebra 2 because the required two semesters of high school geometry concepts will be covered in Saxon Algebra 2 (1st semester) and in the first sixty lessons of the Advanced Mathematics book (2nd  semester).

Algebra 2 (2nd or 3rd Ed):  Either the 2nd or 3rd editions of the Saxon Algebra 2 textbooks are okay to use.  Except for the addition of the lesson concept reference numbers in the newer 3rd edition, the two editions are identical. These lesson concept reference numbers save students hours of time searching through the book for a concept they need to review - but they do not know the name of what they are looking for. If you already have the older 2nd edition textbook, and need a solutions manual, you can use a copy of the 3rd edition solution manual which also has solutions to the daily practice problems not in the older 2nd edition solutions manual.  Also, the 3rd edition test booklet has the lesson concept reference numbers as well as solutions to each test question – something the 2nd edition test booklet does not have. An inexpensive scientific calculator is all that is needed for this course.  Upon successful completion of the entire book, students have also completed the equivalent of the first semester of a regular high school geometry course in addition to the credit for Algebra 2. I strongly recommend you not use the new fourth edition of Algebra 2 for several reasons.

FIRST: The fourth edition has had all references to geometry removed from it also requiring the purchase of an additional geometry book.

SECOND: The Advanced Mathematics textbook assumes the student has just successfully completed the 2nd or 3rd edition of the Saxon Algebra 2 textbook with their inclusive geometry.  If the student took a separate geometry course between the fourth editions of Algebra 1 and Algebra 2, they have not had any exposure to geometry for as much as fifteen months (nine months of school plus two summer breaks).  This gap will result in the student encountering extreme difficulty in the Advanced Math textbook.

Advanced Mathematics (2nd Ed):  Do not use the older first edition, use the 2nd Edition.  The lesson concept reference numbers are found in the solutions manual – not in the textbook!  Students who attempt this book must have successfully completed all of Saxon Algebra 2 using either the 2nd or 3rd edition textbooks.   Upon successful completion of just the first sixty lessons of this textbook, the student will have completed the equivalent of the second semester of a regular high school geometry course.  An inexpensive scientific calculator is all that is needed for this course. For more information on how to transcript the course to receive credit for a full year of geometry as well as a semester of trigonometry and a second semester of pre-calculus, please Click Here.      

Calculus: The original 1st edition is still an excellent textbook to master the basics of calculus, but the newer 2nd edition affords students the option to select whether they want to prepare for the AB or BC version of the College Boards Advanced Placement (AP) Program.  To prepare for the AB version, students go through lesson 100.  To prepare for the BC version, they must complete all 148 lessons of the book.  While the 2nd edition reflects use of a graphing calculator, students can easily complete the course using an inexpensive scientific calculator.  I recommend that students who use a graphing calculator first attend a course on how to use one before attempting upper level math as they need to concentrate on the math and not on how their fancy calculator works.  It is not by accident that the book accompanying the graphing calculator is over a half inch thick.

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