I am looking in too getting a textbook for my son who I will be teaching algebra soon (homeschool). I don't like math, never did and am not very good at it. Quite frankly, my son isn't good at it either. So I am looking for a textbook that focuses on the rote method which is easier so we can both get through it together.

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    $\begingroup$ If you "don't like math, never did and" are "not very good at it" and you think your "son isn't good at it either," then maybe you should look into other options for how to "get through it." In the mean time, one nice site for algebra resources is Purple Math. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 14, 2015 at 5:09
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    $\begingroup$ If you don't like maths, and aren't very good at it, I'd suggest considering hiring a tutor instead of trying to teach it yourself. $\endgroup$
    – rlms
    Commented Feb 14, 2015 at 13:03
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    $\begingroup$ The good news is, you both will become better mathematicians with practice. Algebra is not something you know by default, it must be learned. Remember to keep a positive attitude about you and your son's mental capacity and obtaining the knowledge should be no problem. $\endgroup$
    – Sam Berry
    Commented Feb 15, 2015 at 3:54
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    $\begingroup$ If you are at all willing to consider the possibilities raised here (of learning to enjoy math), you might want to check out the book Playing with Math: Stories from Math Circles, Homeschoolers, and Passionate Teachers, available at playingwithmath.org. I think you'd like the chapter called The Math Haters Come Around. $\endgroup$
    – Sue VanHattum
    Commented Feb 15, 2015 at 22:37

5 Answers 5


I have recently been a homeschool parent, as well as a school maths teacher so I hope I have some perspective that can help.

I will suggest a textbook that does what you want, hidden somewhere in this post. But I would like you to understand a few things first. It is very likely that your son has never done any mathematics. He has done years of arithmetic. To say that he is not good at maths based on this is similar to suggesting that because he is not good at spelling, therefore he is not good at reading and writing.

If your child wasn't good at reading, you could find a text which included all his required vocab words and slog your way through it, or you could find something that he enjoyed reading and do it with him until he got good at reading. If he had to learn Shakespeare, you could look for good crib notes so he can learn the answers by rote, or you could find an enjoyable and relevant way of reading and actually learning Shakespeare.

As a homeschooler, you have the flexibility to find out what kind of maths he really enjoys. You can also put it into contexts that he finds meaningful or enjoyable. You can make a difference in his education.

One of my kids didn't like the arithmetic he did at school, and wasn't keen on starting algebra. So when I took him out, we didn't do any afor 2 years. We did number theory, game theory, transformational geometry, and group theory. Then we did a big project on friendship networks and he learned statistics and network(graph) theory. After that we studied Mechanics and he learned vectors, matrices, and lots of programming.

He discovered that he loved maths, and it is now his favourite subject. In the 3 months before he went back to school he quickly learned all the algebra he needed so he could study Calculus this year and continue his physics.

He still doesn't like arithmetic, but it is fairly irrelevant now. He likes what he can do with it.

If all you want is to get a student through SATs using lots of rote practice, then you will find Saxon is popular in the homeschool community. It is thorough and gives lots of review. I have been told some teachers use it effectively (maybe modern editions?).

However, when I was at school, it nearly destroyed my love of maths. It was like learning to do art with paint by numbers, or creative writing by filling in the blanks to "Once ... a time". Learning by rote can teach a student what he needs to know for a simple exam, but it will probably not help him enjoy it or give understanding as deep as alternative approaches.

If you want to use something like Saxon, I would highly recommend that you do it only as part of a more enriched curriculum, using creative maths resources and projects that are based around your son's interests and other abilities.

If you want more advice on how to enrich his maths so that you both understand and enjoy it, then ask another question and you will be inundated with answers. One of my favourite resources is nrich.maths.org which has masses of interesting activities on a huge variety of topics linked to the UK curriculum.

  • $\begingroup$ @JoeTaxpayer: Richard mentions Saxon in his penultimate paragraph. A current fellow math teacher in my school used this curriculum in another school and she loves it. She particularly likes how it does much review, and also how it mixes up various topics to show how all math is related. Your mileage may vary: Richard certainly did not like this series. I know too little to have my own opinion. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 14, 2015 at 16:03
  • $\begingroup$ @RoryDaulton I've updated my post accordingly. I hadn't meant to be quite so negative, as it does actually work for the purposes specified by the OP. $\endgroup$
    – Richard
    Commented Feb 14, 2015 at 22:52
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    $\begingroup$ I tend to agree that Saxon might be the right text for this circumstance. However, I also think it is the wrong text for students who have deeper interest in math. Richard apparently being an example. (my opinion here is largely based on some comparison my wife has made between Saxon and Singapore math [which we use]) $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 15, 2015 at 3:36

What do you mean by "the rote method"? If you mean lots of questions to pass a specific exam then past papers an option. These are usually available from the exam boards.

I would ask you to consider other options in addition. Rote learning has a role in memory and retention but will not provide a deeper understanding. The beauty of maths is in the rich and a suprising connections between topics. It's the thrill of spotting a new pattern or seeing things a new way. This understanding is developed from fun with maths. Play with it and don't mind getting it wrong! I always make mistakes and it just makes the connections more rewarding when I spot them. Maths is not about 1000 identikit questions that have no sense at all. Repeating questions will never give you the insight to apply maths and it will always remain incomprehensible. I hope it works out but please consider other teaching strategies as well.


Teach your son how to:

Consider the Saxon math series.

My high school math classes were taught using traditional math textbooks. Each year, about half of the students in each class dropped the class in the first six weeks. So of the 100 - 200 freshmen that tried Algebra I, only about 6 - 8 completed Precalculus. One of the big problems was that the textbook would teach each topic as a single unit, with just a few days of homework. If a student did not understand the topic that week, they might never learn the topic, and would have a hard time with later topics that depended on it.

About a year after I took each class, the high school switched that class to use the Saxon math text. The students' success improved dramatically -- most students were able to get the hang of each of the classes. Eventually, there were about 30 - 50 students taking Calculus each year. Saxon taught the individual topics about the same way as the traditional math textbooks.

The biggest difference was in what problems were in each night's homework. A typical Saxon problem set would have 30 problems, of which only a handful were from that day's lesson. The remaining problems were from previous days lessons. This meant that the student would continue practicing each topic for three weeks, and have many more chances to get the hang of the topic -- and see how it related to the following topics.


'Rote math' had what effect on you?

Buy these three books, and use them to guide your instruction: "What's math got to do with it?" by Jo Boaler or take her MOOC with your son, "the Joy of X" by Steven Strogatz (preview it), and "Innumeracy" by John Allen Paulos.

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    $\begingroup$ Could you expand your answer a little bit? A brief description of the mentioned resources would improve it a lot. $\endgroup$
    – Tommi
    Commented Apr 11, 2019 at 7:26

Repetition is great for learning arithmetic but rather terrible for learning mathematics in general. Most of mathematics is not inherently algorithmic like arithmetic is, and so rote-style learning is the square peg trying to fit into the round hole. Instead, algebra is very much about relationships between numbers and other things (like graphs), so your pedagogical approach to learning and teaching algebra should be about understanding those relationships. To give an example of what I mean:

Consider the equation y=3x-5. This equation can be said to describe the relationship between the unknown number y and the unknown number x. A solution for this equation is a pair of numbers, an x and a y, for which that (arithmetical) relationship holds.

The central difference between arithmetic and algebra is that in arithmetic, you are interested in the particular numbers and the operations being performed on them. In algebra, the particular numbers are no longer so important and instead you interested their arithmetical relationships in general. So your pedagogy (both for learning it yourself as well as teaching it to your son) should be based on trying to identify and understand these relationships.

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    $\begingroup$ Probably this answer would benefit from some sort of pointers, or references, to support (e.g.) your first sentence/paragraph. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 3, 2016 at 17:45

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