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Homeschool algebra 1 curriculum - recommendations for home schooling high school math

In a nutshell, I recommend for most homeschooling parents to use a textbook along with some video instruction.

Why a textbook? Because it is good for students to learn to use a regular algebra textbook at this stage of their studies. It helps prepare them for any further studies (whether college or vocational) where they need to learn on their own, reading a textbook.

Also, good textbooks include not only basic exercises but also challenging ones. If you decide to go with some online algebra curriculum or video instruction, a regular textbook can act as a reference and as an additional problem "bank" for those challenging problems. You can also use it to check that your student is really getting instruction in all the typical algebra 1 topics.

Why videos? Because those replace the component that is present in regular classroom: the teacher explaining concepts and ideas. Learning algebra from a textbook alone might be too difficult for some students. If the parent cannot explain the math, videos will help bridge the gap. In today's world, there exist MANY free websites with algebra videos that can be used. And, some companies provide videos tailored to a specific textbook.

In this article, I first explain some basic options for algebra 1 in a homeschool setting. Then, some textbooks are described in more detail. The article also lists free algebra video websites, algebra online curricula, and gives a link to algebra tutorial website list.


Jump to:
Options for algebra 1 in a nutshellTextbook choices
Jacobs' AlgebraFoerster's algebraPrentice Hall algebraAOP Introduction to algebra
Free algebra video websitesOnline algebra curriculumOnline algebra tutorials

Options for algebra 1 course in a nutshell

  1. Use a regular textbook, along with video instruction specifically tailored for that book. Companies offering this include:
    • Chalkdust (using Algebra by Ron Larson). $394. See also the site Algebrawithinreach.com mentioned further down on this page.
    • Math Without Borders (using Foerster's Algebra). $59 + you need to purchase the textbook & answer key separately. Please see my review for more information.
    • Ask Dr. Callahan (using Jacob's Algebra). $222
    • VideoText Algebra - both algebra 1 and algebra 2. This one does not have a textbook but printed course notes and exercises (the videos are the "textbook"). I would consider purchasing some used textbook for a handy reference and for additional problems, especially for applications and word problems. $529
    You can probably find these used for a cheaper price. Or, if you buy the product new, you can probably resell it later.
  2. Use a regular textbook, along with videos from various math websites that may not be exactly tailored to the book. This is probably one of the most affordable options, because there exist so many sites offering free math videos.
  3. Use a regular textbook, along with an online math curriculum. Similar to the one above, but more expensive. However, you get more support and resources, such as online quizzes, worksheets, reporting, etc.
  4. An algebra course from one of the popular homeschooling companies. The drawback is that the authors of these products may not be math professors or even math teachers, and so the mathematics is often on a more "shallow" and superficial level than in textbooks authored by mathematics professors & teachers. Also, the explanations given for concepts may also be lacking in depth, and concentrate only on how to do the calculations, and not on the "why", or on the connections between concepts. Of course this varies from product to product, but I have seen some that judging from the samples were really "shallow".

    However, I'm not saying these can't be used. If your student does not need a strong math background for future studies, they can be fine. Some families may also prefer the "format", whether it be many workbooks, a computer-based curriculum, or some other format.
  5. Enroll your child in a community college basic algebra course.
  6. Hire a tutor, either a tutor that visits your home or an online math tutor.
  7. What about Saxon algebra 1? The problem with Saxon is not the content itself, but how the lessons are organized. Saxon mixes in the topics and does not have chapters on certain broad topics, like other algebra books. For example, one lesson is on range, mean, median, and mode. The next is on conjunctions, the next is on percents, and the next one on polynomials—and so on. I don't think that is the best way to learn. You can read more about my opinion on Saxon math here.
  8. What about Teaching Textbooks? This program is generally recognized as being quite easy and not challenging. The word problems I have seen in their samples are definitely too easy, for any grade I've looked at. Therefore, you cannot expect it to teach problem solving very well. This is actually unfortunate, because many parents and kids like its format. It would be a good program for low-performing students because it is so easy.

    This is verified for example by this review left for my other math site:
    We loved this curriculum until we looked at the Prentice Hall Algebra I book that the local high school was using. Then we realized that Teaching Textbooks Algebra I is way behind grade level! My son completed TT Algebra I and now is going through the Prentice Hall Algebra I book, to fill in the gaps, which are huge. This is taking him another 4-5 months! I had trusted Cathy Duffy's reviews of TT, and found I was wrong not to check it out more.
    However, the method of Teaching Textbook is great -- the kids enjoyed doing it on their own, with access to the CD's and textbook.

    If your student is college bound and plans to take the SAT and/or enter public high school, I would not recommend this curriculum.

    Cindy
  9. What about Singapore New Elementary Mathematic (NEM)? This series of books covers grades 7-10, and is considered to be quite challenging in its problems. Also, it may not have enough explanations of concepts, and the sequence of topics does not follow the traditional American way, but prealgebra, algebra, geometry, and statistics topics are mixed. If you feel comfortable with this, it will be fine, but I would only consider it for "mathy" kids because of the difficulty of the problem sets. Singapore Math also offers other series for grades 7-10 that are easier than NEM; please see a comparison here. Well-Trained Mind forum has lots of discussions about using NEM.

A regular algebra 1 textbook

If you go with the option #2 or #3 listed above, the textbooks that I recommend are:

  • Harold Jacobs Algebra
  • Foerster Algebra 1
  • Prentice Hall Mathematics Algebra 1
  • Art of Problem Solving Introduction to Algebra (for strong math students)

The choice between the top three might not be easy. In a nutshell, Jacob's book is lively, concentrates on concepts, well-admired by a lot of people for its entertaining style, and has very good and interesting exercise sets. However, it is also a bit "lite" in content.

Foerster's book is considered one of the best, if not the best, by some. It goes much deeper, perhaps too deep for some students. It has superior, detailed explanations, lots of basic exercises, and challenging word problems.

Prentice Hall book is a regular, colorful schoolbook that is comprehensive in the content covered, and has a free online video & other resources to go with it.

The boxes below describe these books in more detail.

Harod Jacobs Elementary Algebra Harold Jacobs Algebra 1

Jacobs' book is kind of a literary work in itself. The instruction for a new topic always starts out with an interesting example from history, a cartoon, or such like. This makes the text livelier and easier to read, and can make math "more fun" in a sense. The exercise sets also include some very interesting problems that tie in with history or are otherwise amusing or amazing! The interesting problems thrown in help build mathematical intuition AND the love for mathematics.

One of the main drawbacks though is that the author often gives minimal explanations in the text, and not many worked-out examples. This is because a lot of the learning is supposed to happen within the exercises, which often follow the "guided inquiry" method of instruction.

There are three exercise sets for each lesson, of which set 1 is always review. There are answers in the back of the book for each exercise set 2.

Jacobs' algebra is also on the easy side, as far as CONTENT goes. While it does have the same chapters as any regular algebra book, in several topics, it does not cover the same depth as Foerster's or other algebra books. I'll give you some examples.

In inequalities involving absolute value, Jacobs only teaches inequalities that have "x" without a coefficient, for example | x + 4 | < −5. He does not include inequalities of the type | 2x + 4 | < −5. Also, he does not cover inequalities with two variables at all (for example, y > x + 4). In radical equations, the problems are limited to such as have x under the radical sign, for example √x + 2 = 5. Problems that include both √x and x are not included (for example √x + 2 = 5 + x). Also, Pythagorean Theorem is not covered. Scientific notation is not covered. These lacks are not necessarily a problem, since any algebra 2 book will review all of algebra 1, and should cover those topics.

The book also seems to teach the math on an easier level than Foerster or the Prentice Hall book, often practicing visual models in detail, and using exercises that build student's conceptual understanding step by step. This can actually be of great benefit for students who are not ready for more "algebraic" or analytic reasoning. It also means Jacobs' book could easily be used with younger audiences—some proficient, "mathy" kids could even study it in 7th grade.

To purchase this book at Amazon, see:

Elementary Algebra by Harold Jacobs
A Teacher's Guide to Elementary Algebra, which includes notes for the teacher and a full answer key.

Rainbow Resource sells the solutions manual.

Ask Dr. Callahan sells a matching DVD for Jacob's book that has video lessons covering each topic and working examples as needed.



Algebra I: Expressions, Equations, and Applications by Paul Foerster Foerster Algebra 1

With Foerster, you can definitely "hear" a teacher speaking to you through the text. The book is written to the student, with excellent, sometimes even pedantic, explanations. The text often includes little tips like what a classroom teacher might say, such as "the vinculum is supposed to extend over here" or illustrations why something cannot be done.

Foerster's algebra goes fairly deep into the usual topics of algebra 1. The book includes both basic and challenging exercises, including lots of word problems. It is an excellent textbook when it comes to explaining mathematics. Foerster's approach is very analytical and logical, relying on mathematical thinking—which can be very good for students who are going into sciences.

The main difficulty I can see for homeschooling parents is that some of the exercises are quite challenging. Thus, Foerster's book may be too difficult for some students.

Answers to odd-numbered exercises are given in the back of the book.

David Chandler from Math Without Borders has created a Home Study Companion for Foerster's book, which can be incredibly helpful for homeschoolers. Please see my review on Foerster's algebra 1 and of the Home Study Companion for more information and example pages.

To purchase Foerster's book on Amazon:
Algebra I: Expressions, Equations, and Applications (1994 edition)
Algebra 1: Expressions, Equations, and Applications (1999 edition), and
Algebra 1: Expressions, Equations, and Applications (2006 edition).

Rainbow Resource carries the solutions manual (as also the textbook).


Prentice Hall Mathematics Algebra 1, 2007/2009 ed. Prentice Hall Algebra 1
To see this book for yourself, you can preview chapter 2 of the 2009 edition here. This is a basic, comprehensive textbook used in public schools. It is typical of modern textbooks in that it has quite a bit of color and multiple authors. The book is more "cut and dried", without the bits of humor that you find in both Jacobs' and Foerster's books. It seems to have sufficient amount of examples, and lots of varied exercises.

As a definite bonus, Prentice Hall Algebra 1 (2009) book has a free companion website. (If the link is broken, go to www.phschool.com and navigate to the algebra 1 book.) You will find narrated, interactive video tutorials for every lesson. Additionally, the site has lesson quizzes, chapter tests, vocabulary quizzes, and some real-world applications to supplement Prentice Hall Algebra 1.

The following links go to Amazon.com. Hover over the links to see pricing.

You can purchase Prentice Hall Algebra 1 homeschool bundle at Rainbow Resource. This bundle includes a teacher edition, student text, student workbook, teacher guide, and a parent guide pamphlet.




The newer editions of Prentice Hall Algebra 1 (2011/2012 and 2015 editions) are fine products, also. These are aligned to the Common Core Standards, and thus emphasize conceptual understanding and mathematical modeling more than the previous editions. For example, the publisher has added "Error Analysis" exercises, "Reasoning" exercises, and rich mathematical and real-world problems to the book.

In fact, the newer editions sound better to me than the earlier ones; however there are two drawbacks: 1) They are also more expensive on Amazon—even used copies—and 2) The companion website for the new editions requires an access code. The access code is supposed to be simply the ISBN of the teacher edition, but I did not get it to work.

The publisher's website has more information here.

You can access an online sample of Algebra 1 here. You will need to register first. If that link doesn't work, go to www.pearsonschool.com → mathematics → algebra, and you should see Prentice Hall Mathematics Algebra 1 listed.


Art of Problem Solving Introduction to Algebra Art of Problem Solving Introduction to Algebra (for high-performing math students)

This book is written by the founder of Art of Problem Solving, Richard Rusczyk. For each topic, there are many example problems with detailed solutions and explanations, through which algebraic techniques are taught. The explanations often highlight ideas on best problem solving approaches, which is something you don't usually see in regular algebra textbooks. Exercises for the student follow.

Introduction to Algebra book goes through all the typical algebra 1 topics, plus present several topics that are usually part of Algebra 2 curriculum, such as exponents and logarithms, quadratic inequalities, functions, and complex numbers. The solutions manual includes full solutions, not just answers, which is a definite plus.

This book is indeed quite good for its intended purpose. It contains challenging problems, and is especially meant for "high-performing" math students, because it emphasizes problem solving, proof, and challenging problems (please see features here). It is NOT for weak or average students or for those who do not like problem solving. Please check out the long excerpts (samples) on AOP website to see if the book would be a good fit for your student.

Amazon links:
Introduction to Algebra
Introduction to Algebra Solutions Manual

Free algebra video websites

You can use these FREE video websites to accompany any algebra textbook you might have. To use them, first check the topic of the lesson in your textbook. Then find matching videos on these sites. You can definitely also leave this task to your student: he/she can read the textbook text, find videos, and then watch one or several videos on the same topic, before attempting to do any of the exercises in the textbook.

MathTV.com
Over 6,000 free, online video lessons for basic math, algebra, trigonometry, and calculus. Videos also available in Spanish. Also includes online textbooks. I've written a review of MathTV lessons when they used to be offered on CDs.
www.mathtv.com

BrightStorm Math
Over 2,000 free videos covering all high school math topics from algebra to calculus. Registration required (free).
www.brightstorm.com/math

Algebra Within Reach
Free algebra videos presented by Dana Mosely, worked-out solutions for selected exercises, and other companion helps for Ron Larson's algebra textbooks.

HSTutorials.net
Free animated and narrated math tutorials - pre-algebra, algebra 1, geometry.
www.hstutorials.net

HippoCampus
Free online interactive lessons for high school algebra, calculus, and AP calculus. Also for other subjects.
www.hippocampus.org


An online algebra curriculum

There exist several commercial online curricula offering algebra courses to homeschoolers. I cannot really say which ones would be the best since it's not possible for me to review and evaluate all of them, so that will be left to you.

These curricula are always based on either videos or animated tutorials. The exercise sets may be less comprehensive than those found in regular algebra textbooks, and often focus on the most basic types of exercises. You usually get access to simple online quizzes and a system that tracks student progress. You may even get one-on-one support from a tutor or teacher.

These resources may be good for a computer-oriented student. Personally I would augment the online curricula with more challenging problems from some algebra textbook.

Free algebra flexbook from CK-12
A complete algebra textbook (free) by CK-12 Foundation. You can also find lots of algebra videos, texts to read, exercises and more. The website has other subjects also.

YourTeacher
A self-teaching online math system with over 1,000 comprehensive lessons consisting of audio/video clips, problems to solve, full solutions, worksheet, quiz, and more. Includes pre-algebra, algebra 1 & 2, geometry, and college algebra. Lessons can be easily matched to common textbooks. Pricing: $49.50 a month, $199.50 a year, with access to all lessons.
See also my review.
www.mathhelp.com

I Can Learn Online
Interactive, animated courses for fundamentals of math, prealgebra, and algebra. Subscription fee of $30/month gives you access to all three courses. A free trial available.
www.icanlearnonline.com

ThinkWell
Multimedia video lectures that take the place of a traditional textbook, plus automatically graded exercises & homework. Titles offered are from grade 6 through calculus. The teacher on the videos is Edward Burger, who has a unique and intuitive approach to learning math. Online access to any one course $125 a year.
www.thinkwell.com

WinPossible
Online courses for algebra 1, algebra 2, geometry, and trigonometry. Includes lessons, practice questions, sefl-tests, a question bank, and a forum. Prices about $10/month per course.
www.winpossible.com

Educator
A collection of lectures by college professors, including algebra, trigonometry, calculus, and statistics courses (for high school/college). Subscriptions $45 first month, $35 monthly thereafter, $240 a year; they give you access to all courses.
www.educator.com

Tablet Class
An online curriculum and math learning system. Includes videos lessons, course materials, review notes, practice worksheets, tests and answer keys. Courses offered are prealgebra, algebra 1 & 2, intermediate and college algebra, and GED math. $49.95/month or $99.95/year. Free trial available.
www.tabletclass.com

Alcumus
Art of Problem Solving's online learning system for gifted students. Offers a customized learning experience, adjusting to student performance. It is specifically designed to provide high-performing students with a challenging curriculum. To sign up you need to join a class; there's an online class set up at Let's Play Math! open to all interested homeschoolers and self-directed learners. Currently Alcumus is free.
www.ArtOfProblemsolving.com/Alcumus/Introduction.php

Conquermaths
An online maths tutoring system with 480 full audio/visual lessons presented by a real teacher, synchronised with animated graphics and backed up by tests and progress reports. For UK key stages 3 and 4 (11-16 year olds). 16 free trial lessons. Subscriptions £15.95 a month, £69for six months; £99 a year.
www.conquermaths.com

Maths Power
Online math learning system with animated lessons, worksheets, and access to teacher support for K-12. Created from the Australian syllabus. Software version 275 AUD/year; online version 214 AUD/year.
www.mathspower.com.au

Mathematics.com.au
Animated maths lessons, worksheets, topic tests and worked solutions for years 7-12 in the Australian curriculum. 32 free lessons available to trial online. Online membership $26.95 AUD month or $127 for six months; or $197 AUD year; family plans available. Also available on CDs.
www.mathematics.com.au


Free online algebra tutorials

There exist dozens of algebra websites, which usually have short tutorials on algebra topics. Some of them have short quizzes also. They wouldn't replace a textbook because of lack of exercises, but sometimes it's helpful to read several explanations for the same concept.

Please see a LONG list of these algebra websites here. The list also includes algebra worksheet sites, online calculators, and a few algebra games.


If you have suggestions or comments about this article, let me know.

By Maria Miller

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