Math in CC’s Challenge Years

You can use any math curriculum with CC. We love Saxon, but I understand that not everyone does. I’ve seen students using all different math curriculums and I’ve never seen it cause a problem on community day. In fact, some people join a separate program for math. If you’re considering outsourcing, this Schole Sisters podcast episode (#131) is an excellent resource on how to make this decision!

Each Challenge Guide lists specific lessons for your student to cover from a specific Saxon math book. So, if you’re using Saxon Math, you might think you only need to follow the plan in the guide, however, there are still some choices to be made and things to consider.

First, I have a few pieces of unsolicited advice that I can’t help but give:

  1. Pick a math curriculum and stick with it; switch curriculums only as a last resort!! Each curriculum manufacturer covers subjects in a slightly different order, so when you switch, your students are probably going to miss some concepts. If you HAVE to switch, be prepared to sit down with the books from each manufacturer to compare, lesson by lesson, what is taught in each book so you can help your student catch up!
  2. Help your students understand the difference between “learning a new concept in math” and “math practice.” No one loves math practice. It’s repetitive and boring, but you still need to do it. We do LOTS of practice so the skill becomes automatic- like muscle memory. Then when we learn the next concept, we aren’t struggling with multiple concepts at the same time. We practice math like a pianist practices scales or a basketball player practices dribbling.
  3. If you are using Saxon Math, I HIGHLY recommend the book, Using John Saxon’s Math Books by Art Reed. It will walk you through all you need to know! A lot of what I say here comes from this book. I pull mine off the shelf and refer to it almost every summer as I plan the next year!
Using Saxon in Ch A

Create a Math Plan

Next, (whether you’re using Saxon Math or not) you need to become familiar with the different math paths your student can take.

The CC Guides lay out a moderate (normal) math plan for the challenge years. When it comes to math, you’re ALWAYS better off slowing down and really understanding the concept than pushing on and completing a book just so you can say you did. So I really like the moderate plan.

However, if your student wants to have calculus in high school, you’ll want to follow an advanced math plan. (If you don’t complete any calculus in high school it is totally ok! Many students don’t have Calculus in high school.) Art Reed lays out several different plans for using Saxon Math in high school. Here’s my summary of his math plan suggestions:

Algebra 1/2?

If your student has been using Saxon Math, you have a choice about Algebra 1/2 (usually in 8th grade). According to Art Reed “the content of [Algebra 1/2] is almost identical to that of Math 8/7” (p75). If students struggled with the last 5 tests of Math 8/7, then students should go to Algebra 1/2. However, if they didn’t, then they can go directly to Algebra 1, skipping Algebra 1/2.

Some families choose to skip Math 8/7 and use Algebra 1/2 for 7th grade instead, but that’s not as ideal, because Algebra 1/2 doesn’t have the Fact Practice worksheets.

Advanced Mathematics

According to Reed, in Using John Saxon’s Math Books, Advanced Mathematics is a 3 or 4-semester program. Here’s how he suggests you use it as a 4-semester (2-year) program:

  • Year 1
    • Lessons 1-90
    • 1/2 lesson each day: odds the first day, evens the second day
    • Listed as a year of “Geometry” on high school transcripts
    • Art Reed also recommends students be past lesson 90 in this book before they take the ACT.
  • Year 2
    • Lessons 60-125 (review is good!)
    • 1/2 lesson each day: odds the first day, evens the second day
    • Listed as a half year of “Trigonometry” and a half year of “Pre-Calculus” on high school transcripts

If you didn’t review those central 30 lessons, you could easily complete the book in 3 semesters, leaving room for a semester or consumer math or business math!


If your student is using Saxon’s Algebra 1 curriculum, know that in Using John Saxon’s Math Books, Art Reed claims that John Saxon suggests students start using a Scientific Calculator starting around lesson 100. They don’t HAVE to have it until Algebra 2, but it’s nice for them to start developing some proficiency with it at the end of Algebra 1. You don’t need a fancy graphing calculator yet- just a scientific one with buttons like “sin” “cos” and “tan.” We purchased the TI-30xa for around $12 and it’s been working great.

In the middle of Algebra 2, students will need a graphing calculator like the TI-84.

Looking for More?

The majority of my CC tips and files can be found on these other CC level-specific pages here:

Please also talk with your CC Director. These pages are one mom’s advice and each CC group does things a little differently!