I really need help here. My 9th grader is having a lot of trouble in math. I’ve already talked to the people at school and they seem more interested in placing the blame on my daughter than in finding ways to actually help her understand the work.

For some reason, the school has selected some sort of computer curriculum that comes with no textbook and no materials to bring home to study. Each child apparently works at his/her own pace, leaving a very unstructured classroom (and from what I hear from my kid and her friends) some extremely confused kids.
(The rest of the rant can be saved for another time.)

So I’m ready to give up on the school, and just try to help my daughter here at home. Can anyone recommend a textbook at a junior high/pre-algebra level that we can work on here at home? I had a college-level book once that started literally at addition and subtraction, and worked the student into the abstract materials, but I can’t recall the name.

As far as recommendations, I don’t have any specific books to recommend, but I would definitely advise you to look at Schaum’s Outline-type workbooks rather than textbooks. In my experience, math textbooks are often riddled with errors and are written in a way that must appeal to textbook editors, because they are pretty lousy at actually explaining math. On the other hand, Schaum’s (and others…there’s probably a “Cartoon Guide to Pre-Algebra”) offers a brief explaination and a lot of examples, followed by problems with solutions. Here’s an example of the sort of thing I’m talking about.

I really hated the fact that in college I’d pay $100+ for a crappy, poorly-edited, mistake-filled text, and $12 for a Schaum’s that explained more and had zero errors. WTF?

What curriculum is the math text based on? (There are"Everyday Math" and a host of others.) The different curricula cover topics in different orders, so supporting her education with a different book can be a problem. The Schaums books can work nicely in this regard, since there are not designed to only be used from beginning to end.

Check out Integrated Mathematics Program. A few innovative schools are using this and you can order it for home use. I use it with my 9th grader who is home schooled. This program gives me hope that somebody out there “gets” how math should be taught.

You can order it directly from the IMP site or you can get it at key curriculum press.

It’s been my experience that math textbooks are not only written in such a convoluted manner, but are also actually punctuated so poorly that reading them with any comprehension is near impossible.

When I was a TA in an engineering program, one of the professors I was working for actually complained about the fact that the text book explained the concepts too clearly.

His opinion was that it was “baby talk”. I said to him “Who gives a shit, ther’re learning the material.” His response was that if they ALL learned it we wouldn’t be able to decide who we wanted to fail. :rolleyes:

I agree about the outlines. Any book store should have a significant number of them. That’s how I aced Pchem last year, as my book and all other others were completely incomprehensible. Also, in my opinion, stay away from Chicago Math. Everyone I’ve ever met who used it is completely ignorant. Also, I have tutored math and helped out my teachers in high school, and I have to say, the less calculators are used, the better. They don’t further understanding, clarify anything or assisst in any real way the learning process, except in a few circumstances (read matrices and stats).

Calculator use depends on level - I say this because I had someone try to berate me for using a calculator to do the multiplication in my Calc homework. Yes, I was in high school - I was taking Calc 2 at the local University and using a calculator to speed up the busy work so that I spent time practicing the actual calculus consepts was not cheating or demonstrating the weakness of my math skills.

Not that I was speechlessly bitter or anything.

For pre-algebra, yeah, be very careful how the calculator is used. It is a tool, not a crutch.

Well, not to berate you or anything but being able to do the simple arithmatic operations quickly by hand or in your head is a very useful skill to maintain (and it does require practice to maintain it). Too many engineers I work with have to grab the ol’ HP-48GX Graph Monster to do a simple 2x2 multiplication. I avoid using a calculator for those types of tasks for that reason. Sometimes you don’t have the mini-Univac at hand and it’s a disruption to have to stop and look for a calculator.

But, that being said, yeah, using a calculator depends on the material. If you’re doing linear algebra, you should know how to perform matrix operations, but there’s no point in actually inverting a 5x5 matrix by hand. I’ll grab the e-abacus or fire up Mathematica if I need to do that.

Math teacher checking in, who happens to teach at the middle school level. I have been frustrated with the lack of quality texts. As other posters have already noted, the texts are not created to give great instruction, but simply to catch the attention of the students. My hands are tied when it comes to selecting the text that I would want to use, but you have some freedom.

If you know the material well enough yourself, then I would recommend Saxon. They give plenty of practice, and the instruction is spiraled, so that previously learned skills are always in review.

If you narrow it down to a few selections, let us know.

P.S. I am glad to see that you aren’t letting one of the latest fads in teaching fool you!

I second Saxon. A lot of homeschoolers use their books, as well as many schools that don’t like all the BS that is in most math books. Chicago Math (a horrible company IMO) recently purchased Saxon, but I don’t think they’ve screwed around with the curriculum. They just started printing the books on trashy paper to cut costs instead.

My mother tutors kids in math and reading, and although most of her students are younger, she does have older (highschool age) ones sometimes. Every single one of them who has had trouble with math had trouble because he/she had not automatized basic arithmetic. This makes fractions difficult, and algebra impossible. Kumon has a pretty good program for working on this, but I think it requires the presence of a center that you have to go to once a week.

If you’re just going to get one book, either Saxon Pre-algebra or Saxon 8-7 is probably good.

For this kind of thing, if you live near a college (especially a junior/community college) it might be worth checking with the math faculty there. They may have examination copies of textbooks that publishers sent them that they ended up not using, or older editions that they no longer use, that they’d be happy to let you have for free.