What I Look for in a Great Homeschool Algebra Curriculum

As an algebra teacher  looking forward to the coming school year at our homeschool co-op,  I’ve  been searching for my “dream curriculum” for Algebra I, one that would be particularly suitable for use in a class which meets two days each week, three hours in all.

What I Look for in a Great Homeschool Algebra Curriculum


What I Look for in a Great Homeschool Algebra Curriculum

What makes up my algebra dream course?  Well, to begin with:

  • Full coverage of all customary Algebra I fare, of course, using
  • Standard symbols such as appear on the SAT.  This may rule out older texts.
  • Then, Clear instruction using
  • Correct terminology and
  • Plenty of sample problems worked out step-by-step.   Since our class meets only two days each week, seeing the samples being worked out and hearing the successive steps explained is an absolute must!  Therefore, my dream curriculum includes

Next, because I want to avoid whole sections of homework being done incorrectly due to a misunderstanding of the process,

  • INTERACTIVE PROBLEMS are essential, to confirm that, yes, this is the right way to do these problems.  Of course, we do plenty of work in class together, but it’s amazing how much a student can forget from one day to the next.  A refresher is needed before beginning the homework.

An indispensable part of learning algebra is the homework.  My dream curriculum would include:

  • Numerous homework problems on the current topic, starting out on the easy end and becoming increasingly more challenging.
  • Answers to some problems (perhaps odd or even) would be available to the student to inspire confidence (or to direct the student back to the text or video) but would be located separately from the homework assignments (in a separate book or on a different CD) to discourage the lazy student from referring to the answers too quickly or frequently.  Additionally, each set of homework problems would include a smattering of
  • Review questions to keep previous topics fresh in the students’ minds.
  • Thorough tests should also be provided and would include at least
  • Two versions of each test, to allow for a re-test, if necessary.  Full step-by-step solutions should be provided for both homework and tests.

Finally, my dream course would be priced very moderately. These are homeschooling families, after all, many of whom are on shoestring curriculum budgets and also have to pay for my class!

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What Algebra curricula have you used with your homeschoolers? Were you pleased with it?

  • Math Mammoth?
  • Unlock Math?
  • Teaching Textbooks?
  • VideoText?
  • Saxon?
  • Mr. D Math?
  • Math-u-See?

Check out Sara’s comprehensive Financial Literacy from a Christian Perspective.

BTW- If you would like some coaching on courses and curriculum, contact our coaches.

To read about how to homeschool high school math, we have written 5 Practical Tips for Writing Homeschool Goals.

Check out Khan Academy – a great resource for help with math.

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What I Look for in a Great Homeschool Algebra Curriculum

Sara Hayes

21 Replies to “What I Look for in a Great Homeschool Algebra Curriculum”

  1. Sara,

    I know that it has been awhile since you posted this article but I just came across it today. My wife and I were homeschooled ourselves and are introducing our own online math curriculum that dot’s your i’s and crosses your t’s. Exciting video instruction. Unlimited practice & review. Complete solutions & explanations for each question. Use of real math and graphing in our interactive & adaptive testing & assessment platform, not just multiple choice. We feel that we are head and shoulders above anything on the market today. Plus the backend has been built in such a way that 1 teacher can oversee multiple student accounts, we had it designed this way for private school use.

    I would love to hear your thoughts! Our website is http://www.unlockmath.com



    • Matthew, your pre-algebra course looks good and folks should definitely consider it as a possible fit for their students. Thorough scope and sequence; nice graphics; enthusiastic instructor who conveys the information clearly. Obviously, loads of thought went into this course! (I made my own videos for my college prep algebra courses this past year and taught the classes using a modified flipped classroom. I wish MY videos had been as exciting as yours! 🙂 )

      I see your Algebra I curriculum will become available in August 2015. Best wishes for the success of Unlock Math products as you open up the world of algebra to home school and private school students.

  2. Thank you, Sarah. You are not alone in recommending Foerster’s Algebra 1. You may be interested in the review by Math Mammoth at http://www.mathmammoth.com/complete/algebra_1.php

    This website also includes links to Home Study Companion videos designed to be used with Foerster’s Algebra I, as well as a link to the more difficult-to-find Solutions Manual for the course.

  3. Thank you for this post and outlining exactly what homeschool teachers are searching for in a curriculum. I have developed an Algebra 1 curriculum that is very sequential and easy to follow. Each lesson contains a video lesson, notes worksheet, practice problems with step by step answer keys and a formative assessment. I’ve included tests, quizzes, mid-term, and final; however, it looks like I need to include multiple forms for each test.

    How much “homework” to you give? I’ve provided plenty of practice problems, but not sure if it would constitute enough for homework as well.

    Thanks for the insight, as now I know what I can add to my curriculum that would be beneficial.

    My website is: http://www.algebra-class.com if you’d like free examples of most algebra problems.

  4. In viewing your list of “requirements” and looking at your first suggestion for VideoText Interactive, It seemed like they meshed very well!

    The course completely covers Pre-Algebra all the way through what would be considered Algebra 2. Their terminology is much easier to follow and the problems for the students and the tests are worked out step-by-step. The Video Instruction is great because you can see numbers moving on the screen where they need to go, but it isn’t flashy which in my opinion becomes more entertainment than actual learning. There are also plenty of work problems…not to mention the approach is mastery over spiral so you are CONSTANTLY reviewing as you build on with the next lesson. It seems to be a misconception that there isn’t enough review. The students are in a constant state of reviewing the previous concepts. The program is also geared to the students grading their own work so they can find their mistakes and then tell the teacher why they missed it. I think that is key to understanding. There are also two sets of quizzes and tests. Finally, priced moderately? Well, the online version of VideoText is only $299 for ALL THREE COURSES! I was really surprised when I broke it down to how affordable that really was. I think what really drew me to this course for my kids is that the program really has a great language base and I didn’t feel like I was drowning in another world of math jargon. I guess when you find something you really like you want to pass it along to others! 🙂 http://www.videotext.com

  5. I saw on another page that you used a few programs for your own children when in high school. I’m curious…how did you blend Video Text with Saxon math.
    We are using video text but I feel that there simply isn’t enough review of concepts taught.
    I like the incremental approach of Saxon, but would miss the incredible graphics that VT offers.
    Any suggestions would be welcome.

    • Hi Jill! I agree with you on your observations regarding VideoText and Saxon. They both have their strong points … and their weak areas.

      If you’re looking for review problems while using VideoText: their website (http://www.videotext.com/) has a section called “Homeschooling and Independent Study – Enter Here”. Click on that, then click on “Support” at the top of the page. You’ll see a drop down menu which includes “Extra Practice Problems”. You’ll see practice problems for all 10 units covered in VideoText Algebra.

      Hope this helps! Continued blessings on your homeschool journey!

    • I confess I went outside the “homeschool curriculum” arena to find the text I would use for my Algebra I class. I chose Prentice Hall Classics, (3rd Edition) Algebra I Expressions, Equations, and Applications by Paul A. Foerster (ISBN 0-13-165708-9), and have been very happy with it. It is only a textbook, but I also keyed online videos to each lesson on our course syllabus. Because the parents must pay for the class in addition to the textbook, I was uncomfortable choosing a more expensive course such as Teaching Textbooks. If your student is learning algebra at home, you might want to consider Teaching Textbooks; some students do very well with it.

      And some don’t. That will be the same with ANY curriculum you find. What works for one student may not work nearly as well for another.

      I would just recommend researching on the internet as thoroughly as you can the current Algebra I curricula available, and read as many reviews of the products as possible. Also, ask your fellow homeschool moms what they use and if they like it, and why. Be sure to ask what type of learning style their children have and what their math aptitude is. A math-inclined student may LOVE one curriculum which a math-struggling student would absolutely SUFFER through. You also might want to describe your student’s learning style and math aptitude in an homeschool online forum and get some input from other moms who relate to your situation and have found a curriculum which works well for their children.

      Hope this has helped at least a little, Terri. Thanks so much for stopping by 7Sisters, and I wish you all the best in hunting down the right curriculum for your student. Blessings on your homeschool journey!

  6. Great ideas, Sara!

    I love the idea of at least two test to allow for a re-take. In all my subjects I want to see learning (preferably mastery) not just evaluation. A second test is a great way to provide that.

    I like review and real world applications too. My kids always want to know how, if ever, they will use this in their life beyond school.

    • One curriculum I used in my classes offered FOUR test versions. We used one test form as a practice test (I provided the answer key to the practice test so the students could check their own work, rework incorrect answers, and call me if they could not come up with the correct answer), the second test form as the actual test, and the third as the re-test. The fourth version was used for in-class review purposes.

      For the student who is willing to do the extra work to improve his grade, I am happy to allow a re-test opportunity.

    • Thanks so much for this very timely post. I can’t wait to check out these links. I work full-time in our music/education store and also tutor reindag part-time. I’m learning to fit it all in but sometimes I don’t do so well. Thanks so much!Judy

  7. As someone who struggles with Algebra myself, I agree that the video instruction is important….my kids have needed to see problems worked correctly (with explanations of the steps), and I am not confident (competent!) to do that with them in between classes with an Algebra teacher.

    • Sabrina, there are SO MANY online sites now that provide really good video instruction for math at all levels. So, even if the curriculum you choose does not include video instruction, a quick search on the internet will provide your student with the video review he needs between classes.

  8. I really like the idea of interactive problems so students don’t reinforce the incorrect way of doing things.

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