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Why We Use Saxon Math



 This is a comprehensive post about Saxon Math, with a video from me at the end. I hope you find the information helpful as you make math decisions in your homeschool. 

Math can be an area that causes great frustration and confusion (for adults and children) in many homeschools. 

This was true in my home.  We waffled between math programs in our first few years of homeschooling, trying different textbooks, living math, and other approaches.

It doesn't need to be difficult, however, with ample resources and assistance available. 

I am not a mathematician by any stretch of the imagination. I do not like math, but I am learning to like it more and more. 

*This post contains affiliate links.

I also recognize the supreme importance of giving my children a SOLID math foundation while they are under my care. 

After two years of research, one year of using the actual program, and attending a math practicum, I am convinced that Saxon Math is the best option for my children.

*You cannot just choose a math program that everyone likes or is blogging about and hope for the best.  I do not believe it's wise to let your child choose their own math program based on what they "like". Math is too important to cut any corners.

You need to do your research, know your educational philosophy, and know your child's learning style. This decision took us a lot of time and effort, but it's worth it. 

I will make one disclaimer: I have one child with average math abilities and one child with exceptional math abilities. Neither one of my children have learning difficulties. Saxon may not be the best fit if your children have specific needs. (This is why you must know your children and their learning styles when investigating ANY curriculum.)

I will provide you with concrete reasons why we made this math decision, but I wanted to start by sharing a quote with you from Classical Conversations.  (I encourage you to read the linked article - it's very good.) This is the ULTIMATE statement of why we are using Saxon:

Saxon, then, is teaching us math the same way we learn the things we feel we enjoy more, in which we experience more pleasure. It teaches us what we know, it provides us types to compare, it asks us to draw out the lesson we are meant to learn, and it provides us with continued and ongoing practice. Essentially, it makes discoverers of us. For some, though, the difficulty may be in that they do not recognize that Saxon teaches this way. If that is the case, try to approach it this way for a while. Give it some time; practice. Your initial instincts will be to just tell your child what he should find when comparing the examples. Restrain yourself. Keep working through examples and asking comparison questions until he discovers the lesson for himself. Do this for several lessons. Eventually, you will find he is looking at the lesson this way himself—and he will be the better for it: he will have learned how to teach himself, which is nothing more nor less than learning how to learn.

It's so much more than MATH, it is a way of approaching life and learning that the authors of Saxon have created artfully in their curriculum.

Why Saxon?

I have created a Saxon Math Pinterest Board for you to follow and browse. There are many articles about the advantages of Saxon Math on this board. 


I hope you can take some time to read them if you are seriously considering Saxon.

Our personal reasons, however, include:

  • a spiral approach that works best for my children
  • thorough mastery and drill of facts, then applying that mastery to real life practice problems
  • tried and true - Saxon has been used and loved for a long time
  • NO FLUFF! 
  • college preparatory

Our Saxon Plan

Last year my son began in Saxon 3. This was a wonderful book, geared to a more child like approach to math. It didn't, however, contain cartoons or childlike pictures. It was straightforward, emphasized a lot of drill, practice and repetition.

My son learned his math facts SOLIDLY and enjoyed the book. He spent about thirty minutes each day on math. 

This year he is moving into Saxon 5/4 - which is designed to encompass ONE YEAR for either a fifth or fourth grader, depending on their ability. 

It is VERY HELPFUL to read the description of the Saxon Middle Grades curriculum before going any further. It is essential to understand how the books are set up and the philosophy of the program. 

My daughter used Saxon 7/6 last year. 

I will be honest. She told me quite bluntly that she didn't ENJOY Saxon Math, but that she could see it was making her a better mathematician. 

And isn't that what we want? 

This year, as part of her Classical Conversations Challenge A program whe will be using Saxon 8/7

Last year, I felt ill equipped to teach her the harder concepts, and I felt some things were falling through the cracks because of this.

We needed to find a solution, so I started doing research.

Supplemental CDs, DVDs, for Saxon Math

I investigated three instructional aids for Saxon math. 

I had heard a lot of good things about all three resources. 

One requirement was viewing on our computer and the ability to navigate between problems with the mouse. This took Teaching Tapes out of the running - although I think the instruction and concept looks VERY GOOD with them. 

A very helpful video for me was a comparison between the Dive CDs and Saxon Teacher. After watching this video I made my choice.



I chose the Saxon Teacher CDs because they contain the instruction for all of the lessons AND each and every practice and lesson problem, as well as test problems.

My daughter will read the lesson in the book, watch the lesson demonstrated on the computer, then work through the practice and lesson problems on her own.

After I grade her work, if she has questions about problems she has missed we can refer to the CDs for explanations and answers.

I like this. There will be no scratching my head about how to figure out a problem. Everything we need is right there on the CDs.

These CDs are $94 on Amazon, but WELL WORTH the investment in our math program this year. To me, this wasn't an area where I was trying to be frugal this year.  

Personal Thoughts

I've created a short video for you about my thoughts on Saxon.

I have not been compensated by Saxon. These are my PERSONAL thoughts after a lot of research and reading. 


Whether you choose to use Saxon or not, math in your homeschool is IMPORTANT and deserves your time and research.

It is my prayer you find a curriculum that fits your children and your teaching style/abilities. 

What math program are you using this year? 

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Reader Comments (18)

I've looked at Teaching Textbooks and others, but always come back to Saxon. It probably has to do with the fact that our older son used it throughout his homeschooling years and loved it. He's a computer engineer now so I think it worked. ;) We've only used the DIVE CD's every now and then. I will say our 6th grader hasn't done well in timed tests so instead of setting a timer to tell him when time's up, I let him finish and then tell him how much time it took He feels like he's accomplished something and I feel like he's learning more that way. I love that we have choices in homeschooling that allow us to adjust a curriculum to our student's needs. Thanks for the links.

August 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSouthern Gal

My favorite thing about Saxon is that they are keeping the 3rd edition free from the Common Core updates.

Also, even though I have a degree in accounting, I really appreciate how thoroughly every concept is explained with the 'why' in the teachers manual.

August 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKim

I love Saxon Math. My kids - not so much. But, it's what we use from 4th grade on. It's my "tried and true", and I don't foresee any changes in our future. Once they hit middle school, I add in the DIVE CD's. They make it a bit more tolerable for the kids. :)

August 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTara

We have faithfully used Saxon for 5 years, the past two years with the Saxon Teacher CDs. Truly a God-send to this mama! All the reasons you stated...yes, Agreed. Every year I find myself looking around at whatever else is out there, but I always come back to Saxon. It works well for us, so there is no need to switch things up.

Blessings! Kiley

August 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKiley

After using Abeka & Math-U-See in the past we are giving Saxon Math a try this year. I hope it meets our homeschooling needs. I've always heard good things about Saxon, so I hope next May I can say good things about it as well. Thanks for sharing your story.

August 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTonette

We tried Saxon 3 with my girls and it was a struggle. We switched to Life of Fred, but hearing your input on Saxon carries a lot of weight with me. Thanks so much for explaining in such detail.

August 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBecca

We use Math U See and it works well for us. We began the oldest with Saxon and the spiral approach didn't work for her. After 3 years of Saxon we moved to MUS and started over at the beginning. A mastery program made all the difference for her. I can see that some of my younger children would do well with Saxon or MUS (spiral or mastery) because math comes easily to them and makes sense. Others not so much! We're sticking with MUS.

August 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTristan

We're Saxon users from 54 onwards. The more scripted lessons in the earlier levels aren't for me and I love teaching the beginning concepts with games, living books and individualised activities. Only one of my kids (the math-science geek) loved it. At different stages (and for different reasons) they have all maxed out on Saxon and taken a year off but have all chosen to go back - either because they prefer it or because they couldn't find anything they really preferred. The two who are at university have been well served by Saxon so we'll probably continue Saxon with the younger two but not if they really hate it . There are a variety of good programmes out there and I'd be happy to let them switch to another programme if it was going to stop them being miserable.

August 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSandra

I feel like I know you better after watching the video! We've used Saxon since the 90's! They didn't have the cd's or dvd's back then! I actually have a Saxon Advanced Math set and Saxon Physics set available just for the shipping costs!

August 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSylvia

Hi Mary,
Thank you SO much for taking the time for such a thorough review of Saxon Math. We've been using it for the last 3 1/2 years and my oldest has struggled with math, while my second son whizzes through it. I decided after hearing so many rave reviews of Teaching Textbooks and checking into it to make a switch halfway through last year. It was a good switch for the oldest as it has increased his skills and confidence, but, we are switching back to Saxon with my second son as it was NOT a good fit for him at all. After looking over the Saxon Teacher DVD it looks similar to TT which appeals to me because I wish I had known that it existed and I would have stayed with Saxon and purchased that DVD.

August 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAnn-Marie

I wanted to give you a BIG hug and say thank you for the generous gift of this post. It was such a blessing to me to hear you and see you talk about Math. God Bless you for the kindness you offer! --Jill

August 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJill

You did a fantastic job, Mary, summarizing and explaining. We've used Saxon beginning around the 4th grade with 54. My engineer husband believes it's the best course available - our 2 oldest sons have been well-prepared for college engineering courses such as Calculus, Chemistry and Physics. We're sticking with Saxon, even if math isn't always fun.

August 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLinda

I completely dislike Saxon; my school district switched to it when I was in the 7th grade and I went from a math wiz doing Algebra I the earliest the district allowed to doing the least amount of math required in order to graduate.

BUT, I still find this post helpful and true. This sums it up completely, "You need to do your research, know your educational philosophy, and know your child's learning style."

Oh, and while I wouldn't let a young child choose his own math program, I have allowed my high schoolers to choose their Algebra programs from a short list of 3 or 4 programs that I feel are acceptable for our educational philosophies and their educational needs. I strongly feel that giving them the choice has given them an ownership of the material and willingness to work harder than they might otherwise (both have chosen a program that I probably wouldn't have chosen for them because of its difficulty).

Anyway, thank you for sharing on the NOT Back-to-School Blog Hop.

August 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRobin E.

If you or any of the moms have difficulty teaching Saxon yourself because of little ones or difficulty in Math I highly recommend Saxon Teacher CD-Roms! Buy them used $50 or less, much cheaper than tutors! You can watch a demo too.

We tried Saxon 65 in 5th grade with the DIVE CD & hated it & went back to Abeka Arithmetic 6. As my daughter got older & I knew the Math would get harder I feared I couldn't teach Math myself. I was thinking of TT but was advised by many veteran moms not too for the reasons you stated. I then found Saxon Teacher & am so glad we went back! We started with DD1 in Math 87 & she is now going into Alg. 2 this fall. She almost always gets an 80% or better on tests which means she mastered the concepts. DD2 also does well with Saxon. It frees me up to be with the littles.
Saxon is aligning to CCSS! If you buy any editions, you want to get the older versions published before 2004.
Editions of Saxon books that are still okay to use, You might have to buy used to get some of these ed. The CD-Roms mostly use the 3rd ed., with the exception of 76 which uses the 4th ed., Alg. 2-which you can use the 2nd or 3rd edition, and Advanced Math which uses the 2nd ed. for Saxon Teacher.
This newsletter, was extremely helpful to me. It's written by Art Reed. He is the author of “Using John Saxon's Math Books,” & also made the MASTERING ALGEBRA “John Saxon's Way” DVD "video" Teaching Series. I do not have any experience with these DVDs though but, there is a demo on-line Review of book here,
On the newsletter I learned that according to John Saxon himself, a student using John Saxon's textbooks who successfully completes algebra 1,(2nd or 3rd ed.), algebra 2, (2nd or 3rd ed.), and at least the first half of the advanced mathematics (2nd ed.) textbook, has covered the same material found in any high school alg.1, alg.2 & geometry textbook-including 2 column formal proofs. Their high school transcripts-can accurately reflect completion of an alg.1, alg.2, and a separate geometry course. When they take Advanced Mathematics: you Record "Geometry with Advanced Algebra" on transcript. Newer editions have removed the Geometry from Alg.1 & 2 & they have published a separate Geometry book.
You should never skip any of the lessons even if other home schoolers say its okay, here is why
Also, If they are struggling in any curriculum by the 30th lesson or before then they are in a book that is too difficult for them & no amount of supplements will help them.

Sounds like the elementary editions will still be okay to use & have not aligned to CCSS yet.
"Stephen Hake, as author for books in grades 4-8, still controls the content of those books. Nancy Larson, author for primary grades, still controls the content for those materials. Both authors are totally dedicated to John Saxon’s philosophy.
It’s the high school textbooks that are up for grabs since John was the author of those. (There is one high school text that is still controlled by its author, Frank Wang, and that is his Calculus book.)"

I hope some or all of this can help you or someone :)
God Bless

August 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterC.L

I don't know why it took me so long to realize that all the classical resources recommend Saxon. I was looking for something a little different for this new year, so I got Saxon K to use with both of my little ones. I LOVE it so far. It's a perfect confidence building curriculum for my son right now (it's way to easy for him, but he needs that for the moment), and it's something right at my daughter's level. I'm sure that their kindergarten curriculum is much different than their upper level books, but none the less I like it and will get the 1st grade set in a few months when we are done with this one! I'm glad to hear that you are enjoying Saxon!

February 11, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAmy

The essay is helpful because the author cites specific strengths pertinent to her own children, yet urges readers to do their own research and draw their own conclusions. Thank you!

We gave Saxon a substantially "MORE than fair hearing" during these past nineteen years. Every single time, Saxon math failed to be useful to my children. The K-3 program was a quite different topic, because of the gratingly annoying "script". We always found Saxon math to range from 1/2 year to 1 full year behind the material covered by numerous other math programs. The spiral approach is a good approach, in theory. Saxon's use of the approach, however, provides far too few problems per lesson for attempting to learn a new concept. My children articulated this weakness themselves, voicing strong frustration. They did not want to wait until the following day to start all over again. (Start all over again because insufficient practice was supplied in the first place.) As for me, in role of teacher, I quickly tired of taking a pencil to "X-out" chunks of text, agreeing with my student that the textbook explanations were murky and/or poor, and resorting to teaching the material myself in a manner clear enough for him/her to understand both the concept and the execution. My husband, who holds a Ph.D. in mathematical economics, agreed with what I have just written.

March 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAWC

Hi Mary! We recently switched to Saxon, since it's recommended by CC, but I just wanted you to know that this post is the best I've read at explaining the "why" of Saxon. I'm sharing it with friends and had to say "thank you" for writing it! :)

May 8, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterErin Ulrich

I want to know where you got the cute blouse. Also great job on the video. XO Katie

June 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKate Lyon

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