Have you ever wished you could purchase a curriculum called “Work Ethic”? Are you looking for the perfect product to teach “Study Skills”? We all want our children to grow up to become hard working adults but it doesn’t happen by accident.

A work ethic is taught through hard work. While we sometimes think it’s only learned through manual labor, this is not true. Hard work is learned when persistence is required to be successful. Learning a strong work ethic is the result of doing difficult things. Such as math. Did you catch that?

College prep math teaches teens a strong work ethic.

Struggling with math problems is good for teens. It stretches their brains and helps them think deep thoughts. Because math requires regular daily work to succeed, it teaches consistency. It teaches determination as they face getting math problems wrong and correcting them. Self-instruction is a critical college readiness skill that is developed through challenging mathematical concepts taught via textbook or video. It will allow them to keep college and career options open so they are prepared no matter what opportunities they encounter.

College-bound teens need four years of high school math.

Most colleges require four years of high school math, including a math credit during senior year. While some colleges do require calculus, it’s uncommon. Many colleges do not require a specific level of high school math but do require a yearly math course. College prep math means working on math daily, every year in high school, but at the student’s ability level. Math should always be challenging so they are learning something new, but it should not be overwhelming.

College prep math follows a clear sequence.

Begin with a solid foundation in general mathematics. Once 6th grade math is complete, many students are ready for Pre-Algebra. The usual sequence of college prep math could be either of the following:

  • Pre-Algebra – Algebra 1 – Geometry – Algebra 2 – Trigonometry/Pre-Calculus – Calculus
  • Pre-Algebra – Algebra 1 – Algebra 2 – Geometry – Trigonometry/Pre-Calculus – Calculus

Geometry is completely different than Algebra 1. It’s possible for a child to hate Algebra 1 and tolerate Geometry with no trouble. Geometry includes daily practice with Algebra 1 skills, so it’s a great yearlong review of simple algebra before diving into the much more difficult Algebra 2 level. College bound teens need to take one of the college admission tests in 11th grade: the SAT, ACT, or CLT. To score well, it’s important the student has already completed Geometry before taking the test, so it can be helpful to take Geometry prior to Algebra 2.

Reworking missed problems is the best way to learn from their mistakes.

You don’t need to know math, you need to choose the right curriculum. Parents do not need to know upper math to teach it. Choose a homeschool curriculum which assumes the teacher doesn’t know the subject, providing instruction to both the parent and child, explaining concepts simply and allowing the student to learn through practice problems. Choose a curriculum that matches your student’s learning style and preferences. A perfect fit curriculum is more important than the highest rated curriculum. If they learn a lot from an average curriculum, it’s better than learning little from a top-rated program.

Study math with a positive mental attitude.

Assume an attitude of confidence and ability in math and avoid subconsciously instilling math phobia in your child.

Take a deep breath and handle math with the same manner you handled a dirty diaper years ago. It’s a dirty job but somebody has to do it, so a simple matter-of-fact attitude is the best way to face each day. Adding math games, literature, and supplements can convey that math is fun and interesting.

Consistency is the key to college prep math.

Whether your child is ahead in math or behind, daily consistency is the cornerstone of college prep math. Work on math each school day, without fail. If it’s a weak area for you or your child, make math your “never-miss-a-day” subject. Expect mastery but not perfection. Allow your child to learn gradually with consistent daily practice so they can improve over time. Holding your child back while waiting for the elusive perfection will slow them down in the math sequence and can cause math anxiety and frustration.

Use video lessons and the solution manual to guide their way when lost. Reworking missed problems is the best way to learn from their mistakes. Students can use the answer key as they work through the problem sets as they will do in college, learning how to learn in the process. Even if unfamiliar with math symbols, a parent can correct a math test, carefully matching each student answer to the solution manual.

Once you’ve made your plan, call a friend to share the good news! You’ve found the perfect curriculum for teaching study skills and work ethic! It’s called math.

Copyright 2018, The Old Schoolhouse®. Used with permission. All rights reserved by the Author. Originally appeared in the Fall 2018 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the trade publication for homeschool moms.

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Lee Binz is a dynamic homeschool speaker and author. Lee understands what it takes to graduate homeschool students who are fully prepared for college and for life. Her practical advice and organized presentations have helped thousands of homeschool parents muster up the courage to complete their homeschool journey.