A pre-algebra course is a normal and recommended part of a child’s math education as they make the journey from a world of mostly numbers (arithmetic) to a world of mostly letters (algebra). John Saxon, together with Stephen Hake, authored two pre-algebra textbooks: Saxon Math 8/7 and Saxon Algebra 1/2*. Both books prepare a student for either Saxon Algebra 1, or our new Shormann Math Algebra 1. So should a child do Math 8/7, Algebra 1/2, or both?
*Math 8/7 (pronounced “Math Eight Seven”), is designed for the accelerated 7th-grader or average 8th-grader. Algebra 1/2 (pronounced “Algebra Half”), is a pre-algebra course that has more algebra and less arithmetic review than 8/7. For home educators, our child’s skill level, not grade level, trumps textbook naming systems.
Math 8/7 is all most students need for pre-algebra
For most students, Saxon Math 8/7 is all they need to prepare them for Algebra 1. It has more arithmetic review than Algebra 1/2. Prior to Algebra 1, we’ve found that most students need more review of things like addition, subtraction, multiplication, and especially division. And division is related to fractions, and Math 8/7 has more review of things like simplifying fractions and converting between fractions, decimals, and percents. Fluency in these areas will almost guarantee a smooth transition to Algebra 1.
Prior to each lesson of the Math 8/7 homeschool edition pictured above, students complete a Facts Practice that will help them build fluency in the areas mentioned. Algebra 1/2 does not include this daily practice, although it does review arithmetic (including fraction/decimal/percent conversions) in the daily homework sets.
Have your child do Saxon Math 8/7, Homeschool Edition, if you feel like they need to work on becoming more fluent in the arithmetic areas mentioned above. This is what we recommend for most students.
Have your child do Saxon Algebra 1/2, 3rd edition, if you feel like they are fluent in arithmetic and are ready for a little more algebra, which Algebra 1/2 provides.
Have your child do both books if they complete Math 8/7, but you don’t feel like they are proficient enough and maybe need to be eased more gently into Algebra 1.
The beginning of each Saxon course contains review from the previous course. Therefore, since Algebra 1/2 covers algebra in more detail than 8/7, there will be more in Algebra 1 that the Algebra 1/2 student has already seen. For students who are extremely fluent with their math, you may want to skip some of the first lessons to avoid unnecessary repetition.
If you have any other questions about pre-algebra, please leave a comment, or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.