Posted tagged ‘DIVE math’

Shormann Math Builds Effective Study Habits

October 19, 2015

With Shormann Math, using 21st Century technology to create a math course allows us to obtain valuable information revealing that, regardless of skill level, students who want to learn math, can, and Shormann Math has the tools for them to do so.

For example, during quarterly exam week, students are provided with two full-length practice exams. Practice exams allow students to prove to themselves that they really do (or don’t) know the material covered that quarter. Besides the practice exams, they are given other guidelines on how to prepare for the exams. The guidelines are based on years of teaching experience, as well as observing university professors. Between my bachelor’s in aerospace engineering, and a PhD in aquatic science, I had a lot of professors and exams! And the best professors, the ones who really wanted you to learn the material, did two things: 1) they kept a file of previous exams in the library that students could check out and study, and 2) they had office hours so students could ask questions. Shormann Math provides both, with 1) practice exams that reward students for a good study effort and 2) free email Q&A any time.

But are the practice exams helpful? Well, see for yourself. The following graph displays the recent results of Quarterly Exam 1 scores for Shormann Algebra 1 and 2(beta) students.* The bottom line is that students with “Good” study habits made A’s on the exam. The graph is a display of the obvious fact that good study habits build fluency, resulting in good scores on the actual exam. Being fluent in math means you know how to use the rules to solve new problems. And the purpose of the Practice Exams in Shormann Math is to provide new problems so the student can prove to themselves whether they are fluent, and if not, what they need to review.

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At some point in your life, you will be tested on a large amount of information. Whether it’s for a job you really want, a driver’s license, an SAT, ACT, MCAT, etc., sooner or later, test day is coming. And if you really want that license, or that job, etc., you are going to put the personal effort into it to study. Shormann Math is designed to help students build effective study habits in a less important setting where the stakes aren’t as high. But, as the results above reveal, the best curriculum in the world won’t make a bit of difference if the student doesn’t put that personal effort into following directions and studying effectively.

*Graph details: Scores are from Quarterly Exam 1 taken by students in Dr. Shormann’s live online Algebra 1 and 2 classes, October 2015. The three categories are based on student performance on the 2 practice exams take prior to the actual exam. The students are allowed to take the practice exam, review mistakes using the solutions manual provided, and then take it again. Students who put the effort into retaking each practice exam were rewarded for their effort with a higher grade. Students are also encouraged to show work on their paper, solving each problem by hand. For the actual exam, they are required to submit handwritten work on each problem. The practice exams were counted as one of their homework grades, providing further encouragement to complete them. The three categories were broken down as follows: “Good” students averaged 95% or better on the practice exams, all of which took at least one of the exams more than once in order to get a higher score, which means they took the time to correct their mistakes and study the problems they missed. “Mediocre” students took each exam once, but averaged below 95%, and showed little to no effort to try the exam again, missing a valuable opportunity to review and build fluency. “Poor” students did not attempt either practice exam. Of special note is the fact that the trend was consistent, regardless of which course students were doing (Algebra 1 or 2).  Also, because the students had the opportunity to retake each practice exam until they received a 100, study effort, and not skill level, was the main factor influencing performance on the actual exam. Not all students are equally gifted in math (or any subject), but students who are less-skilled at math can do better by studying harder. These results provide good evidence that, with Shormann Math, students who want to learn math, can, regardless of skill level!

Should my Child Do Saxon Math 8/7 or Algebra 1/2?

July 31, 2014
Need more arithmetic review before Algebra 1? Then do Saxon Math 8/7. Fluent in arithmetic and ready for more algebra-type concepts? Then do Saxon Algebra 1/2.

For students ready for pre-algebra, we recommend Saxon Math 8/7 for most of them.

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.

Math 8/7 provides daily Facts Practice that Algebra 1/2 does not. This daily practice provides an opportunity to build fluency in areas many students struggle with, like fraction/decimal/percent.

Math 8/7 includes daily Facts Practice that Algebra 1/2 does not. This daily practice provides an opportunity to build fluency in areas many students struggle with, such as fraction/decimal/percent.

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

Texas Law Bans the Mention of Evolution in Textbooks

September 18, 2013

It’s a typo, and a funny one at that! But wait, some are saying this might not be such a bad idea : “Imagine. What if all theories about changes in life forms over time advanced in textbooks had to go by content-based names like genetic drift, horizontal gene transfer, symbiosis, and natural selection? The explanations would have to make way more sense, thus be open to evidence-based objections in given cases.”

Now, I don’t know of anyone who disagrees descendents differ somewhat from their ancestors. Change happens, and if you want to call that “evolution”, fine (I prefer “adaptation”, or “change”) but why not be more specific, as the article linked above describes?

Why not just focus on the various mechanisms of inheritance, without reference to evolution? Think about it. The “banning evolution” story by WFAA news in Dallas was published last night, and broadcast over the evening news, and nobody caught the typo! They have since discovered the blunder, and the text was edited and video taken down this morning. But how does a major news station in a major United States city miss something so obvious?

Graduating ideologues, not scholars

The problem is that people are confused, really confused, about the whole creation/evolution battle. And this confusion is evidence of a complete breakdown in not just higher education, but all education. As this fantastic Wall Street Journal article states, at today’s academic institutions, “Whatever your stance regarding the “culture wars” and the politics of higher education, it is undeniable that a great many graduating students have little idea of what genuine intellectual exploration involves. Too often, learning to think is replaced by ideological scorekeeping, and the use of adjectives replaces the use of arguments.”  

Yesterday (Sep. 17, 2013), the Texas State Board of Education heard public testimony regarding new textbooks up for adoption. Review panels are selected by board members to supposedly check for factual errors and ensure that the books are meeting state standards. Because one or two reviewers suggested teaching “creation science”, the anti-creationists went ballistic. Armed with plenty of adjectives, the ideologically driven Texas Freedom Network staged a protest. Similar to the dinosaur history protest in front of a recent Texas homeschool convention, they even brought some of the same adjective-filled signs!

For several hours, the board heard from over 50 testifiers, the majority of which parroted the same thing: keep creationism out of textbooks. From concerned parents to Univ. of Texas professors to the ACLU, over and over the board heard ideological comments laced with adjectives. If you wanted proof of the claims made in the WSJ article mentioned earlier, this was the place to be. It was a sea of anti-intellectualism, complete with people running around in dinosaur costumes!

Standing up for Science

But a few of us did show up to encourage intellectual exploration and encourage the board to approve textbooks that give students the best 21st Century Science education they could get. In my public testimony, which you can download here, I encouraged board members to reject textbooks unless they revised them to include the subject of epigenetics. I gave them all a copy of the Mysterious Epigenome, signed by the author. I also gave them a course map for the next biology standards revision. My course map included 4 big ideas, and was based off a course map for the University of Texas’ introductory biology course. I added an idea on “mechanisms of inheritance”, that does not mention evolution, but instead focuses on testable, repeatable science surrounding the various mechanisms for inheriting biological information. 

In a 21st Century biology course, you might as well not even teach it if you aren’t going to include a discussion of epigenetics. But what is epigenetics? Well, just think of your DNA (which each cell has an identical copy of) as the “ship”. A ship stays in port unless it has a captain to direct it. The “captain” is the epigenome, a set of information that switches the DNA on and off at different times and locations. Think about this, how did you go from a single cell to a human body with over 200 different cell types, all with the same DNA? The answer? Epigenetics! Or how did scientists recently produce hundreds of different varieties of plants in just a few years, all with the same DNA? Epigenetics!

Biologists with an ideological torch to wave are “nervous” about epigenetics, because it causes changes without a change in DNA, the “sacred cow” of evolutionism. Real scientists however, find it absurd to be “nervous” about epigenetics, and are pushing us farther and farther into this amazing field. In my own courses, my students are learning about epigenetics, as well as other 21st Century biology topics. My products are primarily for home-educated students, but private and public schools are certainly welcome to use them. But what will happen to public school students who are given a textbook filled with 19th and 20th Century biology concepts, many of which are just untested speculation? How far behind will these students be when they get to college and career?

Sitting Down for Science

The answer? Compared to my students and those in other countries that focus on science instead of ideology, American public school students will be way behind. And one of the main reasons they will be behind is anti-creationist ideologues who oppose anything a creationist mentions, even if it has to do with getting 21st Century Science into textbooks. Prior to TFN’s dinosaur costume party, I met up with Ron Wetherington, an anti-creationist activist and anthropology professor at SMU. Being a natural history researcher, I did not expect him to know much about epigenetics, but I asked him what he thought about getting it into textbooks. He didn’t think it was a good idea. When I tried to keep the discussion going, he was not able to give a reasonable answer and politely excused himself from the conversation.

Next, University of Texas molecular biologist Dr. Arturo De Lozanne spoke during the protest, proclaiming students deserve the best science education based on the latest research. Afterwards, I spoke with him about getting the latest research, which would include epigenetics, into textbooks. I told him I was a creationist, which immediately stoked the anti-intellectual fires in this otherwise intelligent man. Amazingly, Dr. Lozanne was not in favor of teaching something as fundamental as epigenetics to high school students! But minutes before he said he was for teaching the latest research. This irrational response could only be because, to agree with me would mean that he agreed with a creationist, which would be politically incorrect and an ideological blunder.

Dr. Lozanne was holding a sign that said “Kids deserve a future”, so I asked him if he thought ALL kids deserve a future, include unborn children. He said that wasn’t relevant to the discussion. To an ideologue, it’s irrelevant, but to a moral, scientifically minded person, it is 100% relevant. You see, science has confirmed life begins at conception, so if you are against protecting a human, just because they are developing inside rather than outside their mother, then you are anti-science. I was able to show Dr. Lozanne that his lack of desire to care for all kids was anti-science, at which point he was not able to give me a reasonable answer and made up a reason to excuse himself from the discussion.

I also talked to anti-creationist Zack Kopplin, who, like Dr. Lozanne, is a nice person. Zack is a history major from Rice University, which does seem appropriate considering the creation/evolution battle is primarily about interpreting history. Anyways, I tried to get his thoughts on teaching the fundamentals of epigenetics. I told him I was teaching it to my students, and that our company has higher standards for math and science than any state in the nation. Even so, he was not in favor of including epigenetics in the Texas textbooks. He was also unable to give me a reasonable answer and made up a reason to excuse himself.

Next up was Aron Ra, the self-proclaimed “YouTube Atheist”. Unfortunately, Aron is so intolerant of those who disagree with him that he would not even shake my hand. I tried to ask him  multiple times what he thought about including epigenetics in Texas biology texts, but he kept diverting the discussion to natural history, claiming that he could prove, without a time machine, common descent. When I kept pressing him to talk about scientific things instead of historic things, he was not able to give me a reasonable answer and conveniently excused himself.

During public testimony, I was able to talk to a couple of ideologues, including Josh Rosenau of the so-called National Center for Science Education. Josh was “tweeting” about every person who came up to testify, and I “tweeted” back appropriate responses on several occasions. Before he went up to testify, I spoke with him, joked about our “Twitter battle”, and then asked him what he thought about my testimony and including epigenetics. A friendly young man, Josh’s response was just more of the same, claiming that epigenetics was “too hard” for high school students to learn. This is an incredibly lame excuse, because, as I mentioned earlier, you can refer to the epigenome as the “captain” and the genome (DNA) as the “ship”. A 5-year old could understand that! Josh knows I’m a creationist, and I encouraged him that he doesn’t have to oppose everything creationists say.

Last up was Kathy Miller, President of the Texas Freedom Network. I also encouraged her to think harder about all of this. Kathy is not a scientist, and stated that on matters of science, she consults with her experts, nodding at Josh Rosenau of NCSE (who is actually not a scientist or a science teacher). I told her that I am a scientist, and a science teacher, and I could probably help her if she wanted a different opinion. To her credit, she did accept my gift of a copy of Mysterious Epigenome, and I encouraged her to let her children read it. I also told her she didn’t have to agree with everything in the book, but I assured her there would be many things she would agree with.

So what did I learn from these exchanges? Well, there are a lot of nice people out there who reject science and reason to support their ideology. And that is a huge part of the problem, if not THE problem with the whole creation/evolution battle in America. Some people, mostly liberals, have become so blinded by their “ideaological scorekeeping”, that they think it is impossible to agree with “them” about ANYTHING. Instead of a desire to engage in “genuine intellectual exploration”, we have otherwise intelligent people engaged in rampant anti-intellectualism, denying the very science they claim to be standing up for.

Solving the problem of rampant anti-intellectualism

What can we do to release the irrational and anti-intellectual stranglehold on America? First, pray, because it is God who changes hearts, and it is God who is Author of all knowledge and reason. Second, engage others. Be salt and light. Expose their foolishness while showing genuine care for them and for others. MAKE THEM THINK. For unbelievers, it is important to realize that by rejecting God, they reject reason (Psalm 14:1), so you can’t expect to have a rational conversation with them. Don’t let that frustrate you, and don’t push too hard to “prove God” or “win” the argument. God doesn’t need us to prove that He exists, everybody knows it already (Romans 1:20). And third? Well, if you have children, homeschool them!

Will Texas textbooks include fundamental topics that give students a 21st Century Science education, or will homeschoolers continue leading the way in American science and math education? Time will tell. Final textbook approval is in November.

wfaa mistake, bans evolution

Sowing DIVE Seeds

October 11, 2012

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“……But others fell on good ground, sprang up, and yielded a crop a hundredfold.”  Luke 8:4-8

In the parable of the sower, Jesus used the analogy of a seed to help His disciples understand how the Word of God works in the lives of people. When God’s word falls on the “good ground” of a noble and good heart, the Word is kept and bears fruit with patience (Luke 8:15). It is because Christ is author of both the spiritual and material things that He is able to make such amazing comparisons between His word’s effect on a human, and what happens to a real seed when planted in the right soil.

The parable also applies to other things, including our DIVE math and science instructional materials. When they are planted in the “good ground” of a child and family that are willing to take the instruction and “bear fruit with patience”, the results are sometimes truly remarkable. The following are just two of many examples we hear almost every week.

The Brooks family wrote us on Oct. 8, 2012,

“As a child with autism, my son had an IEP (Individualized Education Program) in the public school system, but somehow, he was left behind. After changing schools in sixth grade, I was informed my son was three years behind his peers and his transcripts didn’t reflect his performance level. Their outlook was bleak, and less than aggressive in working with me to help catch him up. So I removed him from the public school system and started homeschooling.

Making a long story short, I’m proud to share with you, my son is [now] well ahead of his public school peers. He’s currently in his senior year taking AP Calculus, AP Physics, AP Government, AP Macro, AP US History.

While my son did all this work himself, I really owe you a huge piece of recognition for your quality CD’s. My son is proof, even a once diagnosed “low functioning” autistic can gain success. Thank you so very much for your contribution to his success. My son plans to work in the computer animation and engineering field. He too appreciates and recognizes your CD’s to help him achieve success.”

And here is an excerpt from Tiffini, who made a comment recently on my Producer Math post:

“I couldn’t seem to wrap my brain around algebra. Instead of help, I got a transfer to “consumer math”. I was so embarrassed, I couldn’t tell my friends about the class I was in. I had been labeled “dumb”, so therefore I thought that was the case. Unfortunately I didn’t make it through college, but I believe strongly in education, so I worked very hard to put my husband through college, med school, and residency. In 6th grade our son was having trouble in school. I didn’t want the same experience to happen to him. After much prayer and fasting, we decided to homeschool. It is definitely not the easy way out. I’m thrilled that as a freshman this year he’s doing very well in algebra 2 with geometry. I’m so thankful for the dive cd’s.”

Some things to notice from those two stories include:

  • Both are examples of individuals and families who have the “good ground” that is so essential for taking the “DIVE seed” and bearing fruit.
  • Both are examples of government schools failing to properly educate, and that should be a huge warning to you if you currently have a child, especially one who is struggling, in a government school. And for Christians, government schools are really no place to put your children anyways, because the goal is not to help your child become a creative Christian, rich in good works and ready to give, willing to share (I Timothy 6:18).

So what about your family? Is it “good ground” for sowing not just “DIVE seeds”, but any seeds? Is it filled with the thorns (Luke 8:7) of whining, complaining, hopelessness, anger, and laziness? If so, it is never too late to turn your thorny, rocky soil into rich, fertile ground. It may take lots of prayer, patience, and daily repentance and reforming, but with God, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26). Think about it, if the two families highlighted above can turn impossible things into possible ones, then by God’s grace you can, too!

Student finds error in Saxon Calculus, 2nd ed

January 20, 2011

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Last week, a student who uses our DIVE CDs emailed me to verify an error in problem number 24 of Saxon Calculus, 2nd edition, Problem Set 63. Although this error did not actually affect the final answer, it was an error nonetheless, and was missed by the editors of the Saxon Solutions Manual. EVERY curriculum has a few errors, including the products my company, DIVE LLC, produces, so the point of this article is not to ridicule Saxon Publishers for their errors. The point is to talk about educating children. If you visit the DIVE website or read a DIVE catalog, you will quickly understand that I think it is time to “raise the standard” in K-12 education, and this includes completing calculus in high school. I realize not every student can accomplish this goal, but there is nothing wrong with at least making that the goal with the possibility of falling short.

So what is the big deal about this student who found an error? Well, he’s 12 years old. And he is home educated. By his parents. Obviously, this boy has an aptitude for math that exceeds that of most 12-year olds and even many adults, but the fact remains that he is almost halfway-through a course that is the equivalent of college Calculus I. And if there are 12-year olds out there who can do calculus, there are even more 13, 14, 15+ year olds who can do calculus.

Error in Saxon Calculus 2nd edition solutions manual. Okay, so the handwriting is not super-neat, but give the kid a break, he's 12!

Most people today realize the potentials of homeschooling, but strangely enough, there are still those who want to eliminate it. According to an article in the November/December 2010 issue of The Home School Court Report, American homeschooling is entering a “Third Wave” of persecution. The first wave had to do with education. Could parents really educate children at home? While there are some parents who do a really bad job at educating, the same can be said of many government and private schools. And in today’s world, 12-year olds doing calculus would be a real surprise in a government school and most private schools, but not in a home school.

The second wave of persecution was about the issue of socialization, but the evidence now weighs heavily against that idea, too. While the first two waves of persecution were based on false premises, the third wave of persecution is, according to HSLDA Chairman Mike Farris, essentially correct. According to Farris “Christian homeschooling parents are effectively transmitting values to their children that the elitists believe are dangerous to the well-being of both these very children and society as a whole.”

I believe God gave us the ability to do mathematics so that we could better understand His creation. I believe we should study math and science so we can know Him better and as Christians, act on the faith He gave us and get out there and be excellent at doing the work He has already prepared for us (Ephesians 2:8-10). I also believe we can study math and science without acknowledging its Author, but to do so, we miss half the story. There are those in society who actually think it would be better for us all if Christian 12-year old boys with above-average math aptitude were taken from their loving parents, placed in a large group, and taught a below-aptitude, godless curriculum. The boys would not learn that they were created in the image of the greatest Creator, and are therefore creative, too. Instead, their creativity will be stifled, supposedly so they fit in better with the group, and they will instead learn they were not created by a loving Father, but rather evolved from a meaningless pile of goo in a mysterious land that existed before history. And the people who promote such ideas are referred to as the “elites”? Really?

The third wave of homeschool persecution is nothing more than misguided “elitists” wanting to replace Christian religion, where we are taught to love the sinner but hate the sin, with a secular fundamentalist religion that teaches to hate some sinners and love many sins. The first two waves taught us home schoolers to surf. Skills learned in the past will help us surf this bigger, badder, third wave, too, and ensure the current freedoms American parents have to teach calculus to their math-gifted 12-year olds. But we won’t keep these freedoms if we sit around and do nothing, so get out there and surf!