What curriculum do you use?

The textbooks I use are an older Holt Curriculum.  While I use it as a resource, I have my own teaching style when it comes to explaining math.  I agree with many of the methods that Mr. Demme uses in teaching Math-U-See; however, I use a great deal of review and more of a spiral approach when it comes to concepts.  I have experience working with all types of students – advanced, ADHD, learning disabilities, autism, etc.  Due to this, I am able to target students exactly where they are and build confidence in their ability to solve problems.  My experience tutoring, teaching in both public and private school, and homeschooling my own children influences my view of students as individuals and their understanding of the material.

What is my responsibility as a student taking a math class?

It is important for parents and students alike to understand the pacing of a weekly class schedule.  In a classroom setting, it is important that each student be responsible for his or her own learning.  Students can accomplish this by completing homework assignments before class, attempting to rework any problems they do not understand, and coming to class prepared with questions of problems they do not understand how to solve.

Each class will begin with a time to answer questions.  Because this time is limited, it is critical that students have attempted to correct any problems on their own using the resources at their disposal, such as notes from class, example problems from their textbook, working with a peer, parents, etc.  This will leave class time for those difficult to work problems that cause students to be stumped.  As they watch the instructor work out the problem that they have attempted, this creates an “aha” moment and aids students with comprehension.

The bulk of class time will revolve around teaching lessons.  Covering an entire textbook in only thirty-two weeks is no easy feat and time is of the essence.  Students will have a stronger understanding of the material if they will read over the lessons prior to classroom instruction.  Each week the initial set of homework will include practice problems very similar to the examples given in class.  It is critical that students ask for help if there is ANY struggle answering these initial questions.  This is the basis or foundation of the lesson.  Without a strong understanding, students will continue to flounder.

Parents, if students are coming to you asking questions that you cannot answer…PLEASE let me know.  Sometimes in a classroom setting, a student is nervous about asking a question in front of others.  I will do my very best to make this as easy as possible, such as allowing students to write down their question on the board before class, turning questions in to me privately, and most importantly, never making a student feel stupid or ridiculous for asking a question.  I WILL encourage students to attempt the problem again on their own, to look at their notes and in their textbook, and to ask a peer or parent for help.  My rule of thumb is – ask three, then me.  This helps keep a classroom running smoothly and keeps us from getting bogged down with too many questions that with some extra work on the student’s part can be accomplished without my help.  I find this also helps students retain the material better as well.



Why does my child need a diagnostic assessment?

Mathematical concepts build upon each other just like a house is built.  First you need a strong foundation before you can build the walls and add siding.  Before beginning a math course, there are certain skills required for a student to excel.  If a student is to begin Algebra 1 and does not understand the concept of order of operations (a skill taught in Math Course 1), this student will struggle until the missing gaps of understanding are filled.  Making sure the necessary building blocks are in place will help a student to build confidence.  I have found confidence to be a key factor in students excelling in mathematics.  Without this component, students are unfocused, lack desire, and ultimately, struggle to learn the material.

In a class situation, it is even more critical, as individual student time is limited.  If a student is taking a course and not fully understanding the material, both time and money are being wasted.  By testing students and making sure all of the necessary building blocks of learning are in place, students will excel in a classroom setting.  Taking the time to assess students is fully worth parents time and investment when it comes to enrolling a student in a math class.

Benchmarks – Is my child on grade level?

The following concepts are simply suggestions and are not meant to be a rule for every child.  I am also not suggesting this is the only concept that should be taught, but simply a recommendation for when a particular concept should be taught/mastered by the end of that particular grade level.

1st grade – Addition

2nd grade – Subtraction

3rd grade – Multiplication/Memorize multiplication tables

4th grade – Division

5th grade – Fractions

6th grade – Decimals

7th grade – Percent

8th grade – Pre-Algebra

9th grade – Algebra I

10th grade – Geometry

11th grade – Algebra II

12th grade –  Advanced Algebra & Trigonometry OR Statistics


Building a foundation

I have parents come to me and say, “My child is ready for Algebra I, but I skipped all the stuff he/she didn’t need to know.”  ”

What I say – “Okay, well, let’s give them a placement test to see where they are.”

and what I want to say – “You did what?!?”

What I find so disconcerting about this comment is that math is not like history or science.  In history, you can learn about Rome without learning about the Etruscans or the Byzantines.  In science, you can learn astronomy without learning the physics behind the star’s fusion.  Because all of you reading this are readers :), you understand the basics of learning to read.  You cannot learn to read without first learning the letters and their sounds.  You then learn to blend words or perhaps memorize sight words or in most cases, both.  Learning to read is progressive and skipping steps is not an option.

Talk with any math professor, and they will be able to tell you how often they are required to teach basic math skills students never learned along the way before reaching their class.  Those things that you don’t think you use as an adult – therefore, why would my child need this information – is a misnomer.  We use math every day in far more situations than we realize.  The foundation must be there in order to progress to higher level maths.  Take time to teach each concept and check for understanding through more than one type of assessment and review, review, review.


What makes me a good teacher?

How does someone become an excellent educator?  It is the ability to learn, modeling for children a love for learning.  If you have a willingness to learn, you can sit down with your child and together you can learn anything.  You don’t have to know it already.  You don’t even have to get it right the first time.  It’s even okay to have a wrong answer every once in a while.  Thomas Edison didn’t get the light bulb right the first time.  We too will struggle in our quest for gaining knowledge.  This is where we learn humility, perseverance, and how to make wise use of our time.

As living beings with a limited amount of time on this earth, we all have to make choices as to where and how we spend our time.  Having the ability to learn and making the wise choice of how to help your child learn do not always coincide.  For example, growing up I was on the swim team and still have a great love for swimming.  However, at the time my daughter needed to learn how to swim, I also had a two-year-old son.  Attempting the feat of watching him around water and teaching my daughter to swim at the same time did not seem like the best idea.  Instead our family chose to pay for swimming lessons where someone else could teach my daughter to swim, and I could spend that time focusing on my son while still watching her swimming lessons at the same time.

For you as parents, you will constantly be faced with the same choice.  Which subjects or areas of life will you teach your child and which ones will you choose to find someone else to teach them.  Perhaps you want to teach your oldest algebra, but it will mean lots of time studying the material yourself and you still have younger children at home you are teaching/caring for at the same time.  Making the choice to hire a tutor or have your child attend a math class or *gasp* put them in public or private school may very well be the best option.  The end goal of learning algebra is still achieved.

Homeschool Parents

I love having conversations with homeschool parents, if nothing else for no other reason than to encourage them.  So many homeschool parents share the same fear my mother had while homeschooling my brother and I growing up.  “Am I teaching them everything they need to know?  Is there something I’m missing?  Will I regret not having them in a mainstream educational facility?”  Those are just a few of the questions parents’ often ask themselves while homeschooling.  When I chose to major in education, one thought I often had was, “No one can ever tell me I can’t homeschool my own children.”  I knew I was qualified by the state’s standards and therefore, more than qualified to teach my own children.  So how does that help other homeschool parents who don’t have a degree in education?  I’m glad you asked.

Have you ever given a speech and felt nervous just before speaking?  Even speakers who give presentations all the time may feel somewhat jittery.  Many would say this is normal.  This applies to homeschool parents as well.  Those questions you are asking yourself.  Those fears, second guesses, are a good thing.  You are normal.  You become a better teacher and parent when you are constantly evaluating your curriculum, your methodology, your schedule, your activities, your children’s learning styles, and I could go on and on.  The Bible says we are not to live in fear.  2 Timothy 1:7  For God gave us not a spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control.  Keep asking yourself those questions with a spirit of power, of love, and of self-control.  As you have those questions, pray and ask God for the answers you need.  Speak with other homeschool parents.  Draw from the vast resources available to us living in the 20th century.

I am so grateful to my parents for homeschooling me growing up.  My father worked very hard, so my mother could stay-at-home, and as homeschool parents well know, my mother made many sacrifices in order to homeschool my brother and myself.  Neither of my parents graduated from college, but both my brother and I have gone on to receive degrees.  My brother went on to get his masters and now runs his own company at the age of 28.  I am living my dream of being a stay-at-home mom homeschooling my two children.  I have more time to focus on their educational needs and their walk with Christ.

Homeschooling isn’t perfect.  It’s flawed because we are human, just as public school, private school, or any other educational institution is.  I want to say, “Thank you!  Thank you for taking the responsibility of educating your children, whether that means you choose to homeschool them, send them to public school, or pay for private school.”  The choice is yours and only you know what is best for your family.  I pray God blesses you mightily in your endeavors, because ultimately, the responsibility of educating our children relies on us, the parents.

What math curriculum is the best?

A question often asked by homeschool parents is “What math curriculum is the best?”  Growing up as a homeschooler, I have used Bob Jones, Abeka, and Saxon for the most part.  While in college, I tutored homeschool students who were using Saxon.  In the public and private schools, I taught using Holt math.  As a homeschool parent, I am now using Math-U-See while challenging my kindergartener with extra Singapore Math pages.  So, what is the best?  All I can give you is an opinion, so take it for what it’s worth 🙂

First off, buy all the materials when using your primary math curriculum.  A pieced together curriculum is not what the company created and using it as so gives an unfair reproduction of results as well as evaluation from student and teacher.  Don’t change curriculum often.  Make your best choice as the teacher and stick with it for the year.  After a year’s time, you will have a better idea of what works and what doesn’t work for your child.  If you have a curriculum that works well for you as the teacher and student, I do not recommend making a change.  The glamor of a new curriculum or that curriculum everyone else is using may be the downfall of learning math for your child.  Buying textbooks is an investment, and it is easier to purchase products more inexpensively if you know what you will be using one or two years from now.  Before you make additional purchases, make sure you both like the material.  Try it for one year before making a decision on buying additional textbooks.  It may seem wonderful at first, but by mid-year, you both decide, this is not what you expected.

Abeka –

  • covers the basics
  • recommended for a teacher who is not strong in math
  • good for high school students who want basic math
  • not recommended if you are looking for challenging material

Saxon –

  • great for the younger grades up through middle school if you like a lot of repetition
  • Advanced math had serious weaknesses not giving enough examples and jumping around from Algebra to Geometry to Trigonometry without any real correlation.

Holt math –

  • great for a group setting where students are at different levels of learning
  • may be overwhelming for a teacher who is not familiar with using lots of resources
  • must allow prep-time to teach this curriculum
  • buying an older version helps reduce cost

Math-U-See –

  • very little prep-time needed
  • mathematically sound
  • teaches math sequentially
  • has a great foundation for place value
  • strongly recommend for the younger grades
  • additional challenging material may be necessary for a bright student
  • If an older student has not used Math-U-See, I do not recommend picking up this curriculum at a later date.

Singapore Math –

  • good curriculum
  • I know the least about this curriculum as I have not seen a full set, but I do like to use the student textbook and intensive practice for extra challenging material.

So which curriculum is the best?  The one that works for you as the teacher and your students.  To find out what works well, try to borrow a full set of material and practice using the first few lessons yourself.  New curriculum seems overwhelming at first.  Take it piece by piece and if you like what you see, then make your purchase.  After you have decided what you as the teacher want to use, then you can move forward using that material.  It is more important that you feel comfortable with the material than your student.  Children will find ways to complain about anything.  “This is boring.  I don’t like this.  I want something else.  Can I have…?”  There is no perfect fit when it comes to children wanting to do school.  There will always be good days and bad days using any curriculum.  After a year’s time, then you can have a better idea of whether or not to continue that curriculum for you and your student.


Side note –

I love seeing new material.  If you have a question about a particular curriculum, I would love to see a copy and give you an evaluation.

My background

I was homeschooled kindergarten through ninth grade and attended private school in tenth and eleventh grade.  After graduating at the age of 16, I took classes at a small Christian college while still living at home my senior year of high school before transferring to Union University where I began school as a double major Computer Science and Mathematics.  As a freshman, I realized my desire was to teach math, so I changed majors and graduated with a degree in education.

Mrs. Rickett’s Domain

I started tutoring students in math when I was in college.  For four years, I loved teaching math to fourth graders up through Algebra II.  For the next five years, I learned what it’s like to be a stay-at-home mom caring for small children.  We had four additional children, all under the age of four, come through our home during that time through fostering with the state of Tennessee.  Now that I am homeschooling my two children in kindergarten and preschool, I have the joy of once again opening up our home to math students.  I currently tutor two students in basic math and pre-algebra and will soon be adding three additional pre-algebra students to my schedule.  I look forward to investing in each of their lives as we prove math can be understood by anyone.

Proving math can be understood by anyone