kitchen table math, the sequel: Recommended Algebra 2 materials

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Recommended Algebra 2 materials

I'm looking for recommendations on Algebra 2 materials. A little background- Both of my sons are in geometry. The 8th grader is at a rigorous middle school. The 9th grader is at the local high school in an IB program. Back in 7th grade, he attended a strong school in AZ that refused to differentiate in math, so he basically repeated the 6th grade Singapore program in a class considered Pre-Algebra.

He is currently acing Geometry using a Prentice Hall text. He never has homework and has missed 10 points out of 400+ all quarter. At back to school night, the teacher told us how excited she was with the text because it had all these online lessons(!). The school is also using Prentice Hall for Algebra 2.

My son would like me to homeschool him in Algebra 2 over the summer so that he can begin Pre-Calculus next year. I figured he could just sign up at the local community college, but they don't really offer anything like this, unless he tests into College Algebra. To do so, he must also test at college level for reading & writing.

I'm guessing it will be up to me (and him). I'll start by giving him the New Elementary Mathematics level 2 placement test. Although I saw the Teaching Company program recommended, I'm wondering if anyone can suggest a strong Algebra 2 text for us?


RMD said...

a structured, scripted curriculum (ala Direct Instruction) would solve many of these problems, as it is tested and teachers generally don't have to worry about curriculum development, and instead can focus on delivery and whether students are getting it

teachers shouldn't be in the curriculum development business. . . just the delivery business . . . its' just too much to do both

Katharine Beals said...

Cassy, The best algebra books I've found were published prior to the 1950's. I've bought a few as Amazon used books, and am about to post a comparison set involving Wentworth's Algebra, published in 1898!

Anonymous said...


I have the Saxon Algebra 2 books, but I never really used them. For a change, my son did fine in his class all year.

But, I think Catherine used them, although I could be wrong. I thought it was Saxon. Anyway, she could probably weigh in about that when she gets a chance.


lgm said...

I've been scoping this out too, for my mathy kid. So far, I'm thinking University of Missouri's high school Alg. II if I need an accredited course:
They use a later version of Dolciani and Brown. If I can get our h.s. to accept an unaccredited course, I'll probablygo with selections from Art of Problem Solving. Also, your state engineering U might offer the course in summer residential session.

Anonymous said...

Search the Home School Buyer's Co-op site for Thinkwell Intermedeiate and/or College Algebra.

OrangeMath said...

I've been scoping this out too, for my mathy kid. So far, I'm thinking University of Missouri's high school Alg. II if I need an accredited course:
As suggested, for home use with a capable student, Dolciani's Algebra & Trig would form a great Algebra 2 course. Try to do "C" problems. A supplement with probability would be good. The moderate cost, two-week summer statistics class at the University of Michigan (MMSS) would suffice. Furthermore, as suggested, "getting into" the "Art of Problem Solving" classes would really push. In short, I'm voting for the earlier post!

Allison said...

Can you tell me why Dolciani Alg II is "great"?

I used it in high school. It was okay. Not great, just okay. That edition from the 80s already had too many asides and politically correct pictures. Some explanations were jumbled to say the least. I've written about my dislikes of Dolciani Alg I somewhere else on this site, but haven't spent time rereading Alg II to find errors/inaccuracies/confusions.

Rather than great, I'd call it the best of a bad lot; serviceable.

ChemProf said...

I don't know what community colleges are like in your area, but I'd try College Algebra first and see if he can place in. "College level" at a community college isn't necessarily as advanced as you might think.

Parentalcation said...

I agree with ChemProf. If he is that good in math, he will have no problem testing into College Algrebra.

Parentalcation said...

And if he can't test into College Algebra, he probably shouldn't be going into pre-calc.

OrangeMath said...

You're right. Dolciani is just fairly straightforward with little of the visual noise that buyers of textbooks enjoy, yet not so minimal, to be simply a handbook. What I see in it is the hint of a direction, not just a sequence of topics. What great texts deliver is a coherence to the student of a body of knowledge. Dolciani is far from perfect. It just has fewer self-inflicted defects.

I see it as an efficient way to get through the core of Algebra 2 with proper vocabulary. Excess time for exploration of some areas (drilling down) could then occur, or time for learning Mathematica or MatLab could be found. The fat books with online videos consume too much time.

PhysicistDave said...

We will be using Stan Schmidt's "Life of Fred" series for Algebra II. Stan has a Ph.D. in math, and his books generally cover all the bases; however, the problems tend to be "thinking" problems (a la Singapore Math), and kids may need more drill on basic manipulations.

The good news is that modern Algebra II (and by "modern" I mean at least going back to 1970) is a bit of a joke -- sort of a random smorgasbord of topics that were not covered in Algebra I.

Now, if you want to see what advanced high-school algebra was like over a century ago, check out from your local university library Chrystal's “Textbook of Algebra: An Elementary Textbook for the Higher Classes of Secondary Schools and for Colleges,” a book originally published in 1889 and updated in 1900 and 1904.

Now *that’s* algebra!

“In days of old, when men were bold, and giants walked the earth…”

I’m planning on having my kids work through Chrystal before they get out of high school.

Dave Miller in Sacramento

OrangeMath said...

Thanks Dave, has at least excerpts of Chrystal's text, and it appears that it has been revised (ie new copyright) in 1999. Older editions should be free:

OrangeMath said...

"Life of Fred" looks pretty good. Thank you. Wish I could figure out a way to use them in public school. Pre-Algebra: Biology could be tremendous.

CassyT said...

Thank you for all of your input!

I thought I'd update you on my son. Last night, he told me that his Geometry was going move him to Algebra 2 next quarter. (I'm out of town, so I'm a bit fuzzy on the details.

He claims she came to him with this idea. He still has to know all of the Geometry material. I'm not sure what he's missed already in Alg2, either.

My first thought: He will no longer be able to complain about how easy the course is.

My second: How important can Geometry be if they can let him skip 3/4 of the year?

This should be interesting.

OrangeMath said...

On Geometry as a High School class:

This is difficult to write about, but quite simply Geometry as a high school course should be considered more of an elective.

In the old battle of Alg 1 - Geometry - Alg 2 sequence vs Alg 1 - Alg 2 - Geometry, the second sequence wins hands down, but this is too upsetting to math teachers to make explicit.

Look at the NMAP Final Report and consider the work of Achieve, it's all about getting rigor in Algebra 1 and Algebra 2, Geometry is limited to measurement items like areas.

The purpose of Geometry as a course is to teach proof. Topology could also be used, but Geometry has history and accessiblity. However, most schools have eliminated extensive proof from Geometry courses. As a result, most high school Geometry courses are little more than basic Algebra story problems using Geometry as the examples, which is okay, but a waste of a year after Algebra 1. The standards people get this, everyday math teachers don't. In short, Geometry has been dumbed down to the point of no value. Algebra 2 is the game.

This is not to say Geometry shouldn't be required. Certainly, a course focused on proof to setup a strong Honors Algebra 2 or Pre-Calc course should be given.

Yes, what I wrote above looks like crank opinion, but I think it is more of "it is what it is." Let's adjust to it; instead, of dwelling on the WHAT SHOULD BE. Remember, Geometry was almost eliminated from the high school sequence in the 1940's for good reasons.

CassyT said...

Conferences were last night & we made a beeline to the Geometry teacher. She instigated this change, talked to the counselors, talked to the Alg. 2 teacher, then spoke to my son. He starts Alg 2 on Monday and not one person is concerned that he will have any trouble.

My 8th grade son, also in Geometry (middle school) has been working proofs for 3 weeks. He had a question on proving congruent triangles. The older one, who hadn't done any proofs yet in his Geometry said: "oh, that's blah, blah, blah" (OK, so I wasn't paying much attention, yet.)
Younger son: How did you know that?
Older son: I was bored & read ahead 3 chapters in our book.

I think he'll be o.k.

Doug Sundseth said...

"Certainly, a course focused on proof to setup a strong Honors Algebra 2 or Pre-Calc course should be given."

I absolutely agree. A strong, proof-based, Geometry course is one of the basic classes that every college-prep HS education should include. It teaches skills that are not taught anywhere else and that engender (or at least support) a way of thought that is critical. I understand that this is a difficult course for many students and that many "math" teachers find it very difficult to teach. The prize is worth the effort.

Anonymous said...

Cassy, hello...your son is ready for Foerster's Algebra & Trigonometry book that is a follow-up to his Algebra 1 book that your son used last year. Why look any further. It is a great text that uses a function based approach to teach the necessary Algebra 2 skills. I'll lend you a copy if you'd like.
- your son's former math teacher:-)