“Do I HAVE to do all 30 problems?”

“This is going to take me forever!”

“But my friends just have to do evens and odds!”


Hey there! How’s it going?

No doubt if you are a Saxon teacher you’ve heard all of the above, multiple times. It gets old, doesn’t it? We want our students to be happy and complaining can wear everyone down!


So today I want to encourage you by giving you information and instilling confidence in what you’ve chosen with Saxon. First and foremost: yes, there is a reason behind the 30 Mixed Practice problems!


To start, it’s important to understand that John Saxon was a bit of a renegade in the education scene. His background was in teaching and flight instruction at the U.S. Air Force Academy. He had real life experience with the application of how math works and why it’s important. He wasn’t a school administrator or math philosopher. He saw some major problems in how kids understood (or didn’t understand) Algebra, and worked to fix them, upending math education in the process.


He wanted students to have mental agility and mastery of concepts over time. He wrote math books with simple sentences that students could read themselves. Then he set about giving them the skills to practice concepts repeatedly over time. He found that the best way to do so was to give students all the pieces before putting them together into bigger concepts.


Think about it: if you were building say, a car engine, it would be really hard to put it together if someone dumped a bunch of individual parts on you at once. But if they introduced each part of it and explained its function, then over time you’d learn the functions and see how they might fit together. Ultimately you’d start to see how it might all work together and you could get to building.


But if you only saw one part every so often–or for a little while and rarely again after that–you’d struggle to remember how it was supposed to all come together. Revisiting each piece along the way would ensure knowledge and memory of it.


That’s Saxon. And the way knowledge and memory worked best was with continual review every day. Saxon put only 15% of new concept problems into each day’s “homework” (what we see in the book as mixed practice). That means 85% is a review. With 30 problems, you can review a wide range of the old stuff while still getting adequate practice of the new (especially since you’ll see the new again in the next day’s mixed practice). You just don’t get quite the same level of old and new with just half that number of problems.


Here’s the goal of Saxon, in Saxon’s own words (you should find this in the foreword of most any Saxon textbook):


“This book was written to help you learn mathematics and to learn it well. For this to happen, you must use the book properly. As you work through the pages, you will see that similar problems are presented over and over again.Solving each problem day after day is the secret to success.” —Hake, 6/5 3rd Student Edition


The secret to Saxon is, there is no secret. The work has to be done every day. Frankly, and in my experience, it’s really hard to get the desired result from doing just half the work.


The good news? Helping students have fun with math is why I started doing this! I get it. Those books, with so much text, don’t look fun, especially to kids living in the digital world today. All those problems can be daunting. And many parents and teachers come in with “math baggage” from poor experiences that they may unknowingly transfer to students!


I encourage you by telling you: if you will do the work, Saxon works. Please, lean on me to help bridge that gap between hard work and enjoyment for your kids. Enjoy the corny brain breaks with them. Have them email me–I love to hear from kids! Encourage them to work until they are in the 30-5 Club. Beyond that, honor them at home EACH time they do that level of work (Friday Night Fun to celebrate, anyone?).


And I’m excited to tell you that very soon, there will be even more FUN (for them) and EASE (for you) coming to the Nicole the Math Lady website. If your kids really want to level up (hint, hint) their math game, I’ve got their back. And if you need more time in your day, I’ll be covering a little of that, too. I’ll have more details for you very soon, so watch your inbox. In the meantime, I hope you have some very joyful math times with your student(s)!


Talk to you soon,

Nicole the Math Lady