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Saxon math, developed by John Saxon, is a teaching method for incremental learning of mathematics. It involves teaching a new mathematical concept every day and constantly reviewing old concepts. Early editions were deprecated for providing very few opportunities to practice the new material before plunging into a review of all previous material. Newer editions typically split the day's work evenly between practicing the new material and reviewing old material. Its primary strength is in a steady review of all previous material, which is especially important to students who struggle with retaining the math they previously learned.
In all books before Algebra 1/2 (the equivalent of a PreAlgebra book), the book is designed for the student to complete assorted mental math problems, learn a new mathematical concept, practice problems relating to that lesson, and solve a varied number of problems which include what the students learned today and in select previous lessons—all for one day's class. This daily cycle is interrupted for tests and additional topics. In the Algebra 1/2 book and all higher books in the series, the mental math is dropped, and tests are given more frequently.
The Saxon math program has a specific set of products to support homeschoolers, including solution keys and readymade tests, which makes it popular among some homeschool families. It has also been adopted as an alternative to reform mathematics programs in public and private schools. Saxon teaches memorization of algorithms, unlike many reform texts.
By the mid 2000s, many school districts were considering abandoning experiments with reform approaches which had not produced acceptable test scores. For example, school board member Debbie Winskill in Tacoma, Washington said that the nontraditional Interactive Mathematics Program (IMP) "has been a dismal failure." Speaking to the board, Mount Tahoma High School teacher Clifford Harris noted that he taught sophomores in another district Saxon Math, and their Washington Assessment of Student Learning scores have continually climbed. Unlike IMP, Saxon program gives students plenty of chances to review material so they retain their skills, he said.^{[1]} In September 2006, Tacoma Public Schools introduced the Saxon books districtwide and rejected the previous IMP textbooks.^{[2]}
Saxon Publishers has also published phonics and spelling curriculum. This curriculum, authored by Lorna Simmons and first published in 2005, follows the same incremental principles as the Saxon Math curriculum.^{[3]}
Currently the Saxon Phonics and Spelling curriculum published provides four different levels of materials. The first three levels, starting in Kindergarten and progressing through second grade, provides daily lessons consisting of three main parts: lesson warmup, new increment, and application and continual review.^{[4]} An assessment tool is included with the teaching materials to show teachers where students may be struggling and it also provides remediation methods to reiterate the failing concepts. The fourth level of curriculum is intended for the third grade and allows for further advancement in spelling skills.^{[5]} Each level consists of various teaching materials to support the daily lesson plans and remediation factors known of Saxon curriculum. Specifically, the Saxon Phonics and Spelling curriculum is "beneficial for struggling readers because of the structure and repetitive characteristics associated with Saxon Publishers curriculum." ^{[6]}
Research shows that students using the Saxon Phonics and Spelling program showed improvement over a school year in phonics, reading, and spelling.^{[7]} Research has also shown that this program works just as well with males as with females and with special education and nonspecial education students.^{[8]}
Saxon curriculum remains popular among homeschooling families, but is also starting to be incorporated into public schools as well. The repetitive nature provides students with constant reenforcement of previously learned concepts supporting long term memory of important topics. This is especially beneficial for school districts who need to raise their testing scores in both math and phonics and spelling.
