Category Archives: High School Math

Setting Up for Success: 3 Keys to A Great Start in Math this Year

Image result for start

Everyone starts a new school year with high hopes and fresh resolve to make it a year of growth and accomplishment. Over the years I’ve seen many math students excel and others struggle to just get by. I’m a firm believer that habits and attitudes play a much bigger role in our accomplishments in the classroom than innate ability. Here are some concrete ways you can increase your odds of a fruitful and joyous year in math.

  1. Get organized. Have your student set aside a specific shelf for math. It should house their textbook, notebook (not assorted pieces of loose leaf paper), graph paper, calculator, and everything else on those supplies lists. Some of you are thinking really, that’s her first tip? I know, it seems so obvious. Yet, very few high school students take the time to do this. Pick a notebook that can last you for the whole course or at least the semester. I’ve seen students skip over graphing problems because they didn’t want to go searching for graph paper. Print off a nice pile of this graph paper and have it hole punched and ready to go.


  1. Line up help. I’ve done several posts on math tutors here and here. But the important point is if you know math might be a problem devise a plan ahead of time. Don’t wait until your student has struggled through 20 lessons and they finally admit they’re completely lost. A better approach is to pick an objective measurement. For example, any quiz grade below 70% and there’s going to be a one-hour review session with dad or an older sibling. Agreeing to this ahead of time lowers the stress involved with admitting they need help.


  1. Be honest about weaknesses and shortcomings. If math didn’t go well last year it might be best to start with some review. I wrote a full-length post about this here. Review helps all of us. In 10th and 11th grade I set aside the first six weeks of school to review for the SATs. My main goal was to get a great score and earn a scholarship. But a secondary benefit was that I reviewed lots of basic concepts before jumping into something new. In the end, I made up those 6 weeks because I was able to learn the new material more quickly.

Try these out and let me know how it goes. And if you want to ask about specific concerns or questions find me on Facebook! I love helping homeschool families figure out high school math.

How to Get a College Scholarship


“Getting a college scholarship is your new summer job.”

These words spoken by my mom shaped my four years of high school and eventually landed me a full tuition scholarship to the University of Pittsburgh. She believed I could earn more money by developing a stellar transcript than by working a minimum wage job…and she was right.

You can design a high school plan that uniquely positions you to win a free (or almost free) ride to school. Here are the top three things you need to do to make that happen:

  1. Ace the SATs. The new SAT is harder but it is easier to prepare for. You can take an SAT prep course or just work your way through all the free material on Khan Academy. But whatever you do, make sure you give yourself at least 6 weeks to prepare. A score of 700 turns heads and pushes your application into the right pile.
  2. Plan for Letters of Recommendation. You need someone to validate your education, especially if you are home schooled. You can have a transcript full of honors classes but without an outside expert adding a stamp of approval the admissions board might question the level of rigor. The ideal candidate to write a letter of recommendation is someone with a PhD or an expert in your future field. When you ask for the letter type up a list of your accomplishments or things you’d like them to reference. And don’t forget to send a thank-you note afterwards.
  3. Study your school. Every college and university is unique. I poured over Pitt’s website and memorized their core values. I knew what type of student body they were trying to foster. That information influenced my admissions essays and helped me on my interview. As soon as you know what school (or schools) you might be interested in start tailoring your high school program to fit their vision.

There are thousands and thousands of scholarship dollars out there just waiting to be claimed. In the end, working on all those applications ends up being a very high paying summer job 🙂

Photo source