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Math is Important!

Math is Important!
The engineering community is very concerned about math. The statistics paint a grim picture.

Math is Important!

1. Jobs requiring math are increasing at four times the rate of overall job growth
2. American children rank 13th in the world when it comes to basic math skills
3. Less than 1/3 of American 8th graders are at least proficient in math
4. 93% of American 6th to 8th graders realize they need math skills later in life, but few directly link math to their dream jobs

This 2011 survey was conducted by Raytheon. They have a lot of great math information on their website,, with the goal of making middle school math fun.

Math is important. We can do better than the public schools. In our homeschooli, we can be consistent with math, choose a curriculum that fits our children, and teach for mastery each step of the way. Our country needs Americans to work at American jobs to support the American economy. That's going to require us to teach math, even if we feel uncomfortable with it ourselves.

For more information on how to teach math, check out my article, 9 Ways to Actually Get Math Done this Year.

Do you make math important in your homeschool? Do you find it difficult to teach math? Please share!

Please note: This post was originally published in May 2011 and has been revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
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Homeschool Introduction to Engineering Class

Homeschool Introduction to Engineering Class
Homeschool parents of budding engineers, listen up! Engineering is a LOT of fun, but a future in engineering requires some math and science.

My 14 year old will be participating in the First Lego League in which he will 1) Build and program a small robot to accomplish challenges and 2) investigate a research topic then prepare a presentation. Both activities culminate in a competition with other teams at a regional tournament. This is to build science, engineering and technology skills.

My question is what exact subjects do I categorize this into: obviously science, but which science exactly and since he will be researching and speaking, would it be considered English or Social Studies as well? And how will this look on his transcript?

Thank you for your help.
~Esther in Washington

Introduction to Engineering Class

My son took a class much like that, an Introduction to Engineering class. He took it in COLLEGE. I would call your homeschool class "Introduction to Engineering." Use all of the experiences within the league as one single class to make it a big, beefy credit. At the end, estimate how many hours he spent on it. 120-180 hours is one high school credit. All the papers and speaking will be part of his science credit.

One word of warning: when kids like engineering, they do need to cover the basics of biology, chemistry, and physics while they are in high school. Engineering is more of an elective-science, and he will also need the core sciences in order to do well in college engineering. Science, engineering, and technology degrees also require a lot of math. Make sure you are working consistently on math every day during the school year, so a lack of math doesn't become an impediment later on.

Is your child a budding engineer? What does that look like in your homeschool? Please share!

Please note: This post was originally published in August 2010 and has been revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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Encouraging Girls in Math and Science

Encouraging Girls in Math and Science
There are more girls going to college than there are boys.  Girls are in the majority, so they are less likely to receive admission and financial aid.....  except in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.  In those areas, girls are still in the minority.   You can encourage your young women to pursue a college major in STEM, and it might improve their chances of admission and financial aid.  One of my clients recommended Expanding Your Horizons conferences for girls.

Expanding Your Horizons in Science and Mathematics™ conferences for girls

Their mission is to encourage young women to pursue science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers. Through Expanding Your Horizons (EYH) Network programs, they provide STEM role models and hands-on activities for middle and high school girls. Currently Expanding Your Horizons conferences are held in 31 states and in Europe and Asia.

Locate a conference in your area

When you are applying for colleges, you will need a great homeschool transcript.  The good news is you can “do-it-yourself” and save thousands.  Discover the Total Transcript Solution.
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Homeschool High School - Math is Fundamental

Homeschool High School - Math is Fundamental
Math is a fundamental skill required for college and to attract employers. My friend Don is an Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering at Seattle Pacific University.   He shares some great insights about the importance of teaching math in high school.
“Math requirements vary by school. You don’t necessarily have to have extra math to get into a college, but you do need it to be well educated. Upper level math can train your mind. Math is a good discipline, and teaches problem solving in a variety of subjects, beyond math."

Math is an excellent way to learn real-life skills critical to getting a  good job.  Employers want problem-solving skills, determination,persistence, and hard work.  They want job-seakers who will strive until they solve a problem and get the job done.  They want workers who know what it's like to work hard.  These soft skills aren't taught by teachers, by they can be learned through pursuing math and keeping children challenged with their subjects.
“Societal expectations have a lot to do with math achievement. I met a Japanese student going into business, and he actually apologized for ONLY having two years of calculus. In the US, our math expectations are so much lower than the rest of the world. We project those low expectations onto kids even from the grade school level; telling them that math is so hard and it’s no fun. That promotes a negative view of math. It is a cultural issue that trains children to think ‘I can’t do this.’ The only real solution is a cultural shift in the perception of math."

Colleges are looking for students that have the best math preparation possible for that student.  It doesn't mean you have to teach calculus to every child, but it does mean they want you to work conscientiously on math every year.

Don't let your own weaknesses in math cause frustration in your children. Not all of us are gourmet cooks, but we can still hand our child a cookbook.  Treat math in a matter-of-fact way, without conveying your own anxiety.  You can explain that your child needs to learn how to learn math on their own, with great video tutorials, without telling them it's your anxiety that gets in the way of  teaching it yourself.
“Math is fundamental to science and engineering. Right now many of our country’s science and engineering professionals are nearing retirement, yet there are few up-and-coming students able to take those jobs. There are too few people with the math skills necessary to take those jobs. Foreign technical workers are taking those technical jobs, because there are simply too few US students who can do the work. For example, right now there is a deficit of aerospace engineers, and they can’t find people to fill those jobs for defense contracts."

Because there is a deficit of engineers, and fundamental math skills may be lacking in public school graduates, homeschoolers have the advantage.  We can provide the math students need to succeed.  Our children can earn grants and scholarships for college based on their math preparation.
“Math is fundamental for all students going into engineering sciences. I have had many students over the years who want to go into engineering but stumble on the math. They may have made good engineers, but they couldn’t take the math. Because this is such a large national problem, the government is working on solutions. Grant money from US government and corporations is promoting science and math curriculum and providing hands-on curriculum for math and science. There needs to be a revolution on how science is taught in grade school and middle school. Portray math as fun and exciting! It can be done!”

Thanks go to Don Peter, M.S., P.E., Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering at Seattle Pacific University for helping me with this blog post.  Don and his wife JoAnn homeschooled their two daughters for many years. Don used Saxon math and multi-sensory games for a supplement. His family used unit studies for science. He made it clear that his children were required to complete science and math study, and even required his girls to complete calculus for high school graduation.

To encourage a love of math in the younger grades, as Don Peter recommends, I used the book Family Math. It is filled with fun math games and activities for grades K-8. We played math games frequently during the week, and my children loved it!  In middle school I used the book Family Math for Middle School, and Patty Paper Geometry.  In the upper levels, I tried to encourage the love of math using Teaching Company lectures like "Calculus Made Clear" and others.

If you have identified that math is a weak area in your homeschool, you may enjoy my blog post called "First Things First" which will teach you how to prioritize math.  For more help with math, see my article "For the Love of Math"

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Washington Homeschool Science & Engineering Fair

Washington Homeschool Science & Engineering Fair
Washington Homeschool Science & Engineering Fair

Saturday, March 20th, 2010  2:00-5:00 p.m.

New Location: First Evangelical Presbyterian Church

You are invited to attend the third annual "Washington Homeschool Science & Engineering Fair" on 3/20/10 from 2-5 p.m. in Renton, WA.

Attached is a Student Registration Form due 2/28/10. Each student needs an Adult Volunteer available at the fair to listen to other students' projects. Additional volunteers are needed for families with more than two children participating. Each student will give four presentations to four different adult volunteers. Each Adult Volunteer will listen to four presentations and fill out feedback forms.

Visitors are welcome, but must remain quiet during presentations and during the awards ceremony. *The best way to observe the fair is to volunteer to listen to students' projects as an Adult Volunteer.* It's very easy and will give you ideas to help your own children. Please contact me at if you would like to volunteer, but do not have a student participating.

A brief training for Adult Volunteers will be held from 2:15 - 2:30 p.m. All Adult Volunteers must attend this training.

The new fair location is larger and easier to find. Unfortunately, there is a facility fee so the participation cost is $10 per student. Please let us know if this would provide a hardship for your family.

WHSEF Schedule:

2:00 - 2:15 Project Setup

2:15 - 2:30 Adult Volunteer Training

2:30 - 4:30 Student Presentations

4:30 - 5:00 Awards Ceremony

Each student participant will receive a medallion during the Awards Ceremony. Students will not be judged against each other nor receive placement awards at this fair.

Participation in the Washington State Science Fair March 26 & 27 is strongly encouraged . Registration deadline for the State Science Fair is March 13th. (If you live in Pierce or Thurston Counties you would attend the Regional Fair instead of the State Fair on the same dates. .


Larry & Kandis Brighton
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A Good Time to be an Engineer!

A Good Time to be an Engineer!
If your child is interested in engineering, then I have great news for you.  Engineering has fabulous scholarships right now!  There are MANY colleges that offer great engineering scholarships, that aren't related to other merit scholarships based on the SAT, and they aren't related to need-based scholarships based on your income.  These engineering scholarship are ON TOP OF the others.

One reason is the additional attention that recent disasters have brought on the subject of infrastructure.  Most of our nations bridges, roads, power systems, dams, etc. are getting quite old.  As a nation, we need to ensure we have the technical capability to keep our infrastructure safe.  Engineers are vital to that effort.

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