What is Saxon Math?

Instructor: Bill Sands
Saxon math refers to a particular approach to teaching math to students. Read on for a more detailed description of the strengths and weaknesses of this curriculum.

About Saxon Math

Saxon math refers not to a particular branch of mathematics, but rather a math curriculum in which students learn incrementally, one lesson at a time, using knowledge acquired in previous lessons as a foundation.

This method was developed by John Saxon, a former Air Force officer-turned-educator who developed and introduced the curriculum. After Saxon's death, distribution of Saxon math textbooks and other materials has been carried on by Saxon Publishers.


Saxon curricula are broken into dozens of small and manageable lessons that cover a single concept at a time. The lessons are ordered in a manner that allows students to follow a logical progression. Each lesson focuses on a particular topic, which in turn proves useful for the next lesson.

This learning style stresses the value of repetition through daily practice problems that allow students to apply and demonstrate their newly acquired knowledge. After a certain topic or idea is introduced, students will review it day after day, sometimes for weeks at a time, until they are certain they understand the topic completely.

Benefits of Saxon Math

Saxon math is frequently lauded for simplifying the learning process without dumbing it down. Its step-by-step approach manages to teach the same information found in a standard curriculum in a much more approachable manner.

Instead of introducing an entirely new process with each lesson, students only need to learn one or two steps and their relation to a process that they already understand; they aren't starting over, they're merely adding extra information.

This familiarity breeds confidence, which in turn helps a student's academic performance. In multiple instances, schools have reported a marked improvement in test scores after implementing Saxon math.

Saxon math is equally liked among teachers, students, and parents. The method is particularly popular among homeschooled students and their parents due to its student- and parent-friendly nature.

Resistance to Saxon Math

Despite its popularity, Saxon math is not universally recognized as the new standard in mathematics education. Many school districts and administrators have reservations about the program for a variety of reasons.

First and foremost, Saxon math is not always guaranteed to work. While there are plenty of examples of the system being implemented and finding instant success, there are also many instances in which test scores did not improve.

Some educators also take issue with the simplified nature of instruction, arguing that it goes too far and oversimplifies topics that are intended to be complicated.

Making the switch to Saxon math represents a major financial commitment as well. In order to make the change, school districts need to commit to buying new textbooks, retraining teachers, and redrawing curricula, all of which consumes a large amount of time and money. Some administrators are hesitant to make such a significant commitment to a system that, in their eyes, is not fully proven.

Further Reading

If you're looking for some resources to help supplement a Saxon math program, Study.com has online study guides aligned with course curricula in the following subjects. Even if you're not using the Saxon textbooks, these resources can give you insight into the typical style of a Saxon course:

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