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Using an Online Math Curriculum—with a review of Unlock Math

Overview: Using an online math curriculum can be the perfect way for your teen to do math on their own. Unlock Math is a great choice with stellar customer service. Note: This article was sponsored by Unlock Math but all opinions are my own.

Math is one of the biggest bugaboos for many people when it comes to homeschooling high school. Colleges expect your kid to get around three credits or so (depending on the college and the intended major), but you don’t remember jack squat about any of it beyond the vague understanding that x is very elusive, positives and negatives will get you every time, and pi has nothing to do with pizza.

Algebra? Geometry? Trig? It’s all a blur. You still have PTSD about it, in fact.

Dear Algebra: Please stop telling us to find your x. She’s never coming back and don’t ask y.

Even if you are one of the strange lucky ones who is confident with math, you may not have the time to invest in re-learning and then teaching your teen, answering their questions (why is x equal to +253 this week when last week it was -254?), and/or grading their pages and pages of work. (IF they bother to write it out, which is a whole ‘nother sphere of wax!) (Get it? Sphere? Bwahaha!)

What are your options? Do you have to go looking for a tutor and shell out the big bucks to have someone else teach your kid? Not necessarily, unless you have the big bucks and that’s what you want for your teen. My own viewpoint is that there is a better solution than that.

Using an online math curriculum can be the perfect way for your teen to do math on their own. Unlock Math is a great choice with stellar customer service.

I think math is the perfect subject to use to start your kid on the process of independent learning.

Yep, I believe your teen can do math all on their own, even at (especially at!) the higher levels. Math is a scenario where it’s either right or it’s wrong. In most cases there aren’t multiple correct answers; there is only one, and there are only certain acceptable ways to get there. You learn the process; you do the problems; you either know what you’re doing or you don’t. That’s the best kind of situation to give your kid the reins of taking responsibility for their own education. Or at least to put the training wheels on and see how they do.

Related Reading: This is What Happens When You Use Independent Learning in Your Homeschool

It’s all about finding the proper tools, the resources that work best for your family and for your teen. As I always say and will never get tired of saying: There is no one right way to do this. There are so many options out there. You do YOU and stop worrying about what the Joneses have to say about it.

You could choose a textbook.

I have used a lot of those over the years.

The thing is, with textbook math it’s not always that easy to just turn your kid loose and let them have at it. Some textbooks don’t give enough information about how to get from point A to point B. Or there are no solutions for the problem sets, so you can’t see why your answer is wrong. Or things are worded so weirdly that you might as well be trying to read sanskrit.

As a former math teacher, none of this phased me. But it might phase you. No shame!

Another option is an online math curriculum.

In fact, in the situation where the mom is math-challenged (or doesn’t have the time/desire to revisit high school math for themselves again), I definitely recommend finding an online math curriculum that will do everything for you except make dinner. (But it will free you up to be in the kitchen, so there’s that!)

Your kid watches the video; they do the problems; the problems get graded by the teacher who lives inside your computer. At the end of the year your kid gets a grade. And you didn’t have to lift a finger. How awesome is that?

But wait, it’s not always that easy. Not all online high school math programs are alike. It’s important to know what you’re getting into, to make sure that the program you choose will be the best fit for your child.

Possible Problems with an Online Math Curriculum

Many online math curricula do not have any teacher at all, at least not one you can see. The video lessons proceed with numbers and equations magically appearing on a kind of cosmic chalkboard in the sky (okay, on the screen), with a disembodied voice telling you what steps to take and voila, there’s the answer. Reminds me of the “waah waah waaaaah” of Charlie Brown’s teacher.

Some online math programs don’t provide enough practice. Others provide too much. Some have review built in; others just keep moving forward in hopes that your kid remembers what went before. I don’t know about your kid, but mine are notoriously forgetful when it comes to math. They don’t remember what they learned yesterday, much less last week or last semester. 

The worst difficulty with many online math curriculum options is there’s no help when you need it. This is a computer program you’re dealing with, a pre-recorded lesson with pre-set problems in a pre-determined order whose only pace is forward. Wait, you have a question? You don’t understand? Well, sorry, this is the correct answer, and here’s what we did to get it. If you can’t follow our one explanation, you’re outta luck.

None of this is a huge issue if you are one of those math-minded moms mentioned earlier. Maybe you remember how to factor and use the Pythagorean Theorem and find the area under a curve that looks like a roller coaster at your local theme park. Then that means your kid can ask you questions, and you’ll probably be able to help them get over their difficulty and begin moving forward again. For you, just about any online math curriculum will work.

But that’s not the case for many. We just want a set-it-and-forget-it type of math program. We want our kid to watch a full explanation of each process AND be able to ask questions (of someone else, hello) AND have enough practice (but not too much) so they can confidently wrangle x into submission.

And yet, we want our control, too, don’t we? Extenuating circumstances are a thing (can you say Covid?), and online programs aren’t always forgiving about that. Or they mark the answer wrong because they were expecting .25 and your kid put in 1/4. That’s NOT a wrong answer, hello! But wait; YOU are the supervisor, and YOU should be able to drop an assignment or extend a deadline or mark the answer correct when Mr. Computer Program didn’t have the artificial intelligence to do so! Sheesh!

Y’all, do not despair. I have an online math curriculum recommendation that truly addresses all of these issues. It is called Unlock Math. You might not have heard of them before, but they are definitely worth considering and comparing to all the familiar names out there.

Unlock Math is an Online Math Curriculum that Solves ALL These Problems

(Aren’t you just lovin’ the math humor? LOL)

Unlock Math provides online, self-paced, high school math courses starting with Algebra 1 and going through Pre-Calculus. They also have a one-year Foundations course good for anyone in 6th grade or above, as well as Pre-Algebra (which they definitely recommend as a precursor to Algebra, btw).

What makes Unlock Math different? Here are just a few things:

  • Lessons represent bite-sized chunks of information for more confidence and less overwhelm. This is great for teens who have been struggling with math until now. Many testimonials in my Facebook group have said that Unlock Math turned math around for their teen!
  • Only one problem is shown on the screen at a time. Again, less overwhelm, more confidence—which translates to more success for your kid.
  • The videos show a real person! According to the Unlock Math website, “Studies have shown that students learn and remember information better if they SEE the teacher working through a problem vs voice-over type lessons.”
  • Your kid can have as much practice as they need, but they are not inundated with too many problems that must be completed before moving forward. There are 10 practice problems for each lesson (a reasonable number), but if your teen needs more, they can do more. And the new problems are not exactly the same as the ones they’ve already attempted, so they can’t just memorize the answers and keep moving forward. Gotta love that!
  • There is regular review built in. First, at the beginning of each lesson, there is a warm-up of 5 questions which focus on only the previous lesson. This reminds your kid of what they learned yesterday and gets them set up for success today. Then there are 10 questions at the end of the lesson which are pulled from several previous lessons, so your kid can’t forget what they’ve learned further in the past. This is not exactly spiral learning, because the lesson’s practice problems are not mixed in with the review problems; but in my opinion it is actually better, because your kid can focus on what they need to learn from today’s lesson, and THEN they can get more practice on what has gone before. Can you say “bye-bye confusion”?
  • There is a challenge problem after each lesson for the kid who loves math or who has really nailed down a particular concept. They can earn extra points and find new ways to use what they’re learning!
  • Every lesson provides reference notes for you to print or use online. It’s like having a textbook to refer back to so you don’t have to rewatch the video when you have a question. That’s a huge time-saver.
  • As with all online programs, quizzes and tests are given at appropriate intervals, and everything is graded for you. BUT with Unlock Math you have the power to modify any grade based on your kid and/or your circumstances. You have the ultimate control, without having to email anyone or do a bunch of recalculating for yourself. I really applaud this feature!
  • You also have control over when your kid can move forward, by setting a grade threshhold they must achieve. If their score is less than that threshhold, they must repeat the lesson. This prevents a lot of heartache that can occur with kids pushing through lessons that they really have no clue how to do, and you don’t find out until much later, and then so much time has been wasted, and there may be tears… (don’t ask me how I know). It’s also great for those who expect their kid to keep working until they achieve “mastery,” or 100%. 
  • Also, as was mentioned about the practice problem sets, quizzes and tests can also be taken multiple times—with new questions generated each time—and the highest grade is the one that gets kept. Again, great for achieving mastery or for getting over that grade threshold and TRULY understanding, not just memorizing the answers enough to squeak by.
  • And last but certainly not least, in fact SO NOT LEAST, Unlock Math provides live chat support and unparalleled customer service. Your kid has a question? They can ask it! YOU have a question? You can email or call and find out what you need to know with no hassle. The Unlock Math family wants your kid to succeed, and they are committed to helping you make that happen by giving you all the support you require.

Can you tell I’m impressed?

Here is a video showing a typical Unlock Math lesson so you can see exactly what it will be like for your teen:

Then there’s the cost:

Unlock Math is very reasonably priced for an online course. Current pricing is $49/month or $299 if you pay for the full year at once. Many online math curriculum options cost much more than this.

Even better, until June 30, 2020 there is an exclusive discount code: ANNIE2020 gets you 15% off! 

So go check out Unlock Math right now by heading to their website: UNLOCK MATH WEBSITE. I think it’s a solid option for your teen’s math next year. Be sure to take a look at their testimonials, and don’t forget your discount code!

You can also find Unlock Math on Facebook and Instagram.

About the author

Ann Karako

Ann has been homeschooling for 20+ years and has graduated four children (one more to go). She believes that EVERY mom can CONFIDENTLY, COMPETENTLY -- and even CONTENTEDLY -- provide the COMPLETE high school education that her teen needs. Ann's website, AnnieandEverything.com, offers information, resources, and virtual hugs to help homeschool moms do just that. 

Ann has written Cure the Fear of Homeschooling High School: A Step-by-Step Manual for Research & Planning and Save Your Sanity While Homeschooling High School: Practical Principles for a Firm Foundation. She also founded the popular Facebook group called It's Not that Hard to Homeschool High School, which now has over 27K members; and recently she started the It's Not That Hard to Homeschool High School Podcast.

She and her family, including two dogs and three cats, live in rural Missouri.

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I’m Ann (aka Annie), a veteran homeschool mom of five. I believe YOU can do this homeschool high school thing!
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