Abeka Math and Saxon Math are two well-known and highly-respected math programs in the homeschool community that have helped tons of families with math instruction over the years.
With their back-to-basics, traditional approaches to math, both programs can seem quite similar and so homeschooling parents can have a tough time figuring out which might be best for their students.
To help out, we’ve compared Abeka Math and Saxon Math so that parents can make an informed, and more effective, choice.
What is Abeka Math
Abeka Math is a Christian homeschool math curriculum produced by Abeka that aims to develop strong math skills through a traditional approach to math instruction, through step-by-step, incremental learning, and the drill, continual review and practice of math facts and mental math work, while emphasizing and teaching strong biblical values.
What is Saxon Math
Saxon Math is a popular math curriculum in both homeschools and private/independent schools that takes a back-to-basics approach to math, helping students develop strong math skills through continual practice, incremental teaching, as well as review and practice of math facts, mental math and problem solving strategies.
By and large, both Saxon Math and Abeka Math teach K-12 math and, as such, can be considered complete homeschool math curricula.
There are a few differences, however, that parents should note.
Abeka Math offers specific pre-kindergarten instruction for students ages 2 and 3, where students can work on basic number learning and number skills, whereas Saxon generally begins in Kindergarten.
On the other hand, Saxon offers older students a course in Calculus, whereas Abeka’s High School math ends with Pre-Calculus, which is something that those interested in majoring in the Physical Sciences or Engineering in college might want to consider.
Although Abeka doesn’t offer Calculus as a course, it does offer two consumer math courses for high school students.
There is Abeka Consumer Math itself, where students can learn about personal finance, budgeting and other practical, personal applications of math, as well as a curriculum in Business Math, where students can learn the type of math necessary to manage a business, e.g. bookkeeping, accounts receivable/payable, loans, investments and more.
Both courses can be a great way for parents to help students in grades 9-12 learn more practical and applicable math topics.
It can be challenging at times for some homeschool families to figure out where to start with a math curriculum, especially for those who are switching into a math program from another.
Doing so can require parents to have some deep knowledge of a student’s actual skill in and knowledge of various math concepts, or else it can turn into something of a trial and error process.
A well designed placement test, therefore, can be a great help in taking a lot of the guesswork out of starting a new program.
Parents can find Saxon Math placement tests pretty much wherever the program is sold online and they are pretty straightforward and easy to administer.
There are about 20 questions or so testing skill proficiency on each test, with a variety of grade-appropriate math concepts and a healthy mix of computation and word problems.
In contrast, Abeka (at time of writing) does not provide a placement test for its programs, requiring parents to make their own assessment based on each course’s scope and sequence.
Abeka Vs. Saxon: How They Teach Math
Abeka Math and Saxon are broadly similar in the way they teach math, but there are a few differences that parents should be aware of before starting these programs.
Both Saxon Math and Abeka Math are spiral curricula that make incremental learning and consistent review strong components of their learning.
Simply put, both programs break math concepts down into much smaller topics, or chunks.
A topic is introduced and taught a little at a time before moving onto another topic and students then revisit that original topic again in greater depth later on.
As a result, Saxon and Abeka can cover a good number of math topics during the year and give students a good sense of math’s big picture and how different topics connect to one another.
They also tend to keep learning a little fresher and more dynamic as they go along since they introduce new topics and ideas more frequently.
Similarly, due to this structure, students get a lot of opportunity to practice and review previously learned concepts throughout the year, keeping the learning fresh and their skills sharp, which is good news for students who tend to forget what they’ve learned after a while.
This spiral method stands in contrast to mastery methods, where students will spend several lessons (or even weeks) on a single concept, diving deeply into it and practicing until proficiency is reached.
Both Abeka and Saxon can also be considered traditional, procedural math programs.
That is, both programs tend to focus more on teaching students how to solve math problems accurately and quickly, rather than delving deeply into the why of math, as might be seen in conceptual programs such as Singapore Math or Math Mammoth.
Both programs therefore emphasize the learning of math facts, equations, formulas and specific procedures that students can use to analyze and solve various math problems.
In more practical terms, this means that students will spend time memorizing math facts and doing mental math exercises, and will end up doing a lot of fairly practical math exercises, honing their skills through a more traditional method of revision, repetition and drill.
Both programs are known for their ability to produce students who can solve rather complex math problems quickly and correctly, and many whose ability to do math without a calculator is, frankly, quite impressive.
Parent-Led Vs Self-Study
Both Abeka Math and Saxon Math are also parent-led homeschool math programs, with parents being fairly heavily involved in the teaching at earlier grades and managing the learning overall.
Consequently, both programs can demand some time from parents.
At the upper grade levels, however, both programs do increase the amount of independent work students can do, but at all levels parents do need to keep a hand in to guide and oversee the overall learning even if the amount of direct teaching is reduced.
Interestingly, especially at the younger levels, both Abeka and Saxon involve a good deal of back and forth interaction between parents and students in the form of dialogue and discussions, which can be quite nice for homeschooling parents looking to deepen and develop their bond with their children.
Faith-Based Vs Secular
A significant difference between Abeka Math and Saxon is how they approach faith in learning.
Abeka Math is a Christian homeschool math curriculum that emphasizes a biblical worldview, making frequent references to scripture and strongly weaving Christian values into its guiding philosophy, teaching material and workbooks.
In contrast, Saxon math is a secular math curriculum that is solely focused on math instruction, making no reference to God, the bible or religion.
As a result, those looking for a neutral or secular curriculum may favor Saxon, while those looking to integrate Christian values more directly into their studies may favor Abeka’s materials.
Use Of Manipulatives
A further difference between Abeka and Saxon is in their use of manipulatives and hands-on activities during teaching.
At the K-3 level, Saxon Math helps young students learn math concepts using things like cubes, cards, charts, teaching clocks, counting sticks and more, and it does so fairly frequently as part of its instruction.
The idea here is that, by handling and manipulating physical representations of math ideas, abstract concepts become a little more “real” and understandable for young kids.
While Abkeka does use some hands-on demonstrations in Arithmetic 1-3, and Cuisenaire rods and similar products can be integrated into its lessons fairly easily, the program is by and large much more reading and writing based, explaining concepts more through discussion, visual illustration and various exercises.
Use Of Technology
Interestingly, both Abeka and Saxon do have technological solutions for making teaching and learning a lot easier and less time-consuming for parents.
They differ, however, in who offers them.
In addition to its written curriculum, Abeka Math offers digital versions of all its materials, including some digital textbooks and a good deal of virtual and printable teaching aids.
The company also offers an assortment of video lessons for its courses taught by the company’s own Abeka Academy teachers.
These videos go through each course lesson by lesson, introducing and exploring math concepts and giving students some helpful tips for success.
These videos can be an interesting option for parents who don’t have a lot of time to teach themselves or who are perhaps a little rusty on math themselves and would prefer a little help in its instruction.
With Saxon, because it is such a popular math program with homeschoolers, there are a number of companies out there that offer solutions to make teaching it a lot easier.
Nicole the Math Lady, for example, is one of a number of video course providers that go through each level of Saxon and teach key math ideas to students.
Similarly there are a number of Saxon-specific online learning platforms that offer online grading, performance tracking, assessment, drill and other ways that can help lighten the load for parents.
The main difference between Abeka and Saxon here is that Abeka’s digital solutions are in-house, and held to their standards of teaching, while Saxon has a lot of options parents can choose from that are provided by third party companies.
Common Core Alignment
Abeka and Saxon also differ in their alignment to Common Core math standards.
Abeka Math is not aligned to Common Core state standards for math, following its own scope, sequence and pace of learning.
With Saxon, it really depends on which version of the program parents are using.
Newer versions and the Intermediate series of Saxon Math are Common Core aligned, while older editions (which are often still sold on many homeschooling retail websites) are not.
Look and Feel
There is also a significant difference in the overall look and feel of Abeka when compared to Saxon Math.
Typically, Saxon Math books are monochrome or black and white and use rather simple illustrations to get the point across.
In contrast, Abeka Math student workbooks tend to be full color and often richly illustrated, which can make them a little more engaging and interesting for students to look at.
Both Abeka and Saxon are comprehensive and well-respected math curricula that fully explore all the concepts required to teach K-12 math, and do so with more rigor than can be found in the average public school.
Both programs offer a good deal of practice and challenging math exercises, with a strong emphasis on mental math, math facts and strong, practical math skills.
In both programs, as well, there is a heavier emphasis on teaching math fluency through frequent practice and drill.
Abeka Math, however, tends to move at a quicker pace and tends to introduce concepts earlier than Saxon and the Common Core, making it an advanced curriculum.
Newer and Intermediate editions of Saxon are Common Core aligned and tend to follow a standards-aligned scope and sequence.
Although it tends to be a little quicker and introduce concepts a little ahead than most standards-aligned curricula,Saxon tends to be more on grade level.
Note: Prices correct as of writing. All prices in USD.
In terms of price, Abeka Math tends to be a little more expensive per level than Saxon Math when purchased as a set.
This is largely due to the fact that it tends to require a few more components than Saxon, which only really uses teacher’s guides for earlier grades and mainly requires student textbooks, workbooks, and answer keys for most others.
Generally speaking, parents can purchase ready student and parent kits for Abeka, which together can cost upwards of $150.
In contrast, with Saxon Math parents can purchase complete sets for around $100-120, not including any manipulatives at the lower levels.
|Full Math Curriculum||✅||✅|
|Approach to Math||Spiral||Spiral|
|Faith-based or secular||Secular||Christian|
|Conceptual or Procedural Math||Procedural||Procedural|
|Common Core Options||✅||❌|
Bottom Line: How do I decide between Abeka and Saxon Math?
Saxon Math and Abeka Math are well-recognized and respected math programs that can develop very strong math skills in their students.
Because their approach to teaching math can seem so similar, it can often be hard for parents to pick between the two.
To help out, we’ve put together the chart below.
|I’m a parent and…||Consider|
|I’m teaching grades K-12||Either|
|My homeschool is secular or faith-neutral||Saxon|
|I’m looking for a math curriculum that incorporates Christian values||Abeka|
|I have a student in K-3 and would prefer more teaching with manipulatives||Saxon|
|My student does best when given lots of review and practice||Either|
|I want a program that reviews previously learned concepts||Either|
|I’m looking for an advanced math curriculum||Abeka|
|I’m looking for a more gentle and on-grade curriculum||Saxon|
|I’m looking for a Common Core curriculum||Saxon|
|I don’t want to teach a Common Core math curriculum||Abeka|
|If I get stuck I might like to find teaching videos and other technological solutions provided by the company that made the curriculum||Abeka|
|I would like a more flexibility and choice when it comes to video or other technological solution providers||Saxon|
For More Information
To learn more about these programs you can:
Check out Abeka Math on Christianbook.com
About the Author
David Belenky is a freelance writer, former science and math tutor and a tech enthusiast. When he’s not writing about educational tech, he likes to chill out with his family and dog at home.