Books/review of high school math for former math major, current tutor
March 5, 2015 3:31 PM   Subscribe

I need book recommendations two categories: 1) for myself for review (that are somewhere between high school text books and Spark notes) 2) just straight up textbooks for high school math (algebra i, geometry, algebra ii, trigonometry, pre-calculus)


Currently I tutor one student in Algebra ii. Although i have been able to eke it out, i would like a more comprehensive review of maths so i can do a better job. Part of the problem is my student doesnt have a text book and the teacher seems to randomly wander around in the algebra ii world. Another part of the problem is it has been many years since i have done math. The sad thing is, even though i have my undergraduate degree in math, so i really should be able to connect things better than i currently am, my brain has swiss-cheesed its math knowledge. I really like tutoring and i really like math, so i would like to tutor more. To do this, I need to do some serious review. I have been trying to do this, but i have run into a few problems:

Regarding review books:
As i said, I need something between the high school textbooks and Spark notes. I really wish Spark notes were enough, but my brain apparently needs more help re-connecting concepts than those provide. I have gone to bookstores to check out their review books (___ for dummies, barrons, etc) for my student, and they seemed a little too long-winded for me (although if you guys recommend them, i will give them another shot)! I know it is whiny, but i get super bored trying to get myself to read about all this math targeted to current struggling high school students. I have tried to force myself to read, say, Barrons, but my brain revolts. I hope that makes sense.. Truthfully, i do not know exactly what i need/want, which i think is part of the problem. I can only really afford to buy one review book for each subject otherwise i would just buy a few books at barnes and noble and see which one works best (and I _have_ checked libraries and thrift stores and used bookstores for review books).

Regarding textbooks:
I would really like to get one textbook of each subject, so i can see at what pace they teach concepts, have access to appropriate level problems, etc. I have checked many libraries, goodwills, salvation armies, misc thrift stores, the strand, and misc used bookstores and found 0 textbooks for my hours of looking. I know i can order them online through like amazon or a used textbook site, but the problem there is i dont know which books are good/bad and i dont want to have to buy a few books of each subject to find ones i am happy with.

On a side note, my brain has a really bad filter as to what things are more important than other things (i have add), which is why the seemingly easy task of choosing books is for difficult to me. Also, if you guys have any random advice you would like to impart to me, please feel free! Thank you guys for any help you provide and i hope this all made sense.
posted by miss so and so to Education (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
For at least your own review: Khan Academy, as long as you can learn from videos. They're really quite good.
posted by brainmouse at 3:39 PM on March 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

I think Chegg is a good place to start.
posted by jeffamaphone at 3:42 PM on March 5, 2015

Where are you? NYC? Between the library and used bookstores, you really shouldn't be striking out. Try library used bookstores as well. They inevitably seem to have a high school textbook or two.

As a TA, I'd point my students to mathcentre for review. If you're in the US, there are a handful of hiccups language-wise in some of the high school level material (ever heard of a surd? me neither), but, given that you're basically trying to jog your memory, that shouldn't derail you and you can use the rest for tutoring.
posted by hoyland at 3:59 PM on March 5, 2015

If you're dealing with Common Core, most of it, including answers, is now online.

That link should take you to the start of Algebra II and beyond! And the teacher's versions have answers.
posted by Alex Haist at 4:00 PM on March 5, 2015

Best answer: Schaum's Outlines tend to be dense but clear. They are also cheap. Definitely a good way to review; definitely not good for struggling high schoolers. They usually have lots of worked-out problems. It looks like "College Algebra" covers most of Algebra II.
posted by vogon_poet at 4:08 PM on March 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

Seconding Schaum's. They're perfect for "I knew this subject but have forgotten it".
posted by dfan at 4:44 PM on March 5, 2015

Response by poster: @hoyland, yeah, i am NYC. One of the problems i have run into vis-a-vis used math textbooks is that stores (thrift stores, bookstores) can't really make money on them and do not accept them/throw them out since they become 'outdated' too quickly and are therefore unsellable. Libraries (at least the nyc library system) doesn't have them for the same reason (i talked to a librarian about it). It does seem like i always saw used math textbooks up until i actually needed them, then they disappeared from stores. I forgot about the existence of library used bookstores so i will look into that option. :) I will check out mathcentre, thank you.

Thank you for everyone else for suggestions! Please keep them coming.

I will check out sites with video explanations, but offhand it seems like a slow way to re-learn so i have been reticent to get too far into them. Am i wrong about this?
posted by miss so and so at 5:01 PM on March 5, 2015

Response by poster: Schaumms are definitely good and thanks for the heads up re: College Algebra. I feel like i looked into getting Schaumms, but they seem to be targeted to upper level classes, not high school (and i couldnt find the right levels in bookstores to put eyeballs on the pages to verify).
posted by miss so and so at 5:10 PM on March 5, 2015

Response by poster: also, sorry if i dont thank you individually; i do still appreciate your help. If anyone else has suggestions, i am still looking for them (incl/esp about levels other than algebra ii), thank you! :)
posted by miss so and so at 5:10 PM on March 5, 2015

Best answer: I would actually try something like the Art of Problem Solving series (, in addition to something like Khan Academy. KA for basic practice, AoPS for more tougher problems and better critical thinking skills. You should actually want more than the basics kids are struggling with, so that you understand the material way better and can give them tips and vision they're not getting in class. (I mean, don't be tempted to bombard them with extra material if they are floundering, but it's good to have in the back of your brain.)

I get where your idea about having example textbooks is coming from, but honestly it wouldn't necessarily be helpful. Instead, be so comfortable with the topics that when a student shows up with their book, you can switch into their book notation on the fly and really get across the idea of things without introducing extra notation that will just be confusing. Plenty of the textbook series just plain suck, and plenty of teachers jump around and skip topics and supplement others, so a mere textbook will not actually give you a sensible idea of pacing. (Don't worry, you'll get that with experience.)

If you can turn yourself into an advanced algebra II and precalc wizard who can connect with people, you should be in high demand.
posted by ktkt at 8:41 PM on March 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

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