Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Teaching Algebra to 8th Graders

There is a major debate taking place right now amongst math educators: is it possible to offer an authentic Algebra I course to 8th graders while still ensuring that all 2011 8th grade math standards get taught?  Teaching Algebra I to 8th graders used to be a no-brainer.  There seemed to be much repetition within the math standards in the middle grades, and Algebra I was offered to ‘advanced’ students who were ready to move more quickly.  But now that Massachusetts has fully adopted the 2011 Curriculum Frameworks for Mathematics, the new Model Algebra I course is incredibly rigorous and forces topics like simultaneous linear equations, functions and exponents down to the 8th grade.  The following crosswalks and teacher resources cautiously offer a pathway of teaching Algebra I to 8th graders while ensuring that no key standards get omitted along the way.

The document below offers a pathway to taking Algebra I in the 8th grade by condensing 7th grade, 8th grade and Algebra I standards into the 7th and 8th grade years.  Go straight to page 80 to see the Compacted Middle School Pathway.  The document shows exactly where standards get condensed and even offers a potential breakdown of units per grade level.

If our ultimate goal is to get students to take AP Calculus by senior year of high school, then there is also the option of taking enhanced math classes in grades 9th, 10th and 11th grade.  In the Enhanced High School Pathway to Calculus the department offers a way to take Algebra I for the first time in 9th grade but still work towards AP Calculus in 12th grade. 

Methuen Public Schools has done a tremendous amount of work around creating an accelerated math program starting in the 7th grade.  Julie Ward, Methuen's Math Coordinator, has included a few resources in her dropbox.  These documents have proven critical in notifying parents, selecting students and crosswalking standards.

A word of caution: this debate has in no way been resolved.  I am not necessarily approving any of these cited pathways, but simply showing you different approaches to this tall task.  It must be said that teacher knowledge of the Model Algebra I course and student readiness play an absolutely integral role in this discussion.

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