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#243632  08/22/18 02:37 PM
Middle school math

Member
Registered: 11/08/14
Posts: 60

My DS11, heading into 6th grade this year, has had a talent and a passion for math since he was 6 or 7. I don't know that he's as much a prodigy as y'all's DYS students, but he's just so darned good at patterns, and logic, and numbers, and spatial thinking. As a mathminded person myself, I've done a lot of looking into and caring about methods of math education, and I've focused on developing his persistence for problemsolving above any kind of computational fluency. This has paid off, and although every year he gets overwhelmingly frustrated at some point about the excruciatingly slow pace of gradelevel math, he's otherwise survived just fine without any subject acceleration, as long as we squeeze in room enough to let him do a little bit of exploring and questioning.
But now, middle school. I feel like it's time for him to find a better fit. And for the first time I'm starting to regret our very small school district, because I don't think we're going to find a good fit here no matter what.
These are our options. First, he has tested into accelerated math, which is a prealgebra course for 6th and 7th graders. He'd be placed with a teacher who's fairly handson and discussionoriented. I think she's similar to his fifth grade math teacher, which worked okay for DS. She found it hard to answer his questions, but at least she didn't put him down for asking? The openendedness could give some wiggle room for us to provide him with separate challenge work. But the sheer amount of wordiness and cutandpaste projects and other "multimodal" learning approaches could be torturous for my guy who sees straight to the heart of problems. I'm sure y'all know that pain. But he'd really enjoy being differentiated with only his most mathinterested peers; there were some bright kids in his grade but only 12 per class and I don't think they worked together much.
Second, he has been offered early entry into middle school Algebra. It's a high school credit course but with mathinterested 7th and 8th graders. He will be very reluctant to make such an unusual move. The class is taught by a very traditional teacher, and would put him on the path to get to calculus fairly early in high school  and these have always been my biggest fears for him. Algorithmic algebra destroyed my math career. I was just so GOOD at following the steps as prescribed, that it cemented in me the idea that being good at math is synonymous with being good at following procedures. Turning in a neat homework page was so SATISFYING. But I crashed and burned in college math and science when being good at regurgitating stopped being the order of the day. Yet...as long as he gets math in school, he'll get that kind of algebra eventually, next year if not this. And that kind of geometry and precalc. And then he'll never really know that discrete math and cryptography and such are even out there...unless we make a radical change.
Which brings up...I asked about doing homeschool math and the counselor said that would work fine. I know exactly what I'd teach him (AOPS Intro to Algebra, either hometaught or online). But even if he agreed to do something so different from his peers, he'd be spoiled for school math forever. And since Algebra is a course that's required for high school graduation, I'd have to really bone up on what records to keep.
What would you do?

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#243637  08/22/18 06:20 PM
Re: Middle school math
[Re: sunnyday]

Junior Member
Registered: 10/20/14
Posts: 35

I'd pay for Art of Problem Solving classes. Since the school is willing to accept partial homeschooling, then they might also be willing to accept the grades AoPS will issue upon request and include them on his transcript. If not, lots of kids do AoPS and then also do school math as a boxchecking means to an end.
Also, Art of Problem Solving's Prealgebra is worth doing unless you're absolutely certain your son is beyond it.

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#243638  08/23/18 04:19 AM
Re: Middle school math
[Re: sunnyday]

Member
Registered: 03/18/13
Posts: 1443
Loc: NJ

I would recommend doing the AoPS preAlgebra class alongiside the school's preAlgebra class if you cannot do the AoPS on its own.
The AoPS preAlgebra has some good problems in it that will help your DS really think outside the box and is the on the opposite end of the spectrum from the "just follow this algorithm" approach.
I would not recommend jumping into AoPS introToAlgebra without having a solid grasp of preAlgebra first.
Just my $0.02...
Edited by madeinuk (08/23/18 04:20 AM)
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#243643  08/23/18 08:35 AM
Re: Middle school math
[Re: sunnyday]

Member
Registered: 03/14/11
Posts: 353

AoPS preAlgebra is what I would do too. It does have some great problems with good solutions along with all the videos. Alcumus is a good tool also. He might get interested in the community forum also. Its a great resource plenty of ways to learn.

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#243649  08/23/18 10:51 AM
Re: Middle school math
[Re: sunnyday]

Member
Registered: 11/08/14
Posts: 60

Oh, I guess I should have mentioned, we have AOPS PreA and have dabbled in it over the past year. He also adores Alcumus and has gotten to green or blue on several topics in preA, including all of the geometry section. So I thought that PreA might feel like old news to him, and that the (admittedly what I understand to be intense) review at the beginning of Intro to Alg would suffice. But I showed him the pretests and he was intimidated by the Algebra one; I showed him the PreA text and he thought that looked great as long as he can skip the stuff he's truly confident on and go at his own pace. So that might be the solution for us! Thanks for the input!

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#243658  08/23/18 11:36 PM
Re: Middle school math
[Re: sunnyday]

Member
Registered: 02/08/11
Posts: 1425

I would recommend AoPS if the school will accept it; otherwise Algebra I. Unless your district is really substandard, your DS should cover more than just "algorithmic algebra" in a typical Algebra I course. Even some rudimentary coverage of algebra I will pave the way for your DS to study combinatorics and number theory on his own or through AoPS (or another source).

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#243662  08/24/18 04:31 AM
Re: Middle school math
[Re: sunnyday]

Member
Registered: 10/01/14
Posts: 664
Loc: Canada

In our experience, the challenge questions in the AoPS text (second half of endoschapter problems) tend to offer a lot more complexity than Alcumus. Even in topics he thinks he has, you can jump to the challenge Qs and see if he's still flying through, or actually needs to stop and think. If the former, jump to Algebra; if the latter, savour the preAlgebra for the complex problemsolving it teaches.

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#243748  09/01/18 08:00 PM
Re: Middle school math
[Re: sunnyday]

Member
Registered: 11/08/14
Posts: 60

I wanted to say thanks for the input!! Sorry, I was out of town for the last week. As we left for vacation, we were quite convinced that AOPS PreA at my son's pace would be a great fit, and he was committed to doing the work with me. (And enthusiastic about it in a way he has never been when I've suggested math at home in the past!) But while we were on vacation, the counselor called and told us the math teacher really wanted to speak with us. So I brought my son to the school last Thursday. The teacher said everything DS wanted to hear, about challenge in the figuringout end of things as well as just in the volume and content end of things. The teacher was adamant that he KNOWS what smart students go through in an undifferentiated elementary school, that sometimes they don't even understand yet how smart they ARE because they haven't had that chance to stretch, that he is a teacher explicitly in order to provide that challenge to students. The teacher considers his class to be a compacted 7thand8th grade course, which prepares for Algebra. So it amounts to a double subject skip. I am not completely convinced that it will be enough, but DS is now quite ready to give it a try. I think it will be good for him to be a class with one mathtalented 6th grader and a room full of mathinterested 7th graders. And in a few weeks if it's still tedious...we can give something else a try. So, wish us luck!! Especially with the smalltown drama. Apparently there are a LOT of people upset because their kids didn't get into this accelerated class. Even though a special "advanced" class got created for them instead. Sigh.

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#243749  09/02/18 02:25 AM
Re: Middle school math
[Re: sunnyday]

Member
Registered: 12/11/12
Posts: 2026

I hope they are correct but what is promised and what is delivered can be quite different.

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#246520  12/31/19 06:15 PM
Re: Middle school math
[Re: sunnyday]

Member
Registered: 11/08/14
Posts: 60

Time for an update! DS did well in the "accelerated" 7th grade class for his sixth grade year. He's now in Algebra with the same teacher and it's going fine as well. Not a challenge per se  he has a 98% and hardly brings homework home  but keeps him engaged enough.
But what's life in public school with a gifted kid if you don't second guess all the things? At conferences last month, the teacher remarked on how easily DS was coping with the class. He discussed what next school year will look like for him and his math progression. DS will have topped out the middle school offerings and will have to go to the high school (conveniently in the adjoining building, since it's a small district) for math in 8th grade. But the school is too small to offer tracking, so he will be in a mainstream 10th grade Geometry course and the challenge level of the coursework will drop dramatically. Geometry is required for high school graduation and therefore the class is paced for students who are struggling to pass. The current math teacher's suggestion is that for the first time in his career, he will be suggesting concurrent enrollment in both Geometry and Algebra II. He admits that, although this will provide challenge in terms of the quantity of math, it won't fix the depth or pacing issues.
I'm super worried by this and not really cool with it. My kiddo is not good with tedious homework, though he has good work ethic and will push through it. I don't want math to become a dreaded chore that taps out his executive function before he can even work on the other increased expectations of an 8th grade workload.
The teacher also mentioned that DS is the first student of his experience that he would consider to be strongly MIT/CalTech material. This is affirming but mindblowing. And it reiterates for me that what he needs is not to be hurtling toward the "endgame" of AP Calc BC in high school (or even DE Calc III at community college). He needs to be developing a true foundation for mathematical thinking that will help him launch whatever he ends up doing after high school.
So. Regardless of what we choose, we're looking at working on high school credit starting next year. What kind of options have other parents chosen in similar situations (substandard offerings at public school?) Stick with the school class plus enrichment...AOPS online for greater credibility when claiming credit...something else?
Advice welcomed!

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