Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Why Do We Push Students Into Algebra So Early.

Mathematics, Pay, Count, School  This past year, the whole middle school and high school has had to make significant changes due to the common core standards.   They've been around for a while but my district decided to wait until the last minute to implement them.

So now any 7th grader who is deemed ready based on the 6th grade teacher's recommendation will be taking Pre-algebra while the others take a basic 7th grade math class.  All the 8th graders will be in Pre-Algebra or Algebra. 

By the time they hit 9th grade, they are expected to be in Algebra I or Geometry.  I know that not all 9th graders will be ready to take Algebra I as some struggle with the basics. I teach where there is only one math teacher in high school (me) and two middle school math teachers for grades 6 through 8.

We know that all students develop at different rates and does brain theory support pushing kids ahead in math at faster rate?  I feel as if we've forgotten the student in the rush to push them ahead.  I had students who have reached the 9th grade who still struggle with signed numbers, fractions, and other basics.  If they are struggling, I end up having to scaffold them but they don't always develop the foundation they need because they are still confused.

Yes, I have a couple of students coming up who can jump into a higher math when they start 9th grade but most of my students still struggle with the basics.  We have elementary, middle school, and high school all in one building so I have input into what is taught in the lower grades.  There have been two elementary teachers who have a solid math background and have been working hard to help students develop a solid base but the others?  That is a whole different story.

I do worry about many of these students who are ELL or learning disabled being pushed faster than they are able to move.  I have a senior who has a print disability and he struggles in Pre-Algebra.  As he moves up to Algebra, it will be much harder because he cannot run everything through on a regular calculator.  My other learning disabled students do well if they can run the numbers on the calculator but one they reach Algebra or higher, I have to make sure they have more complex calculators so they can complete the work.   Unfortunately, many of these students still struggle. 

I will always worry about pushing these students forward before they move on because if they struggle with math, they often develop a dislike for the subject, convinced they are "unable" to get it.  When in reality, the system has decided that they need to be at this point even if they are not ready for it.  I have no answers but I have lots of concerns and the only thing I can do is teach the material as well as I can and provide differentiation and scaffolding and hope they do not develop a dislike of the subject or a closed mind.