When I was a middle school student in Arkansas, my grade was the first in our district to allow 8th graders to take Algebra. Despite the initial apprehensions of the Algebra teacher, who harbored doubts about the readiness of 8th graders to learn Algebra, we outshone expectations. In fact, we outperformed all but a select few ninth graders. Looking back, 8th grade math would have been a waste of time for us.
Fast forward to my son's middle school experience. He transitioned to public school in 7th grade so he could play basketball. The school tested his math ability before the year started, and he was catapulted immediately to Algebra, skipping middle school math entirely.
Did We Miss Anything?
What is going on? Did we miss valuable content by skipping one or two years of middle school math?
In elementary math, students are introduced to many new math ideas.
- This is volume,
- These are decimals,
- Here is how you add fractions,
- Here is how you multilply fractions.
Middle school math, on the other hand, doesn't offer lots of brand new ideas. For the most part, it provides the same ideas in more complicated formats and in different types of sceniarios. Students learn to think through more difficult math problems in new and interesting ways. Math also becomes more conceptual and less procedural. It requires a deeper understanding, and this can be a difficult transition for many middle school math students.
Here is an example: In earlier levels of math, your child studied volume and decimals separately. In Middle School math, she may start finding the volume of objects using decimals. The problem is both more complicated, and it reinforces how to apply two different skills together. Another example: Fractions, decimals, and percents are different ways to represent a similar idea. This will be reinforced in middle school math in ways that enable students to see and understand this at a deeper level.
The exceptions to this dearth of new material generally exist within brief introductions to high school level courses. Pre-Algebra and Statistics would be good examples of new subject matter that middle school students are exposed to.
For most students, middle school math is a very helpful time of reinforcement and preparation for high school math. For a student truly gifted at math, however, neither the reinforcement nor the brief introductions to high school subjects are required. They are often thinking conceptually about math from a young age, and they often need the challenge of high level math.
We currently have a complete elementary math program that runs from Age 4-5 through Age 10-12. We are currently developing one additional level of math (Age 11-13) that will be released in the summer of 2024. We are covering all of the middle school math standards in Age 10-12 and Age 11-13 ( usually 6th and 7th grade respectively). We are not planning to develop an Age 12-14 math curriculum. Upon completion of the Age 11-13 level, we recommend students proceed straight to Algebra. If your child is not strong in math, you can take more than one year to finish the final level of middle school math.