Rethinking High School Maths

Rethinking_MathsHigh school arithmetic has changed since I was a student. The average student will now take Algebra I, immediately followed by Algebra II, and then he will take Geometry. While this seems beneficial, Algebra II is a continuation of the previous course, some of our high school students are bemoaning the new arrangement.

It seems college SAT testing relies heavily upon knowledge of Algebra. Since most of our high school students are taking these tests in their junior year of high school, it’s been over a year since they’ve touched an Algebra textbook and their skills in this area are rusty.

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with some of our high school students in our PSP. They noted this struggle due to Algebra having been taken a year prior, instead of the year they are testing. They expressed a wish to have taken it when needed. I wonder how many of our children feel the same?

When I was in high school, a standard arithmetic course for those college bound was arranged differently. First you took Algebra, then you took Geometry, and this was followed by Algebra II. If you wished to further pursue your studies in maths, you would then take Calculus and Trig. This better prepared us for SAT testing, and allowed our minds an opportunity to mature before tackling the more advanced lessons of Algebra II.

As my oldest daughter is just finishing the first of her high school years, this caught my attention. I had planned on the schedule laid out in our course of study guide, which most high school students seem to be adopting today. However, struggles in Algebra and a greater appreciation for Geometry are leading us in a different direction.

While I see both sides of the debate, I believe the Lord has confirmed our decision to move forward with next year’s choice of arithmetic. We look forward to exploring this new area of maths, and seeing what the Lord will teach us next.

📢 Chime In!: Where do you stand on this issue? Should students be taking Algebra courses together or with Geometry between, and why?

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16 thoughts on “Rethinking High School Maths

  1. I was listening to a podcast about scheduling sciences when the commentator mentioned that Americans are unique in their scheduling math and science in yearly chunks. Apparently in other countries streams of science and upper maths continue through all four (or five) years of high school. I see many ways that this approach could build retention, relieve stress and make for interesting integration with science, so I am considering keeping the Algebra going and alternating with Geometry next year.

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    • I like this idea. I would love to see how they practically apply this to their schedule/routine. Do they take each course individually each day; take a lesson in each course once a week; or are they all blended together and taught simultaneously throughout the course of their upper grades?

      Hmmm… we might have to do a little research in this area ourselves. The idea definitely has merit.


      • In Australia, each grades maths texts contain a range of topics- consumer arithmetic, algebra units, geometry etc.
        Topics run for a chapter, broken into sections increasing in difficulty and building on the previous ones.
        That way each year children build on what they have previously learned and topics have individual tests and an end of year combined exam.
        Do American students study Algebra and geometry for a whole year each?

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      • Yes, in America, we typically study each course separately. Freshman year is usually Algebra I, Sophomore is Algebra II, Junior Geometry, and Senior Calculus. You can, of course, move more swiftly through these courses by testing out of them or by taking courses over the summer to move ahead. But, this is a standard course set for high school.

        In the curriculum we purchase, there IS a review in the final chapters of each course. Thus chapter 15 of Pre-Algebra might introduce Geometry and Trig concepts; chapter 16 in Algebra will review those concepts; and Geometry will review Algebra at the back as well. However, these concepts are not reviewed throughout the entire year, merely in one chapter at the end of the official course study.

        I appreciate how other countries are making these concepts a daily practice, or at least weekly. This seems more beneficial to my way of thinking.


  2. An amazing friend of mine who tutored my oldest during the “geometry year” also worked in lots of algebra review problems each week. That seemed to make a huge difference in his retention. I will be eternally grateful for her wisdom in that area.

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  3. I took Algebra I one year and then Geometry and Algebra II both the next year. Most of my friends took Algebra I and II after each other but I think its more of a personal preference.

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  4. As a math educator and home school parent I believe taking Algebra 1 followed by Geometry and then Algebra 2 is best. It allows students to synthesize the information better and also gives those who struggled in Algebra an area to feel success. I recommend students take the SAT following their Geometry course so that the information is fresh.

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  5. We have followed the plan in Idaho where our daughter took Algebra 1 (8th grade), Geometry, Algebra 2, Pre-Calculus/Trigonometry, and Calculus. With our son we started with the same program as our daughter however they chose to follow the Common Core route and changed everything up, so we pulled him out and purchased Saxon Algebra 2. This year we are finishing up Advanced Math (Pre-Calculus/Trigonometry with the last bits of Geometry thrown in) and next year we will finish up with Saxon Calculus. It has been a much better fit, though very intensive and he is hopefully prepared for the SAT which he will take this weekend. When I was in high school, I didn’t even have to take Geometry which I now see as a huge drawback. I am glad that we chose to fit it in between the two and that Saxon Math incorporates it into their math curriculum all the way through the Pre-Calculus/Trigonometry book.

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  6. We use Singapore Math through the 7th grade book, which provides a very solid introduction to Algebra and Geometry together. After that, we travel the road of Algebra 1, Geometry and Algebra 2 (8th – 10th grade). We follow up with Pre-Calc/Trig and Calculus in 11th and 12th grade; but our children need to be prepared for ACT and SAT by 11th grade. My oldest scored near perfect on the math portion of his ACT, and son number two is following in his path; so the approach seems good. I can’t say enough about the Singapore Math 7th Grade book. It is a challenging book to get through, but my children have no problems with Algebra or Geometry after.

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  7. One thing I have always liked about the Saxon math books is that Algebra and Geometry are intertwined. It’s based on the “spiral learning” idea of gradually adding small bits of new info while continually reviewing old info, rather than learning one topic at a time and moving on (to possibly forget it before you need to use it again). My daughter is half-way through the Algebra 2 book; and it has bits of algebra, geometry, and a little trigonometry all mixed together and slowly building in complexity.

    As a side note: we did her math this year on a 3-day-per-week schedule and are splitting it across her freshman and sophomore years to make it a bit easier to master. This allows her a second day for each lesson to review and correct any problems she missed and reinforce the lesson before moving on. This has proved beneficial for her, and for our homeschooling schedule!

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  8. I was taught Algebra 1, then Geometry, then algebra II. But when I wrote the Learn Math Fast System to show everyone how I taught my son to have college level math at age 16, I changed the order to Algebra 1, then 2, then Geometry. It just makes sense! ~JK

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  9. My daughter isn’t college bound so we did algebra but avoided the other maths. She’s going to learn math that actually is needed like budgeting, taxes, using a checkbook and percentages & tipping. She has aspergers and math has been a killer. I will say that Math U See really was a great program and uses mastery so it wasn’t as difficult. She’s not going into a math career so we are focusing on life skills instead.

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