Middle School Math- What Level

Updated on October 06, 2010
E.K. asks from Methuen, MA
14 answers

My sons middle school breaks the 7th grade kids in two groups for math. 3/5 of the classes are concidered accelerated. 2/5 are a "slower" pace. My son was placed in the accelerated class ( he had A's and B's last year) This year he is having a tough time in math. His confidence is down and he tells me that the teacher goes too fast. The teacher mentioned that we could swich him. I do not know what to do. in 8th grade the kids are in 3 groups. If he is placed in the lowest group now what will happen in the future. If he goes in with the low group will he be with a lot of behavior issue kids? I worry about his self esteem as well. Why would I want to switch him? He is frustrated with the pace and I find myself reteaching so that he can complete his homework. Is a lower grade in accelerated math better than a high grade in "slow" math.

I am told that:
Long term….it is unlikely a student can take Algebra in 8th grade if they are in math 2 in 7th. In that case, the student would take Algebra in high school.

Would love to hear some suggestions. Thanks

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answers from San Antonio on

In texas, 6th graders specifically learn a lot of NEW math concepts. I don't remember the percentage of what is brand new, but it's greater in 6th grade than in any other year (at least in Texas). So I agree with others in saying to let him go to the lower group. You never know what it will be like if he doesn't try it (ie the behavior kids, etc). Another thought -- What about a different teacher in one of the other of the 3 math groups? Maybe it's the teacher that he has a hard time understanding?

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answers from Houston on

I make a living with math. Put him a lower level so he can catch on. This isn't about his grades but his comprehension. If he doesn't learn the basics now, then math may become an endless struggle. I often tell people math is a foreign language which takes lots of practice to drill into your mind until its inner workers are second nature and sometimes those lessons take a slower pace to absorb.

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answers from New York on

I'll share my experience. My daughter took Algebra in 8th grade, she had some difficulties, but still got an A- and was placed in honors Geometry her freshman year. She was having lots of problems (mostly because of the teacher, a whole different story), and getting a C. Anyway we had the option of switching her to another teacher keeping her in the honors class, or switching the teacher and having her go to the middle group. We opted for the middle group. Within a week, it was a whole different ball game. Her self esteem sored, she was now getting an A, and was one of the best students in a class of sophmores.

As to the last part of your question, getting a B in an accelerated class in the same as getting an A in an average class.

As far as long term, I don't know the percentage, but I would guess at least 80% start algebra as a freshman, so I wouldn't worry about that.

Good luck.

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answers from Colorado Springs on

It's so important to learn the basics of math that, if he needs a slower pace to learn them well, he should change classes. It's no shame to be in a regular class. Once he has the basics down solidly, perhaps he could try the faster classes again - although I'm just assuming this would be worked this way at your son's school.

I suppose that an alternative to this might be some sort of after-school tutoring to give him more chance to be with a teacher and come to understand what he's doing.

But he (and/or) you needs to talk to the teacher about it first - a real conference, not a "mentioning."

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answers from Boston on

Hi, I'm a middle school guidance counselor in a school that also levels for math. it sounds like you already have the information correct regarding the pro's and con's of moving your son down a level V.S. Keeping him in the accelerated class. Given the number of behavior problems that often exist in lower level classes, I would encourage your son to stick it out. A lower grade in a higher level class is a better scenerio than the opposite. It is unlikely that he would be able to take alg1 in his 8th grade year being in a lower level class, it does happen from time to time, however at my school we use a diagnostic test as well as grades to determine this, and it is unlikely that he would know the material on the test in a lower level class. If he qualifies for algebra in 8th grade and does not do well, he can always re-take alg1 his freshman year, and he will be much better off since he already had a year of the class, I would also speak with the teacher and have your son stay for extra help with the teacher as well. If I take my counselor hat off and look at it from a parent perspective, knowing what I know, I would keep me child at the higher level, especially since the lower level class is likely losing some teaching time due to classroom management behavior issues.

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answers from Houston on

Please put him in the lower group. This happened to me, also got all A's and high B's in math and was put in the accelerated. Because the teacher went faster then I was able to comprehend the concepts, I never caught up for any of the years and ended up failing math totally.

Let him catch up and maybe next year he can go on. The thing is, if he struggles one year, the next will only be adding on top of those same formulas and principals as the prior year, so he will struggle then too.

It is better to have a high grade in a low math if he understand it, then to have a low grade in ap math and struggle year after year. He is so young yet, so he has plenty of time to advance to an ap math.

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answers from Providence on

My dad is a math professor at a local university and the one thing that upsets him the most is having students who clearly do not have a clear understanding of basic math concepts. It's always clear to him when a student has been pushed to rush through math classes the student hasn't been prepared for. He is always saying that in order to do upper level mathematics, it is always best to get a strong foundation of math concepts starting from elementary school. My dad's motto is "Remember the tortoise and the hare. Faster isn't always better. Slow and steady always wins in the long run."

There is no rush for your son to take algebra in 8th grade, especially if he is struggling already. One suggestion I have is to sit down with him and go over with him what his options are, both for middle school AND high school. Let him be the guide. His opinion is important too. Then sit down with a guidance counselor and ask for her opinion as well.

Someone mentioned that your son doesn't have to be excel at every subject. This is so true. He does need to do apply himself to each subject but he may not get all A's and B's in every subject, especially now that he's in middle school. I know for me, my grades slipped a little when I went to middles school and then again when I went to high school, simply because the material was harder. I still gave it my all, but I didn't do quite as well as before. Still, my grades were still good.

You are a great mom for being so concerned for your son, and I applaud you for being an advocate for him. Keep it up, I know you will do what is best for your son! :)


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answers from Austin on

Here is our experience, I had been warned early about advanced math in Middle school.

Our daughter just barely made it into the Algebra class in 7th grade. She wanted to be there, so SHE spoke with the teacher (she hates talking to teachers alone). Right before the Thanksgiving holidays she told me the class was freaking her out, because it was beginning to not make sense to her any longer. She had gone to the before school tutorials, but it still was too hard. I asked if she wanted a private tutor, she said yes. This did help her. It cost $45. per week, but it really did help to have a person that could explain it to our daughter in a way our daughter could understand..

Jump forward to Jr. year time to take the SAT.. It has now been 4 years since daughter has been algebra she is now in Calculus II.. she does not have time to take a SAT refresher course, so she looks over an algebra book and it all looks like Greek to her. I ask he, would you like to revisit the Tutor? She says yes.. so she goes for 2 hours..

I had been warned that too early study of way advanced math could lead to this..
Our daughter did great on the SAT, but these kids that then go onto College and have not take these math classes and have not practiced these formulas since way back when also tend to have to kind of relearn it if their colleges do not give wavers to kids that took all of that advanced math, way back when.. Even they have to almost start over in college to remember all of it.

So really your son is going to do fine, if he slows down the math right now. There is plenty of time. There were many, many kids in the top 10% of the actual graduating classes that did not take algebra until high school.

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answers from Boston on

Most teachers have some "extra help" days. Why doesn't he start with that, working with the same teacher? It will help to cement their relationship. He should tell her that the class seems to go too fast for him (it won't sound like a criticism of HER but it will tell her where his problem lies). By looking at his tests and homework, she should be able to see where he's missed something. He'll also, very likely, see that other kids are in extra help. It's early in the year and a lot of kids have trouble getting off to a good start. If, together, they decide that he'd be better off in the other group, then so be it. It will help his self-esteem to work with the teacher, get some one-on-one or small group help, and perhaps master what he missed. The longer you wait, the more he will miss and the worse he will feel.

The labels of "accelerated" and "slow" are very damaging. I think it's more important to say that people, both kids and adults, learn in different ways. There are different class groupings to gear the work to different learning styles. You should not assume that everyone in the "slow" group has a behavior problem! You can also tell your son that different teachers have different teaching styles. They communicate differently, and so on. Just because he doesn't adapt to this one teacher's style doesn't mean there is anything wrong with him. Really reinforce that with him!

I also don't see the value in pushing kids beyond their level - if they're working hard, there's nothing wrong with an occasional C in middle school. If they can get A's & B's, well, fine. I also don't like measuring kids against each other because of who took algebra in 8th and who took it in 9th. There's plenty of time for kids to achieve in various areas and to move into different levels through high school.

My son did not take Advanced Placement math, for example, in high school, he had a great 4 years, and he got into a great college. Our neighbor took AP everything, was stressed beyond belief to get all A's, and got into a mid-level college. He had a miserable high school existence and complained for 4 solid years about how hard everything was as he stayed up late every night to get A's. So there are many factors involved. Activities, leadership opportunities, community service & volunteering, summer jobs, recommendations - these all matter much more than certain grades.

Your child probably has many skills and many strong areas. Is he a good reader? A creative writer? A history buff? Celebrate those. While he needs to work at all his subjects, maybe math will turn out not to be his "thing." Make sure he is making friends and adapting to middle school in other ways. We need to try not to stress our kids out in middle school.

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answers from Hartford on

Based on your description, it sounds like you have two options. You have named some pros and cons, but I think the most important thing is your child's comprehension of the subject matter. If he continues to struggle, he will not have a solid math core to build on and he may come to hate the subject matter. A better grade in a slower math IS better than a lower grade in a high math because it says that your son understands the material. Also, you should not assume that lower track math is filled with "behavior issue kids." Personally, I think you should make the switch or you setting your son up for a struggle.
Good luck,


answers from Barnstable on

I actually pulled my daughter from 3rd grade for a half of a year to homeschool because I noticed the school wasn't teaching basic math concepts - core concepts that you must have a solid knowledge of to proceed. It made a HUGE difference for her (she is now back at school in 4th grade).

I used Singapore math, which is how we learned math. I would check them out :)



answers from Providence on

Maybe look into a tutor that can teach him the work a week ahead so he is prepared when the teach goes over it and he wont get lost b/c of the speed. I would try to keep him in the higher class. If he is in a lower class this year will he ever be able to go up to the accel. class again b/c he will be behind b/c he went to the slower class. It will be hard but tough it out for 1 year and hopefully next year his teacher will be different if the same problem happens next year then I would drop him down. Good Luck.



answers from Boston on

Speak with the teacher are other students having the same problems in the class. If so it could be she needs to slow down her teaching style and keep all of her students on task. Also how long has your child been back to school. It is still early in the year he just may need more time to adjust to this years changes. Good luck.



answers from Boston on

I agree with everyone that responded (except for the Guidance Counselor - how strange is that)! You should meet again with the teacher to see what they recommend, again maybe he is stuggling right now (but is that C work he is not used to?). If it is that he needs to be taught at a slower pace because he is not catching on, than please don't let the issue of "behavior" kids be your reason not to do the switch. These kids in the lower groups are also, mostly, behaved - good kids like your son - who may also have a slower learning ability. More "behavioral" problem children usually have an aide with them or some even get pulled from the classroom for "pull-out" learning during this time. Not all slow learners - most - should not be considered or assume to have behavior issues. Just wanted to clear that issue from your decision. Good luck.

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