Should Geometry Come Between Algebra 1 and Algebra 2?

You might notice (or remember from your school days) that often geometry is placed in between algebra 1 and algebra 2 in the sequence of courses for high school. Why is that? Is it important? Is it ok if I go in a different order? Let me try to answer these questions.

Let’s begin with the “why” question. Geometry is simpler than algebra 2. So if you want to look at these three courses in order of difficulty, it would be algebra 1, geometry, then algebra 2. Geometry does not use any math more complicated than the concepts learned in algebra 1. Putting geometry in between algebra 1 and algebra 2 gives students an extra year to practice algebra 1, while also strengthening their logic skills (application of math to real world concepts) and giving them a year to mature “mathematically” before tackling the more abstract concepts of algebra 2. Honestly, algebra 2 is a tough course. There are some very abstract (& brand new) concepts that students can struggle to grasp if they have not matured some in the mathematical thinking department (which a good geometry course will help them do).

Can you go in a different order and be fine? Yes, depending on the student. Taking algebra 2 directly after algebra 1, and then taking geometry is just fine for some students, but I do not recommend this if the student struggles with math (or is somewhat math resistant). It can be a tougher road to go. However, in the homeschool/private world there are times when circumstances dictate going in a different order, and your student will be just fine, as long as you understand that algebra 2 will be a challenging course. If your student is taking it at a younger age directly after algebra 1, make sure to allot enough time in his or her schedule to devote to the course. It will be a challenging course.

Across the board, I always recommend that students take geometry before algebra 2, if possible. I have found in my experience that students benefit from the extra year of math (taking geometry) before they tackle algebra 2.

For advanced, highly motivated, or desperate students, you can actually take geometry and algebra 2 at the same time. My own daughter had a rough academic freshman year and did not finish her geometry course. She is a hard worker and was motivated and wanted to take geometry and algebra 2 at the same time as a sophomore, and it worked out fine for her. However, she spent several hours a day on math and we had to make sure her schedule was clear enough to handle that much math. So those courses can be taken in tandem, but it is definitely a challenge.

I hope this clears up some of the confusion around this topic.


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