Denison Algebra Placement Guide

The Basics

Denison Algebra is in the business of helping non-mathy (or non-math loving) students learn and be successful in high school level math courses. When we say “non-mathy”, we are not speaking about the student’s capabilities, potential, or intelligence. All students can absolutely learn high school math and be successful with it. When we use the term “non-mathy”, we are referring to students for whom math is just tough to learn, or the students who just do not like math. While Denison Algebra courses are geared towards the college-bound non-mathy student, they are full standard level courses and are just fine for college-bound students who do not struggle with math as well. However, our courses are not advanced or honors level, so if your student is naturally mathy or enjoys an accelerated math challenge, then we recommend using an honor’s level curriculum.

We do not have traditional placement tests for Denison Algebra courses. This is because we wrote our courses to be taken by grade level. Most students want to be in high school classes and need to start earning high school credits when they get to high school, so our goal is to help make that happen. How do we write courses to be taken by grade level? By reviewing and reteaching material needed from elementary and middle school math throughout our courses, filling in gaps, rebuilding confidence, and presenting and packaging math in a way that benefits the non-mathy student.

We do have one “placement test”, and that is for pre-algebra, since it can be a bit challenging trying to figure out when to start or stop pre-algebra (or whether to skip it altogether). Our placement test for pre-algebra is more of a final exam for our pre-algebra course. It allows you to see all the material presented in our pre-algebra course, so you can determine if your student already knows the material, and it can help guide you on entering (or exiting) the pre-algebra world.

If you have a student who really, REALLY struggles with math, make sure you check out our Success series courses, which are designed to help students with heavy learning challenges get through high school level math classes. Click HERE to find out more information about the difference between our standard courses and our Success Series courses.

The Courses 

Below is a quick guide to Denison Algebra courses and how to place a student. We know that one size does not fit all, so definitely use your common sense and use this document only as a guide. There is also a Placement Questions section on our FAQ page that may help answer more of your questions.


Intended Grade Level: 7th or 8th grade


Students just need to be able to add, subtract, multiply, and divide one-digit numbers. That’s it!

All other topics are reviewed and retaught (including arithmetic, integers, fractions, decimals, and percents). It is designed to fill in gaps from elementary and middle school math, and introduce a student to the world of algebra, preparing them for high school algebra 1.

Click here to see a more detailed guide and placement/content exam for the pre-algebra course.

Algebra 1

Intended Grade Level: 8th or 9th grade


Pre-algebra (recommended, but not required).  Our algebra 1 course was written to be taken whether a student has had pre-algebra or not. It certainly is helpful to take pre-algebra before algebra 1 and if a student has time in his or her schedule we recommend taking it first, but pre-algebra is not required. How can this be? Because all algebra 1 topics are presented as though it is the first time a student has seen them, and arithmetic skills needed for algebra 1 are reviewed throughout the course. It is not assumed that a student is coming with algebra skills already in place.

This is a standard level course, so even though topics are presented from the beginning as though a student has not seen them before, they are developed and taught at the standard algebra 1 level. This is not a “modified” course.

Again, if a student has time in their schedule, we do recommend pre-algebra be taken first. But if a student is going into high school, we generally recommend beginning algebra 1, just so a student can start getting high school level credits and be on track for graduation goals.

We do not have a placement test for algebra 1. If your student has had pre-algebra in any sort of capacity (even if the course is not finished), or they are going into high school, then we recommend beginning algebra 1. This is just a guide, of course. You as a parent know your situation best, so a student going into high school could certainly take pre-algebra in 9th grade, and then algebra 1 in 10th grade. There are many variations and paths to attaining the necessary credits for graduation.


Intended Grade Level: 9th grade or above


Algebra 1 A student need not have a strong algebra 1 background to take Denison Geometry. Any needed algebra 1 skills are directly reviewed and retaught. Students who have passed an algebra 1 course are ready for Denison Geometry, regardless of how well they did in the course. If a student can handle adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing positive and negative numbers, and can solve basic equations, then they are ready for Denison Geometry (& those skills are even reviewed at the beginning of the geometry course).

Algebra 2

Intended Grade Level: 10th grade or above


Algebra 1 (geometry is recommended, but not required). A student needs to have an algebra 1 credit in order to take algebra 2. However, a student need not have a strong algebra 1 background. Any needed algebra 1 skills are directly reviewed and retaught. If a student comes with a weak algebra 1 background, then they will just need to pay extra attention to the lessons that reteach and review algebra 1 skills. But if they have passed an algebra 1 class, then they are ready to take Denison Algebra 2.