I have a student going into 7th grade who is struggling and is not strong in math. Can I just start them in Denison Pre-Algebra, or should I wait until 8th grade?
If a student struggles in math and is going into 7thgrade, we encourage the student to wait until 8thgrade to begin pre-algebra if possible. This gives the student another year of growth and maturity before tackling the world of abstract algebra concepts.
So, what to do with a 7thgrader in the meantime? The main goal would be to avoid math stress and anxiety, and to not worry about making a certain amount of “progress.” We recommend that you pick a curriculum that looks doable, but then go through it at a comfortable pace, focusing on not letting math become a stressor or a pain point. The goals would be to just make some progress, improve arithmetic skills, and not let math be stressful.
We took pre-algebra, but it went very poorly. Should we take it again before taking algebra 1?
If your student took pre-algebra in 7thgrade and it went poorly (like they didn’t pass the class or finish the course), then we recommend retaking it in 8thgrade. There is no reason to push a student into algebra 1 in 8thgrade with a weak pre-algebra background (since you have plenty of time).
If your student took pre-algebra in 8thgrade (or beyond) and it went poorly, we recommend moving on to Denison Algebra 1 (since the course is written in a way that pre-algebra is not a prerequisite). We recommend that you assess whether pre-algebra went poorly due to external reasons (like poor curriculum or life circumstances) or internal reasons (such as heavy learning challenges, at which point you will want to consider our Success track in high school).
What if we are halfway through 8th grade and have not taken pre-algebra? Should we start pre-algebra or go straight to algebra 1?
We would recommend that you go ahead and begin pre-algebra and take it for half a year. At that point, based on how well your student is doing in the course, you can pick one of several options:
You can continue pre-algebra through the summer to finish it and start algebra 1 in the fall of 9thgrade
You can take a summer break and pick back up with pre-algebra, finishing it in the fall and starting algebra 1 partway through the 9thgrade year.
You can just get as far as you can in the pre-algebra course, take a summer break, and then just start algebra 1 in the fall of the 9thgrade year
What should I do if I REALLY feel like my 9th grader needs pre-algebra instead of starting algebra 1, but it doesn't count as a high school credit in my state?
We recommend going ahead and taking pre-algebra in 9th grade so your student can enter the world of upper-level math after that. If your state requires 4 math credits and does not count pre-algebra as a credit, then we recommend the student double up their senior year with an algebra 2 course and a consumer math course (or take the consumer math course over the summer).
How can you write a pre-algebra course with such few prerequisites?
To start Denison Pre-Algebra, a student only needs to be able to add, subtract, multiply, and divide one-digit numbers. This is because any student going into 7th or 8th grade has no doubt already been exposed to (and most likely been beaten up by) all of the essential elementary and middle school math topics needed (place value, long operations by hand, fractions, decimals, percents, etc.), even if it was done in a scattered or ineffective way. So, while a student may not have fluency in these areas, this gives us something to build on. In Denison Pre-Algebra, we start out by reviewing and reteaching the most basic math skills, but in a gentle way that makes sense for high school level math study. For example, it is not necessary to insist that students multiply large numbers by hand, such as 1438 x 805. This is very tedious and defeating for a lot of students (and is a waste of time). In high school, we usually use a calculator for such large numbers. So, in Denison Pre-Algebra, we review and reteach sensible arithmetic skills that you would do by hand, such as 72 x 8, but not long tedious arithmetic that causes heavy cognitive load on students. We review the basics of arithmetic, fractions, decimals, etc., but not at a highly tedious and defeating level. This allows us to push through the arithmetic block often experienced by struggling students and move on to learning algebra concepts in high school. This also allows us to write a course that does not require heavy prerequisites.
How can you write an algebra 1 course that does not need pre-algebra as a prerequisite?
Every algebra topic that is taught in pre-algebra is retaught in algebra 1 but just taken to a deeper level. So, there are not specific algebra topics that are only taught in pre-algebra. In Denison Algebra 1, we intentionally make sure we present all algebra topics as though the student has never seen them. We do highly recommend students take pre-algebra if their schedule allows, but if a student is starting high school and has not taken pre-algebra yet, we generally recommend they start out with algebra 1, since pre-algebra is often not counted as high school math credit. If a rising non-mathy high school student has not taken pre-algebra and is able to count it as a high school credit on their transcript, then we do recommend that the student take pre-algebra first.
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