Subject acceleration: math

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-23-2002
Subject acceleration: math
31
Tue, 01-29-2013 - 1:35pm

So my homeschooled just-turned-10-year-old would love to do math at school next year. She loves group-based learning, at least when it's at her level. Our local K-12 public school has been very good about including homeschooled kids in their program part-time.

She finished ~7th grade math about a year and a half ago (using Singapore Primary Math). For a year or so afterwards I just let her drift with her math being non-curricular, interest driven and unstructured. She didn't do much. She occasionally made use of a book called Challenge Math, intended as enrichment for gifted middle-schoolers, but just in small spurts. Then about two months ago she started talking about wanting to try school for math next year. She wanted to try out the math program they use at this school at home first, and see if she liked it, so our homeschool liaison teacher got her a bunch of different levels to look over and she decided on the level that matched what she had been doing, the 8th grade program. Despite a 3-week break over Christmas she's now about half-way through the course. It seems to me to be at almost the right level: quite easy, but the demands and format are a little more high-school-ish than she was used to in Singapore and Challenge Math, so she's having to get used to that. So far she's not using the textbook at all. Everything is either completely intuitive, or review, or so simple for her that the very brief example problem given before each set of workbook problems is sufficient for her to get it. I have no doubt that she could handle the 9th grade course without needing to do the 8th, but it would be more of a challenge, and at this point she's enjoying the ease.

The question is, if I do approach the local K-12 school about including her in a math class next fall, what level do I ask for? I think the options are primarily 7th grade and 9th grade. (I should say that we're in Canada, where math continues to be math throughout high school, rather than being divided into separate algebra, trig and geometry courses. Every year in the curriculum contains a progression through a variety of mathematical topics. So there's no issue of her meeting up with a mono-diet of quadratic equations next fall or anything.)

7th grade would be a two-year skip, though she's "old for grade," having a January birthday in a place with a Dec. 31st cutoff, so she'd only be 13-14 months younger than the next-youngest couple of kids. She already has one good friend in this grade and a number of casual friends. Of course the curriculum would be an easy repeat of stuff she's already been managing handily for a couple of years. At least it would be a different workbook, though it would be one level back.  

8th and 9th grade math would likely be combined in a split class next year. She doesn't have any close friends in that class, though one of her good friends, a homeschooled 12-year-old, may be doing 8th grade math there, but she is acquaintances with most of the other kids, and has casual friendships with a couple of them. Since she will have completed exactly the curriculum the 8th graders will be doing, I can't see asking her to fill in the same workbook all over again. It would make sense for her to do 9th grade. She'd be in with the same group of kids either way. It would mean three consistently-scheduled hours of class a week, plus homework. The combined class would have about 18 kids.

Her social affinities run old. She gets along well with kids her own age and younger in small groups or one-on-one, but has little tolerance for the catty and/or chaotic group behaviour of tweens. Her siblings are all teens, and she much prefers to hang out with groups of teenagers rather than the 10-12 set. Unlike my older kids who were fiercely autonomous and perfectionistic, this kid deals well with structure, challenge, and failure. She's resilient as heck, cheerful and socially gracious.

All logic tells me to push for her in the 9th grade math course next year. How hard a sell do you think this will be? It's a full four years ahead of where she "should" be by age, and she's never been in school before. Her current math work is being overseen and marked by the school's high school math teacher, because he just happens to also be our homeschool liaison teacher. He knows her abilities and understands her social preferences and maturity. But he's a junior teacher in this district, and the principal, although willing to allow subject acceleration in compelling cases, has made it clear that she is fairly wedded to the idea of age-levelled education. 

Have any of your kids been accommodated for radical subject acceleration? How tough a sell was it? Assuming I can get the school to agree, are there potential pitfalls I'm missing here?

Miranda

Miranda
in rural BC, Canada
mom to three great kids and one great grown-up
unschooler, violist, runner, doc 

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iVillage Member
Registered: 09-13-1999
Tue, 01-29-2013 - 7:59pm

It sounds like the 9th grade placement is the one that fits.  Is there any opportunity for her to take a placement test at school before entering the class and if so, is that something you would want her to do?  My sense is that schools are more willing to accommodate divergent math levels than they are either global acceleration or other subject acceleration as long as the student is able to demonstrate competence at the appropriate math level.   In one school my kids have attended, this meant taking the final exam for the prior year course, in another there's a special placement test devised for just this purpose.   If it's not offered and you encounter any resistance, maybe you can offer the option or, if that's not possible, produce a portfolio of the work she's completed, as well as a written recommendation by the teacher.  It definitely helps that he's a high school math teacher at the school, junior or not.

iVillage Member
Registered: 01-05-2005
Wed, 01-30-2013 - 1:12pm

Ds10 has been accelerated the most - he's taking 8th grade math this year and will take 9th grade next year. I know we've had kids in our district even more accelerated, but we honestly didn't have any particular reason to push and it limited what he did the rest of the day (due to scheduling). However, in your dd's case, where she would ONLY be going to math, I don't see any reason to not put her in the appropriate class (which sounds like 9th grade). In our case, I feel like we have to weigh how everything fits in. In your case, if the only consideration is math, it makes sense to put her in 9th grade. I also completely agree about the 4th child getting on well with older kids (our ds is the 4th and the baby so he's very comfortable talking to everyone from grade school up through college, given that he has siblings that age).

My only concern (and another reason we didn't do any additional acceleration) is that for us personally, we want our kids to have the HS experience (ds is very, very social and loves that aspect of school) and we didn't want him to run out of options or have to take a college course (I believe he can already take Calc III and Differential equations). We also wondered (since he seems very "mathy" and will likely need higher math in college) whether it would be a problem if he had a gap year with no math between HS and college. OTOH, you don't want your dd's first experience with school to be one where she's bored out of her mind and not learning anything!!

I know that the newer teacher might not want to 'fight' for the correct placement, but if he can provide some information on her level, you can provide the 'fight' if needed. :)  Why artificially hold her back?

iVillage Member
Registered: 12-06-2010
Wed, 01-30-2013 - 3:50pm

We've done radical subject acceleration, but in music, which is not really a school issue at all. My just-turned-ten year old daughter was placed in an advanced orchestra setting as first violin with a group of sixteen- to twenty-four year old players. There was no issue with getting her placed there because two teachers recommended her for the spot and then asked me if we would consider it, so I was basically the last to hear about it anyway. It was finally a decent fit for her challenge-wise because she had to learn a huge amount of music in the shortest possible time, but socially it was an extremely poor fit. A lot of the ambitious young adults in the group were not exactly welcoming, and a couple of the girls were downright nasty to her. But this was not a classic classroom situation - it was a group of hardworking, somewhat arrogant, talented young players. I think they felt both offended and threatened by the kid half their age who could play with them. If it had been a standard classroom with a decent teacher (in this case, director) it might have been fine. As it turned out, I pulled DD out after two rehearsals and learned my lesson. The funny thing is that this went wrong not in spite of but precisely BECAUSE of the fact that this was an accelerated group of players. It may have been a combination if ambition, expectations, insecurities and fears about not being "good enough" that made the atmosphere so bad, it may have been the lack of direction coming from the musical director. The funny thing is that my DD has had comfortable fits socially both in groups of "average" learners and in groups of gifted learners, no matter what age. So I guess in your place I'd look both at the teacher leading the program and at the kids taking part in it. If there is fierce competition to get into the ninth grade group or lots if comparing going on, I'd be cautious. If the kids seem like a more relaxed class and the teacher has a good handle on things, I'd be more likely to go with it.

iVillage Member
Registered: 09-13-1999
Wed, 01-30-2013 - 6:14pm

Beeblebrx, I know you are outside the U.S. so I can't speak precisely to your situation but  in my neck of the woods in the U.S., I'm continually amazed by how competitive and crazy the strings world can be.  CRAZY.  One of dd's former violin teacher's most talented students endured the same sorts of nastiness that you are describing and I remember how hurtful it was.    I hope you can find the right venues  for your daughter.  I'm sure you will :)

I haven't seen the same sort of resentment or arrogance manifested the same way in academic settings, especially not in math.  Perhaps it is a matter of the schools my kids have attended or perhaps it's a matter of the subject, but my experience has been that kids are welcoming to anyone who can tackle the subject.   Mathcounts had a group of various ages involved and there was a definite sense of teamwork and camaraderie and no feeling that the younger participants weren't as valuable as the older ones.  

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-23-2002
Wed, 01-30-2013 - 6:41pm

Oh yeah, we've done similarly with music. This same dd was playing in an adult amateur chamber orchestra at ages 6-8. There were some teens in the orchestra, and her sister (who was 11-ish), but she was the youngest by a huge margin. In our case it there were no egos involved at all. It was such a wonderful, mutually supportive situation. We've always been very careful with that with our kids and their music. We've purposely kept them out of competitive environments until adolescence, even when it has meant missed opportunties. But we've found others.

As for whether the 9th grade math course would be competitive, the answer is no. This is a rural public school with a high school student body of about 40. There are no competitive classes at all: they make up "Math 8/9" with all kids in those grades, at all levels of ability, academic stream, applied stream, learning disabled, gifted, one big mish-mash of kids. Numbers are so small that they could include twice as many kids without needing to rearrange anything.

Miranda

Miranda
in rural BC, Canada
mom to three great kids and one great grown-up
unschooler, violist, runner, doc 

iVillage Member
Registered: 12-06-2010
Thu, 01-31-2013 - 6:00am

weedosmom wrote:
<p>Beeblebrx, I know you are outside the U.S. so I can't speak precisely to your situation but  in my neck of the woods in the U.S., I'm continually amazed by how competitive and crazy the strings world can be.  CRAZY.  One of dd's former violin teacher's most talented students endured the same sorts of nastiness that you are describing and I remember how hurtful it was.    I hope you can find the right venues  for your daughter.  I'm sure you will :)</p><p>I haven't seen the same sort of resentment or arrogance manifested the same way in academic settings, especially not in math.  Perhaps it is a matter of the schools my kids have attended or perhaps it's a matter of the subject, but my experience has been that kids are welcoming to anyone who can tackle the subject.   Mathcounts had a group of various ages involved and there was a definite sense of teamwork and camaraderie and no feeling that the younger participants weren't as valuable as the older ones.   </p>

Yes, it's exactly that - crazy! I live in a major city with one of the most prestigious orchestras in the world and a huge, huge tradition of classical music. Every year young musicians are better and better, I hear, but the competition once they grow up is unbelievably intense. The nastiness really flies in the face of everything making good music together *should* be.

That said, it was a very brief experience because we pulled DD out as soon as we realized what was going on. Now she's in a situation where she mostly performs as a soloist, often together with other profoundly gifted soloists. They are supportive of each other and confident enough to enjoy each other's music. Although it's not the same experience as playing together, they do learn from each other.  DD's playing has literally exploded since last summer - her sound is huge now, and I think that comes from listening to other players who are not afraid to "let it all hang out."

I have seen the kind of arrogance we're talking about in academic settings, but not as a general rule. It's a huge problem in the highly competitive high school in my suburb, but I believe it's a cultural problem and a socio-economic issue here (this is the only public school in offering college prep in an area where over eighty percent of the children born here will attend university, but only twenty percent can get a space at the high school.) Most likely in a relaxed rural setting like the one Miranda's describing or in a urban/suburban setting with more than enough good educational opportunities, it should be fine.

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-09-2006
Thu, 01-31-2013 - 11:16am
Today I only had to log in twice, hit reply three times, and restart my browser after a crash caused by an "unresponsive script" on the iv page. Progress? Anyway, this is clearly not about the math. She could obviously do the 9th grade math now or when she's of the usual 9th grade age, in either case with little effort and ahead of most or all of her classmates. So...I'd pick the best social fit. Deborah
iVillage Member
Registered: 07-23-2002
Thu, 01-31-2013 - 11:34am
I'm not sure I understand what you're saying. I think doing 9th grade math four years from now, when she's of the usual 9th grade age, would be incredibly frustrating and demoralizing for her. I see this as being more about the academic fit than the social fit. And I think she would have to expend some effort to do it next year -- which is really what she would like. Is there something I'm not seeing? Can you explain in more detail? Miranda

Miranda
in rural BC, Canada
mom to three great kids and one great grown-up
unschooler, violist, runner, doc 

iVillage Member
Registered: 09-13-1999
Thu, 01-31-2013 - 11:59am

Is there an opportunity to play chamber music with these other talented people?   That way she can experience some of the joy of playing with others and be protected from the meanness too.  The other option is to find an adult orchestra.  We know one ubertalented kid who plays with the (insert name of a major city) symphony orchestra.  He's unusual, I grant you and older than your dd,  but it seems that adults, while intense, are much more open to younger musicians than teens or very young adults.

This is a bit off topic but we currently live in an area of the U.S. that features intense academic pressure and we moved here from another, equally high stress place.  Even so, I don't see that arrogance sets the tone for the academic setting.  On the surface at least, the motivated kids seem to work well together and support each other.  The pressures seem to reside inside the individuals and sadly, too many of these kids believe they don't measure up.  There's such pressure to be perfect, well beyond academics, that it's not hard to see how this happens.  I read and hear about teen depression and even suicides that seem to result from this hugely distorted view. 

 I find that the strings world is a whole 'nother thing.  My older girls attended a private high school that has always attracted talented musicians.  Recently, one conservatory level playing girl played a violin solo at a school assembly.   Reportedly, another equally talented girl pulled her advisory group aside afterwards to comment that the girl had played a passage incorrectly and actually pulled out a youtube video of her playing the same music so that the group (none of whom are musicians) could hear the way it should be played.   Now I'll grant you that I wasn't present for any of this and my source is only one of the girls from that group but it sounded appalling to me.  It's hard for me to accept that this girl can make such incredible music and display such ugliness.   But...this would NEVER happen in an academic class.

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-09-2006
Thu, 01-31-2013 - 12:38pm

Well, I probably don't understand your situation. 

My kids have ALWAYS got along socially with people out of their age group (both older and younger)...I think lots (or even most) kids do.  The age level thing is for the convenience of the school.  If the school allows her to do 9th grade math, it might end up being the best social situation.

I'm a litle unclear on why she wants to do this.  I doubt it's for the intellectual stimulation.  She's gone halfway through the 8th grade math curriculum in 2 months, basically without "cracking the book".  And she's 10, right on the edge of an enormous physical change and growth in ability.  So it doesn't seem (to me) that she would be engaged by 9th math for a whole year...she might be capable of going through the material even faster and with more ease (as you pointed out, this is her first experience with a math book that's in more of a high school format) than she's doing the 8th grade text now.  If she finishes 9th math as an 11 year old...then what happens?  Will it be calculus when she's of 9th grade age?...after that, what are her options?   It seems that she is trading what has been an effective and efficient and tailor made experience for one that is designed to ensure a sound grasp of concepts for all...the fact that she is four years younger makes little difference..she's still going to be more able than the class as a whole. 

Deborah

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