Subject acceleration: math

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-23-2002
Subject acceleration: math
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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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Registered: 07-23-2002
Mon, 09-09-2013 - 1:39pm

I just found this old thread and thought I'd post an update. Dd wrote the 8th grade math final last spring and got the highest mark in the school (and also thrived socially and academically in a Spanish class with the 7th, 8th and 9th graders where she tied for the highest mark in the class). So on the strength of that we decided to go ahead with the 9th grade math placement, the school agreed, and it's working out beautifully.

The class is a combined 7th/8th/9th grade class of 19 kids, and at this point is looks like there will be three hours a week scheduled for it. She's 15 months younger than the youngest student and almost 4 years younger than the oldest, but she has a range of friends and acquaintances there and everyone has been very accepting and matter-of-fact about her being there.

Of the three weekly hours, one hour is "Seminar," which primarily consists of whole-class project work. Last week they tried to figure out how many pennies it would take to fill the classroom. Dd was able to take it into the realm of hexagonal packing, using square roots and scientific notation to work out parallelograms to account for the space between the stacks. Other kids used more basic assumptions, but there was lots of discussion and brain-storming. She really enjoyed it.

Two hours per week will be "independent directed learning" (IDL), with the kids working at particular levels clustered around tables in groups, but working at their own pace with a teacher browsing through the room offering help to one or more kids as needed. Dd likes the workbook/textbook series they're using and is moving through it easily at this point. There's one 9th grader -- a long-time family friend -- who is advanced in math and is hoping to complete both the 9th and 10th grade courses this year, so her enthusiasm for accelerated progress is not making her a complete outlier. Three of the four other 9th graders also have an optimistic enthusiasm for math, so it's a nice cluster. They're all boys, but I don't think dd cares.

So far so good!

Miranda

Miranda

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

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-18-2005
Sat, 02-16-2013 - 8:12pm

We're in elementary, don't know if these programs go through high school levels.  The main ones are Tenmarks and FirstinMath.com.  He's about one to two years accelerated right now.  I think the main downside is that you have to clear the easy levels (a la videogame) before you can do the more advanced stuff.

Gwen

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iVillage Member
Registered: 07-23-2002
Wed, 02-06-2013 - 12:12am

So Gwen, are kids able to work at a radically accelerated pace with this approach? Do you see any potential problems with radical subject acceleration? I'm kind of weighing the benefits of four years ahead vs. two years ahead. Four years would be a good fit academically, but two is less "radical" and probably an easier sell with the school. My inclination is to push for four years, because that's where she's at in the curriculum, and that's what she says she wants. She tells me she wants to graduate (or almost graduate) at 16, then spend two years travelling, working and interning / volunteering, perhaps finishing a last course or two online, eventually entering an architecture program at 18. Seems like a pretty cool plan to me! 

Miranda

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

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Registered: 02-17-2004
Tue, 02-05-2013 - 2:04pm

Hey Gwennyc,

Which program do they use?

Karen

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Registered: 05-18-2005
Tue, 02-05-2013 - 11:54am

Our current school mostly uses online math programs to supplement the math curriculum.  The TAG classroom runs about a year accelerated in math in the classroom instruction, then kids have math lab/online access at home to do differentiated work at their own pace.

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iVillage Member
Registered: 07-23-2002
Tue, 02-05-2013 - 11:22am

Haha! Since there are only ~45 students in the whole 7-12 school, no, there will never be a class of mostly-grown 17-year-olds. 

I'm not sure the current situation provides a solution, but it will at least help make a good case for a solution. 

Miranda

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

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-16-2001
Tue, 02-05-2013 - 9:48am

Sounds like you found the solution!  Glad it will work out for her.  

One problem with message boards is that we all live in such different environments. It was hard for me to picture (at least until your later posts), how your little 7-12 grade school is structured.  I was picturing an 11 yo in class with mostly grown 17yos.  But the fluid, groups within a small class, seem like it could work well for your dd.    

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-23-2002
Mon, 02-04-2013 - 11:22am

Since I started this thread something interesting has happened. We'd been trying to get Fiona into a classroom-based second-language class at the school for the past year, since it's so much better to learn a language when you have the option for real conversation. French is offered from 4th to 6th grade, but it's part of the integrated curriculum so we just haven't been able to work it out: there are no consistent times for French. Spanish is offered in the high school, which this year means 7th-12th, as a 2nd semester elective -- and again, it happens to be taught by the homeschool liaison teacher we know well. It turns out that this year there's a beginning Spanish class for 7th through 10th graders that is being taught on days when Fiona can easily get to school. The school has a policy that homeschooled kids will be accommodated in school classes if it's okay with the teacher of the class, which it was, so she got quietly slotted in. Because there isn't Spanish for 4th graders at this school, it didn't beg the question "why isn't she going in with the 4th grade class," and because it's a beginning class there was no need to prove her level. 

She's been to only one class, but has taken to it really well and her classmates are being welcoming and easy-going about it. The teacher was thrilled with how she fit in and how quickly she picked up on what she'd missed earlier in the week. She paired herself up with a 9th grader for dialogue practice and another group of three asked her to joing them for a poster project. She is super keen on the actual Spanish and spent the weekend practicing and enriching what they did last week. 

Way back when we requested to have her included in some sort of language class we weren't trying to engineer advanced academic standing for her, but I can see this playing beautifully into the math situation. Because if she writes a Math 8 final exam and does well, and has already spent a semester thriving in a class with next year's 8th and 9t graders, I can't see what objection that would hold any water the principal would have to her taking math with them next year.

Miranda

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

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-23-2002
Sat, 02-02-2013 - 1:15am

I did say in my very first post that it would likely be a combined 8/9 class, and in my reply to Beeblebrox that it included all students in all streams, academic, applied, learning disabled, etc.. I just assumed that it would be obvious that the teaching would be highly individualized in such at situation, but perhaps there are schools where that wouldn't necessarily be the case. I should have elaborated.

What you said was that you doubted the 9th grade course would engage her for the whole year, that she might be capable of learning it even faster than she is currently learning the 8th grade course. And you made another comment about likely being able to learn faster and with less effort than most of the other ninth graders, and might end up wanting to do calculus at 13. My reaction to those comments was ... okay, that's possible, she might move very quickly through the high school course sequence. From my perspective your comments were reasonable cautions about potential rate of progress and didn't indicate any misperceptions about the form of instruction. You didn't say "She will want to learn much faster than the material is being taught to the class." In that case I would have understood that you were assuming there was top-down large-group teaching, and I would have clarified. But you didn't say that, only that she might be able to learn faster than other kids -- which wasn't really something I saw as a problem.

Sorry we're not communicating terribly well. I'm happy with her choice to do some of her learning at school, and I think it could be a good fit but we'd both like the learning to be meaningful to her.

Miranda

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

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-09-2006
Fri, 02-01-2013 - 11:12pm

I looked back through the thread and found things like "9th grade math class" and "three regularly scheduled classes and homework" and "enjoys being surrounded by others who are engaged in similar work"...did not realize that each person is essentially in a class of one, though at different year levels. I had mentioned a couple of times that she would be likely to be able to master the material more quickly than her peers and didn't see a response indicating that due to the structure of the class, that wouldn't be a problem because students would be advancing at different rates. My concern all along has been the mismatch of her greater aptitude with that of the others in the class, and with that issue removed, if the school agrees and she can deal with any social issues due to being the youngest student in the room by three or four years, I don't see any problems. Deborah

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