Thursday, October 14, 2010

Math Course Sequencing

I'd like to hear thoughts about the pros and cons of the two general sequences of math courses:

Currently our school does:
Algebra I, Geometry, then Algebra II.

Our admins are starting to wonder if
Algebra I, Algebra II, then Geometry
would be a better option for some students.



  1. when I went to school in the good/bad old days, you could take your pick: Algebra 1, either algebra 2 or geometry, then the other one, and then on to college algebra/trig. From a student perspective it seemed to work fine--of course, I have kind of a skewed perspective since my dad talked me into taking both at once.

  2. As a precalc teacher I'm not too fond of the idea. My juniors have enough trouble with algebra and they just came from Algebra 2... to think of them not having had an algebra course for over a year is a nightmare.

    I would think that for this to work the Geometry class would have to get beefed up quite a bit. Around here solving the occasional quadratic is as far as they go.

    But I like LSquared's idea of taking both at once! :)

  3. Well, the idea is to give the students the option. For students on a path for PreCal and Cal, they would stay with Alg1->Geo->Alg2->PC->Cal, but students just trying to graduate could go Alg1->Alg2->Geo->Sr.Math.

    Just wanting to give our admins some ideas of the pros and cons of how it would go down.

  4. My school does Alg I in 8th, Alg 2 in 9th, Geo in 10th, Precalc in 11th, and Calc in 12th. Here are my thoughts: It works for the strong students, but not for the average or weaker students. The strong students can handle Alg 2 at a solid level in 9th, and then have a much better experience/can do more advanced work in their 10th grade geo. Then in 11th, they relearn or remember well enough what they did in 9th to be very successful in PC. For the weaker students, almost the reverse happens. As 9th graders in Alg 2 they struggle with some of the more sophisticated stuff, so they don't learn it as well as they might a year later. Then in 10th grade, despite being a year older, they still have a difficult time with geo because--let's face it--proofs are hard for some kids. In 11th grade, they remember little from 9th grade, so they basically start over from scratch.

    In my dream world, I'd like to see Geo, Alg 1, and Alg 2, and Precalc mixed together over a 4 year period, although I have yet to see an integrated cuirriculum (read textbook) which does this idea justice. Another idea we have toyed with is moving Geo to 12th grade! Think of the awesome stuff you could do with a 17 or 18 year old in Geometry. That would put Calc in 11th grade though, and that might be too early for many students.

  5. We are doing Alg 1(9), Alg 2(10), and Geom(11). This is our second year of the change. The reason why we changed is because Ohio is now requiring (beginning with the current freshmen) 4 credits of math including 1 of Algebra 2 or Algebra 2 equivalent. Our lowest kids start in Math 1 (watered down Alg), then go to Math 2 (watered down Geom - needed for state test), then Alg 1 and finally Alg 2. We separated out our top students out of Alg 2 into Advanced Algebra 2 - these are the kids who will head to Calculus.

    This is the first time I have taught all the Alg 2's - last year I taught one of the Alg 2 sections so I only saw a snapshot of our kids. I had hoped that having Alg 2 following Alg 1 would cut down on review in Alg 2, but this year (at least), it hasn't. Part of that may be the group of kids we have, part of that may be the teacher teaching Alg 1 - not totally sure there.

    As Aran mentioned, our top 9th graders seem to be doing just fine so far. With separating them out, I can go into more depth with some topice and spend less time on others that I get bogged down with in my regular Alg 2 classes. I will be really curious when we get to factoring how much quicker I'll be able to get through that unit with my top kids.

    So, right now, the jury's still out on it. Our kids seem to be doing okay on the state tests (at least last year's group did), which will only matter for another couple of years anyway. It does allow us to meet what we need to as far as state requirements - which is why we made the change. We felt it would give all of our kids the best chance to successfully get the Algebra 2 credit they need to graduate. Ask me again in a year and we'll see where we're at with it.

  6. Seeing as how geometry is such an integral part of higher level mathematics, physics, and engineering, I personally think the latter is the better choice. I know of a great many students, myself included, that would do better if they had a deeper, more theoretical understanding of geometry. Also, some of the more conceptual subjects of geometry, it appears, would be more easily grasped during sophomore or junior year, and would likely give the student a more fundamental understanding of higher level mathematics and the sciences, especially calculus and physics at the college level.

  7. Dave,

    When I was a student and a beginning teacher the sequence was Alg I, Alg II, Geom. Pros - Alg II did not start off with so much redoing of Alg I, Geometry was more successful with kids who had a bit more math under their belt, we could do more area/volume work in Geometry. Cons - Precalculus is a tough start for many of the kids, some younger kids only learn Alg II as a set of mechanical procedures (but that often happens anyway)

    Overall, I think the pros outweigh the cons. I want to start this conversation at my new school and see where it goes.