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Math Acceleration: Middle School Math Pathways

Increasing math achievement and access for all 4J students 

4J schools are establishing a consistent math pacing and placement process in middle school. This will improve clarity, equity and access to accelerated math learning opportunities.

Currently 4J middle schools have different course sequences and different student placement processes for accelerated math learning. These inconsistent processes have produced unequal learning opportunities for students in different schools. They also have sometimes been unclear and confusing for parents.

4J math educators are committed to providing access and opportunities for all students to engage in learning that prepares them for an ever-changing future. A workgroup of 4J math educators considered data and research and gathered input from more than a thousand 4J students, parents and math teachers, and then developed a recommendation for the creation of a consistent, effective, accessible math program and placement process.

These changes are intended to provide equal education opportunities to all students and open up student options for accelerated math course sequences, while also providing all students with the foundational math skills needed to prepare them for success in upper-level courses. Students will have multiple entry points and pathways to accelerated learning and upper-level high school math courses, such as pre-calculus, calculus and statistics.

Intended Outcomes 

  • Increase math achievement for all students: Increase math proficiency, math credits earned, and the number of students who successfully complete upper-level mathematics courses.
  • Increase educational equity and decrease opportunity and achievement gaps in math: Ensure that all students have access to mathematics at the appropriate rate and level—regardless of which school they attend.

Math Course Sequences 

Strong Start—Sixth Grade Math is Critical: Sixth grade is an important year in students’ math education. Math content standards have changed. Many important math concepts previously taught at higher grades have shifted to sixth grade. Most 4J students begin their middle school math sequence with Math 6.

Standard Middle School Sequence: The standard math sequence in the three years of middle school—Math 6, Math 7, and Math 8—is the appropriate pace for most students. The standard middle school math sequence leads to standard pace or accelerated math learning opportunities in high school, starting with Non-Linear Algebra in ninth grade, and prepares students to succeed in their college studies or careers.

Accelerated Middle School Sequence: Some students master math concepts and content at a faster rate and would benefit from an accelerated course sequence: Math 6, Accelerated Math 7/8, and Non-Linear Algebra in middle school, leading to Geometry and Statistics & Probability or AP Statistics in ninth grade and additional opportunities for advanced math learning in high school.

Grade-Level Skipping: More rarely, a student entering middle school may already have mastered the content taught in sixth grade math, and would benefit from skipping that math course. They may start middle school with Math 7 or often an accelerated Math 7/8 course in sixth grade, followed by Non-Linear Algebra in seventh grade, Geometry and Statistics & Probability or AP Statistics in eighth grade, Algebra 2 in ninth grade, and additional opportunities for accelerated math learning in high school. (Note, grade-level skipping can lead students to have a math gap year in their junior or senior year, which is not advised.)

6th Grade 7th Grade 8th Grade 9th Grade Course Option Examples
Standard Sequence Math 6 Math 7 Math 8 Non-Linear Algebra

Geometry -or- Statistics & Probability

Accelerated Sequence Math 6 Math 7/8 Non-Linear Algebra Geometry

Statistics & Probability or AP Statistics

Grade-Level Skipping, Not Accelerated Math 7 Math 8 Non-Linear Algebra Geometry

Statistics & Probability or AP Statistics

Grade-Level Skipping & Accelerated Sequence Math 7/8 Non-Linear Algebra Geometry

Statistics & Probability
or AP Statistics

Algebra 2

Course Placement 

Acceleration: Students entering seventh grade who have demonstrated mastery of sixth grade concepts, skills and reasoning, and the ability to progress through the curriculum at a more rapid pace, may benefit from an accelerated math sequence.

Starting with students entering middle school in 2018–19, all sixth grade students will be screened in the spring, based on a combination of student test results, classroom performance, teacher recommendation and student interest. Students who meet the criteria will be evaluated for potential acceleration by a school team including math teachers and school counselors. Schools will notify each sixth grade student’s family of their seventh grade placement. If a family disagrees with the placement decision for their child, they may submit a request for reconsideration.

Grade-Level Skipping: More uncommonly, a student entering middle school may have already mastered the major work content standards of sixth grade math, and may benefit from skipping a grade level in math. Starting with students entering middle school in fall 2018, all fifth grade students will be screened in the spring, based on a combination of student test results, classroom performance, teacher recommendation and student interest.  Students who meet the criteria will be invited to be evaluated for potential to skip a math grade level.

Families of these students will be asked whether they wish their child to be evaluated and will be notified of the outcome of this evaluation. If a student is eligible to skip sixth grade math, the school team will work with the family to determine whether they wish to have their student skip a grade in math, and make a plan for accessing high school coursework in middle school. If a family disagrees with the placement decision for their child, they may submit a request for reconsideration. (Note: Further evaluation is available on a case-by-case basis for any students who may already demonstrate mastery of seventh grade math or beyond.)

Learn More 

If you are interested in middle school math placement, processes and programs, and would like to learn more, please come to the Math Pathways Information Night on Thursday, May 10, 6:30–8 p.m., at the 4J Education Center, 200 N. Monroe St. Spanish interpretation will be provided.