HiCap Math Paths

 Are you an incoming middle school parent debating whether to register your rising 6th grader for algebra next year? The HiCap Parents Council has been discussing the ins and outs of this decision, and we have a few thoughts for you to consider.

– Number one, there is no such thing as finishing math “early” in high school. Even though middle school classes do count as high school math credits, colleges are quite insistent that students take a math class all 4 years of high school, regardless of what level math they are taking. This is true regardless of what major your child plans to take in college; it’s not just for STEM schools.

– Northshore is unique compared to surrounding districts, as well as districts across Washington state, and even nationally, in offering high school algebra in 6th grade as a common path for Highly Capable math qualified students. The highest typical path offered in surrounding districts is algebra in 7th grade. In most areas of California, for instance, they don’t offer algebra until 8th grade. The triple jump math path in Northshore is an *extremely* advanced math trajectory, and is not necessarily the right path for all students, even if they qualify for it.

- Northshore largely does not restrict access to algebra in 6th grade for continuing Highly Capable math students. As long as your student has had reasonably good grades in math and similar scores on the SBA, they are automatically registered for algebra in 6th grade. The district has not given an algebra readiness test for many years now. This puts the decision of whether to register your student for algebra in 6th grade squarely on families, which is kind of refreshing actually. If you have questions about whether algebra is the right fit for your student, you should talk to your student’s math teacher. Somewhere around 20% of hicap families choose not to enroll their 6th grader in algebra, even though they are qualified and prepared for the class. If you do not want your student to take algebra in 6th, it’s a good idea to email the counselor to ensure they know this - they have been know to place a student in algebra regardless of what was on their registration form.

- The vast majority of 6th graders in Northshore who take algebra do well in the class, and are well prepared coming from an EAP math background which covers prealgebra in 4th and 5th grade. The edgenuity 4th/5th grade math program is newer, so we don’t know for sure how that will go, but the belief is that they are equally prepared as the EAP students. However, some EAP students who did well in algebra in 6th have found that algebra 2/trig in 8th was a bigger challenge, and have opted to retake that class as 9th graders in high school.

– The triple jump math path can be terrific for a strong math student who plans to go into some form of a STEM degree long-term. It can also be a great path for students who are solid in their math skills, and enjoy the topic, regardless of their long-term career plans. These students should register for algebra for 6th grade.

- However, if your student has found the accelerated math in EAP or edgenuity to be a bigger challenge, and especially if math is not their favorite subject, they can choose to register for pre-algebra 2 (challenge math 7/8) as a 6th grader, instead of algebra. This would put your student in algebra in 7th grade, which is still a very accelerated path, and comparable with most of the best schools across the country, and will not affect college admissions.

- At WHS, BHS and NCHS, the usual triple jump math trajectory looks like this:

* 6th grade algebra 1

* 7th grade geometry

* 8th grade algebra 2/trigonometry

* 9th grade pre-calculus

* 10th grade AP calculus AB

* 11th grade AP calculus BC

* 12th grade linear algebra/advanced calculus (depending on school)

AP courses are considered college level courses, and do offer college credit in many situations. Precalculus can offer college credit as well in some situations. Know that this is an extremely accelerated math trajectory, putting the student in college level courses early in high school, and in high-level college courses by senior year. In addition, AP Statistics is available at all schools, and can be used to double up in math, as an alternate senior year class - or as a non-traditional option, in 9th grade to “slow down” the math trajectory.

– If your child is going to Inglemoor for high school, the International baccalaureate (IB) math course sequence does not lend itself to the triple jump level of math acceleration. The full IB diploma programme requires that students take the IB math course exams during their 11th and 12th grade of high school, even if they took the actual courses years earlier, which is awkward. Triple jump math students and double jump math students pragmatically end up in the same math courses at Inglemoor. That said, IB math courses are more integrated in nature so they are still plenty rigorous and interesting.

– For those of you with kids who are contemplating even more advanced math (quadruple jump), recognize that this likely means they will need to use running start for math in the senior year of high school, or take a non-traditional math course senior year, or AP Statistics. While it is possible in Northshore to achieve a quadruple jump using the summer math options, this typically only makes sense if you are contemplating an early college plan of some sort. If your student is really excited about math, and wants to enhance their learning, typically a better choice is to go broader and deeper, rather than to accelerate as quickly as possible. Art of Problem Solving courses (in Bellevue or online) are a great way to accomplish that, or the Math Olympiad system of competition math.

This article is required reading for any student who is considering higher levels of math acceleration: