Accelerated Math Pathway

Understanding mathematical concepts and operations is an important element in daily life. Mathematics is also a key to success in many—but certainly not all—careers. So it is no surprise that most parents and educators place a lot of emphasis on students’ development of math-related skills throughout their PreK-12 education. We recognize that demonstrated ability in math and problem solving can open doors to future opportunities, and we want every student to have access to those opportunities. Thus, we strive to facilitate students’ enrollment in as many math courses as possible, at the highest level of challenge possible. Accelerated coursework is commonly viewed as one of the best ways to increase students’ access to higher-level math.

Yet there is another side to this coin. Mere exposure to math coursework does not equate to mastery—and mastery is the real goal. Building a strong foundation in math for every student is one of our district’s most important aims. Matching each student to the most appropriate curriculum, standard or accelerated, is one of our biggest challenges—and one that benefits from parental input.

We also need to examine this issue from the student’s perspective. A student who thrives on challenging math coursework, whose competitive spirit is engaged by tackling the seemingly insoluble problem, and who is able and willing to devote the necessary effort to developing numerous skills in a short period of time may indeed benefit from accelerated work in math. On the other hand, a student who, though very capable in math, has more interest in or places more priority on other subjects and activities, or who becomes frustrated when the pace of the class exceeds their own learning rate, may find an accelerated program detrimental not only to the acquisition of current skills but to attitudes toward future math coursework.

APS parents’ keen interest in accelerated math work arose in part from the desire to ensure that students have an opportunity to reach Calculus by grade 12, which necessitates the completion of Algebra I and II, Geometry, and Pre-Calculus in earlier grades. One path to this goal, though not the only one, is to complete Algebra I in grade 8.

To support this pathway, seventh graders will have an opportunity to complete seventh grade math, eighth grade math, and Algebra I during their seventh and eighth grade experience (three years of math in two years). The seventh grade year will consist of a compacted curriculum that includes all of the seventh grade content and some of the eighth grade content.  In preparation for this course, students will be asked to complete a summer packet that will be assessed during the first week of school. While this pathway may be a good fit for some students, it is definitely not right for every student.
math pathways

Criteria for Placement into the Accelerated Math Pathway

One of our challenges is to ensure that the appropriate students are placed in the Accelerated Math Pathway. To assist in the decision making, the middle school math teachers, along with the administrative team, spent several weeks gathering and compiling data to help determine each child’s recommended math placement.  

The criteria used to make this decision include the student’sThe criteria used to make this decision include the student’s:

  • first and second-term numerical grades
  • MCAS scaled scores for prior year*
  • Iowa Algebra Aptitude Test (IAAT)*
  • NWEA Norms Percentiles (2021 only)
  • score from a math disposition and skills rubric, incorporating teacher observations
*In the absence of two traditionally norm referenced assessment measures, the NWEA Norms Percentile was used in their place for the 2021-22 criteria setting only.

The criteria for placement is designed to identify very high achieving and highly motivated mathematics students, in order to give them the opportunity to participate in accelerated mathematics classes beginning in 7th grade. 

Using these four criteria, a composite score is calculated for each rising 7th grader. This score determines a student’s eligibility to enroll in the Accelerated Math Pathway.

Scores fall into one of three categories:

  1. Any student whose composite score falls below 85.5 will not qualify for the compacted course. Our ultimate goal is to have children succeed in math. Placing an unprepared student in this course, with its rapid pace and high level of difficulty, could adversely affect a child’s attitude toward math as well as the child’s perception of their ability to be successful in math. None of us want that outcome. We want to reassure you that even though your child does not qualify for the AMP in Grade 7, there will still be ample opportunity to reach all high school mathematics course options by the senior year.  We anticipate that APS will continue to offer a summer program in Algebra and Geometry. There is also the opportunity to take two math courses concurrently in sophomore year.

  2. Any student whose composite score is 89.5 or above is eligible to participate in the Accelerated Math Pathway for grade 7. Please note that this is only a recommendation. You as the parent have the ultimate decision as to whether or not your child participates. The pace of the class is very fast, so students should be able to grasp topics quickly and work independently. This opportunity begins with summer work that will be reviewed during the first week of school.  We strongly urge you to have a frank conversation with your child about the pace and rigor of the course. It may be that your student plans to focus on extracurricular or other activities next year and will not have the time needed to meet the homework/project expectations of this particular course. Regardless of eligibility, your child’s circumstances and temperament should be kept in mind when making the decision about participation. As noted above in category 1, if your child chooses to not enroll in the AMP, there will still be ample opportunity to reach all high school mathematics course options by the senior year.

  3. Any student with a composite score between 85.5 and 89.5 does not inherently qualify for the accelerated program. However, as educators, we believe the decision of whether or not the student should participate in the compacted course is best made by the parent in consultation with their teacher. If you believe that your child has the necessary academic and study skills—as well as the time and temperament—to be successful, then we are providing you the option to choose to place your child in the course. We will do our best to provide adequate support throughout the year, but please keep in mind that the student will need to assume responsibility for maintaining pace with the rest of the class. As noted above in category 1, if your child chooses to not enroll in the AMP, there will still be ample opportunity to reach all high school mathematics course options by the senior year.
The most important thing to remember is that we want all students to succeed in math, to be challenged at an appropriate level, and to feel good about their engagement with math.  We do not want students to feel overly pressured or anxious or stressed, and we encourage students to have a wide variety of interests. Moreover, we are confident that even those students who do not choose to participate in the compacted program will still receive a strong foundation in math and will be able to perform very well at the high school level and beyond. The existing 7th grade math program is, in itself, a very rigorous one that lays a solid foundation for higher-level mathematics.