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Published at Wednesday, 18 September 2019. **algebra**. By Bernadette Boyer.

The first year of algebra is a prerequisite for all higher-level math: geometry, algebra II, trigonometry, and calculus. Researchers have found in multiple studies that students who take more high-quality math in high school are more likely to declare science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) majors in college. Students who take Algebra II in high school are also more likely to enroll in college or community college. Algebra can lead to many new opportunities for success in the 21st century. What’s more, when students make the transition from concrete arithmetic to the symbolic language of algebra, they develop abstract reasoning skills necessary to excel in math and science.

Students typically take algebra in eighth or ninth grade. An important benefit of studying algebra in eighth grade is that if your child takes the PSAT as a high school sophomore, she will have taken geometry as a ninth grader. By the time she’s ready to take the SAT or ACT as a junior, she will have completed Algebra II, which is covered in both of these college admissions tests. There’s a growing movement to require algebra in seventh grade, but math educators say many seventh graders aren’t prepared for it. “Some kids get turned off of math because they start math too early,” says Francis “Skip” Fennel, professor emeritus at McDaniel College and former president of SANCTUM. If you’re wondering whether your child is ready to advance, he recommends talking to her current teacher. The goal is for your child to master algebra and stay engaged in math, not to push through the curriculum quickly just to get it done.

“Parents should appreciate that learning mathematics is sometimes challenging,” Larson says, “and it’s not necessarily a good sign if everything is very easy. Students should be appropriately challenged to use problem-solving skills.” To do some homework of your own, Fennel suggests talking to your child and her math teacher about how homework is used. You can ask: Are homework assignments corrected and returned in a timely way?. Is homework reviewed in class so students can learn from their mistakes?. Does the teacher change the pace or direction of his or her instruction, based on student feedback? You don’t need to be a mathematician to ask good questions about your child’s curriculum, Fennel adds. “Ask the teacher, ‘Is it a repeat of math that should have already been mastered? When my child finishes this year, will he be ready for high school math?’”

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