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Published at Tuesday, 17 September 2019. **algebra**. By Hilaire Breton.

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.

The issue of calculators has been debated by math teachers, university professors, and parents, but there is general agreement that calculators shouldn’t be a substitute for learning basic arithmetic and standard algorithms. Larson believes the use of calculators is not a yes or no question. While he says technology can help build a deeper understanding of key algebra concepts, students should still learn how to practice standard procedures on their own. You don’t want to see students go straight to calculators, Fennel says. “The calculator is an instructional tool,” says Fennel. “It should support but not supplant anything. You don’t use it for 6 x 7.”

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