Tuesday, February 19, 2019

On Thursday before the school break, Smarty attempted her Algebra 2 final. I felt that she was not ready for it, but her headmaster told her that she can take it as many times as she wants for the grade that she wants. Honestly, I expected her to get a C or a B- this time around. She came back with A- and the very next day studied up for a few problems that she missed and got a solid A. I suppose that she now can proceed to Precalculus material on ALEKS once she gets back from the school break.
While I am proud of her for "mastering" the material so quickly, I am very disappointed about ALEKS program for this high-level math course. It was very "procedural", and with her good memory Smarty could memorize the formulas and apply them to hack her way through the course. While asking her questions and giving her some problems to solve to prepare for the final, I saw her making rash mistakes in calculation by doing too many steps in her head. I also saw that she knew what to do - i.e. which formula to apply, but not necessarily why she was doing it. Her "mastery" seems really tenuous and would dissipate quickly - a classic "pass the test and forget it" syndrome.
Based on all this, I am positive that next year I want Smarty to be in the math classroom with a real teacher, however tedious it might feel to her in the first few weeks of reviews. I think that she will be ready for Calculus if she takes up pre-calculus now. She already covered trigonometry portion of it as part of Algebra 2, so she should test out of at least 50% of pre-calculus course. This time I plan to stay more on top of her studies and supplement her ALEKS how to instructions with a bit of why (most likely from the AoPS book). I am pretty positive that she has gaps at the moment but I am still confident that they can be closed next year, and I also think that she will enjoy (or at least will tolerate) her Calculus class, because it is likely to be quite small with only the strongest mathematicians of her school from different grades taking it. One of them should be her fellow current 8th grader who also happens to be a grade skipper and only 2 weeks older than Smarty. He has attended Smarty's new school since 6th grade and is currently taking Precalculus in the classroom.
Does it mean that Smarty will "run out" of math classes in high school? Well, yes, but her school does offer dual enrollment in community college in higher grades. She is also interested in taking both AP Statistics and AP Computer science, which both count as math, so she could be OK in terms of math credits even if she does not choose to be dual enrolled. We will take it one year at a time... or maybe two years of math at a time if she continues to be interested in it.

Your Turn

How is math going for your students this school year?


Min Erva said...

We know homeschooled kids who rushed through math but I noticed many had to backtrack due to holes in knowledge. I also read a blog by a tutor who works closely with students racing to take Calculus as a freshman and he noticed those students making simple mistakes in algebra! As an educator, my goal is for kids to learn things well rather than race through. But every parent and child are different. You do what makes you and your child happy. In the end, we all end up taking the courses that fit our needs. Personally, I like to encourage K to try things that come hard for her like dance to stretch other parts of her personality and learn from failures.

An Almost Unschooling Mom said...

On the upside, she'll have plenty of time to go back and master anything she's glossed over if a lack of understanding becomes a hinderance. Mastery over completion is a constant battle here too.

Natalie PlanetSmartyPants said...

I posit that some kids can learn well while racing through if they are passionate about the material and it's presented in a way that leaves little or no gaps. Unfortunately, ALEKS was not such a program, but spending more time would not have helped matters. Now it's more figuring out how to close these gaps.

MaryAnne K. said...

I think it's all too easy to get holes in math if you are clever. I've really loved the AoPS series for that reason - I feel like the problems get kids thinking more like mathematicians and that is the focus rather than simply racing through material.

I hope you find a math solution that works really well for Smarty!

Ticia said...

You answered the question I had in my mind in the last paragraph, of what she'll do after Calculus.

My boys are working their way through Algebra right now. I think one of them could do more, but he tends to skip steps and make stupid mistakes, of course when he goes back to correct it, he gets a near perfect score.

Princess is taking a break from Algebra and taking a Life Skills class right now for me to review, I'm going to eventually put all of my kids through it, but it's been interesting to see what she's learning.