Eighth grade algebra

I took Algebra I in 8th grade. Algebra I and typing were the two classes I took in junior high that I can say I have used regularly for the rest of my life (so far).

In the school system I was in, there was tracking. Some kids got to take 8th grade Algebra I. The rest took regular math. The ones who took Algebra I in 8th took Geometry in 9th, Algebra II and Trig in 10th, advanced pre-calculus in 11th and Calculus in 12th. I got off that bus after 10th grade and took regular pre-calculus in 11th grade, then probability and statistics in 12th, along with a full year of computer programming.

I took four quarters of calculus in college and never used any of it outside of the exams for the courses. I took college physics that didn’t use calculus. I took physical chemistry in college and it didn’t use calculus. Basic algebra was as advanced math as I needed to make my career as an academic scientist.

Apparently, some school systems have decided to deal with the fact that many students are not prepared for 8th grade algebra by not offering it to anyone in 8th grade. The concern, it seems, is equity issues, and the answer was to level down. How this is good for the students who are bored by the lack of challenging curriculum escapes me. Happily, some schools are returning to a two-track system.

Not everyone is going to learn calculus. The reality is that college calculus is mostly a badge, not life preparation. And not everyone who takes Algebra I in 8th grade goes on to take high school or college calculus. But for those who embrace the challenge, and for those who actually need it for a career (e.g., engineering, physics, economics), holding them back for the hypothetical social benefits of leveling seems unfair to everyone.

Restoring 8th grade algebra