“It’s Too Hard!”: “California abandons algebra requirement for eighth-graders”

Some students Fail and have to retake algebra. Can’t have that. And it can’t, of course, be blamed on crappy teachers.

Supporters welcome the change as more in line with current practice, of schools offering two tracks of math for eighth-graders. But critics fear that the new standard will let schools avoid offering rigorous courses for all. They point to a report released last week showing that some schools are not placing black and Latino students in advanced math courses even when they’re prepared.

The change is controversial because success in Algebra I is the single best predictor of college graduation.

Supporters say the state has adopted a more practical and effective way of teaching math. The new standards recognize that not all students can pass algebra in middle school.

“You have a lot of kids who get pushed into algebra when they’re not ready,” said Mark Stolan, a math teacher at Quimby Oak Middle School in San Jose. “Not only do they struggle, which is demoralizing, then they end up having to take it again.”

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18 Responses to “It’s Too Hard!”: “California abandons algebra requirement for eighth-graders”

  1. BigJimTX says:

    There are kids in college that get lost when you talk about fractions. I think eighth grade should have two tracks. Just as high school should have multiple. Not everybody is college material. The system worked pretty well when the guys that weren’t going to college could take vocational education classes (plumbing, auto mechanics, etc.). It is this liberal wet dream that puts everybody in college regardless of aptitude that is screwing up the system. Then they offer slow pitch college degrees for $120k and the kids come out in the best scenario making $25k/yr but instead just join up with OWS.

    • notamobster says:

      I think algebra is too hard for 8th graders, these days. Even 20 years ago, Algebra was a high school class. I took pre-algebra as a high school freshman. I took it again as a senior (failed it that time, too).

      • BigJimTX says:

        Algebra is necessary in 8th grade if you are going to pursue an AP course in calculus your senior year in high school. If you are going to college for engineering, the first math course that actually counts is calculus. It is not easy and it helps to at least be exposed to it in high school even if you don’t pass the advanced placement test.

        However, if you are not going to college, or are not going to major in a math-centric field, then you have absolutely no reason to take algebra in 8th grade.

        • R.D. Walker says:


        • notamobster says:

          I’m all for it being available in middle school. I believe they were requiring it. It shouldn’t be a requirement.

          I do math in my head. I was a gifted student. My IQ was professionally rated (to qualify for gifted) 162. I have always excelled academically, with minimal study.

          That said, I hate math. I despise it. I deplore it. It makes me itchy. I barely graduated high school. 1.889 GPA. I was 1/4 credit short of the minimum requirement and lacking a math credit.

          It shouldn’t be a requirement.

  2. Bman says:

    “However, if you are not going to college, or are not going to major in a math-centric field, then you have absolutely no reason to take algebra in 8th grade.”

    I had no clue in 8th grade if I was going to college someday. I didn’t know if I was going to need algebra or not. If we start telling our kids in 8th grade that the expectations we set for them are under their potential, I don’t think we will be doing them any favors down the road. Algebra is not too tough for 8th graders. Challenging yes, but not too tough.

    • R.D. Walker says:

      My daughter danced through 8th grade algebra like it was nothing. She knocked out her homework in a few minutes while simultaneously eating, talking on the phone and watching TV… and got all A grades.

      She could not, however, spell any word over six letters or with two consecutive vowels.

      My older son struggled with algebra in the 10th grade.

      We are all wired a little differently.

      • R.D. Walker says:

        My wife has a nephew who was doing 8th grade algebra in 4th grade.

        • notamobster says:

          Now that’s freaking impressive. I was in gifted with kids like that (5th grade). I had to travel to a non-shitty school, one day a week, for gifted. This kid Tony was your stereotypical fat, rich, white kid. He was a cool kid. He was a math whiz, but I destroyed him in mock court & debate.

          • R.D. Walker says:

            My wife’s nephew isn’t a nerd either. He is the star of his traveling hockey team… In Minneapolis!

      • notamobster says:

        I agree. That was my point, though curiously, I never said it? I was capable. I hated it. I didn’t do it. I didn’t gain anything from it. I wasn’t learning.

        There are a metric shit ton of very intelligent people out there, who just don’t like math and won’t get anything from it.

        I always loved wood shop, drafting, art, PE. I was a physical activities kind of guy. I also love languages and social sciences. Anything that required memorization.

        • R.D. Walker says:

          I was a straight A and D student in school. Seriously. All As and Ds. If I liked a subject, I got an A. If I didn’t like it, I stubbornly refused to do anything to get better than a D and that is what I got. In other words, I was a stubborn little shit.

          After the Army, I did much better in college.

          • notamobster says:

            Me, too. I went to Louisiana Tech. Had a 3.9 until I dropped out when my enlistment ended (without ever cracking a book outside of the classroom). My ex-wife hated it. She got up at 0500 to study, stayed up til midnight or later.

          • RevoGirl says:

            We have that in common….it used to drive my mom crazy! If I was interested it was an easy A, but I wouldn’t do the homework if I didn’t find the class interesting so I’d get F’s in assignments and usually get good test scores and average a C or D depending on how the couse was averaged.

    • BigJimTX says:

      I had no clue in 11th grade whether I was going to college. That said, I took algebra in 8th grade because I was bored out of my skull in the regular math class. Learning is accomplished by challenging yourself. It is the same as lifting weights to get stronger. You don’t get stronger by lifting 12 ounces at a time.

      The point here is that there used to be (and maybe still is) a regular track, an honors track, and a gifted track. With the current mindset of handing out last place trophies, we just try to shove everybody into one track which dumbs down the process to the lowest level. Then we lose our footing in the world market.

  3. Bman says:

    When I was teaching high school, I taught a basic algebra class to students who needed a calculator for basic division and multiplication, (everyday, we did 5 minute timed tests at the beginning of class in multiplication and division so they could practice…a drill I learned in 3rd grade. I did them with them to see if they could “Beat the Teach.” Towards the end of the quarter, some students were starting to beat me.) Anywho, the point is, that even low skilled students who could hardly multiply 4×8, were able to solve various algebraic equations, graphing, etc, with complete understanding. How could they do this? Because you have to understand the “why” in algebra. If one doesn’t understand the “why” or “how come” they will be sunk.

    I’m not honking my own horn, but I was able to do this with the students. In spite of being a mathematical R-tard in school, I was able to explain the “why” which made all the difference. Algebra SHOULD be a requirement in middle school. Yes, there can be different levels of it, but at least a basic algebra class should be required, and depending on ability, more challenging classes for some students. Teachers need to engage and inspire all students to reach challenging goals and expectations. The earlier we do this, the better our educational system will be. I’m affraid it’s not being done at a satisfactory level.

    Should we blame the teachers 100% for the failings of our system? HELL NO! There is plenty blame to go around. But I will say this; education prepardness starts at home. No one will change my mind on that one.

  4. slinger says:

    I learned to do math with my fingers. I hated memorization, so I never really did learn my multiplication tables. If I needed to know the answer, I would simply use my fingers to figure it out. That made me slow at basic math, and the school put me in lower level math classes when I transferred in 5th grade. I took to algebra, geometry, and calculus like a duck takes to water. My Dad helped me learn algebra in 7th grade, and the school decided I could start playing with the good math kids again.

    I am an engineer now … still use my fingers to count though πŸ™‚