Being successful means making mistakes, but failing is not all bad. It's a learning experience that allows us to improve the next time around. But irrespective of the mistakes that may come down the line, it may seem like a daunting task to face the future without help. So in this post, I'll outline the various paths that the aspiring student would be keen to approach.


A Look Into Various Courses

Starting in middle school, there are a myriad of courses for students to choose from. Students take everything from 6th grade math extensions through AP calculus BC, and with limited understanding of the intricacies of high school coursework, planning ahead can be a demanding proposition. Students first begin to encounter variety in their classes in the 6th grade. Boys and girls entering middle school will find that there are two different math courses that they can opt into:

6th Grade Math

6th Grade Math Extensions

Basically, 6th grade math extensions will be slightly more accelerated than regular 6th grade math, and it's probably the one you want to take if you're looking to get a head start on your path to math!

At the end of 6th grade math extensions there will be an in-class proficiency test. Score over 90% on this and you will be exempted from 7th grade pre-algebra.

7th Grade Pre-Algebra

Should you not pass this test, Don't worry; making mistakes is all a part of going through school. It is, after all, a learning experience.

Algebra 1

After passing pre-algebra, students will find themselves entering into algebra 1. This is the class that lays the foundations for all the math you will use in high school and beyond. Everything from BC calculus to AP Physics will stem from the topics introduced in this class: so pay attention!

Now we've reached a milestone in our middle school math careers. The ambitious student will elect to take summer courses. And while these are definitely not for everyone, they can really define your middle school, and even high school, journey. A word of warning first: summer classes run for two months, five days per week, four hours per day, and attendance is strict as absences are limited to two full-days per semester. In addition, summer classes do go on your high school transcripts. Take them seriously.

Geometry

Geometry will come right after algebra 1 and, like algebra 1, will prepare students for the more advanced concepts found in math analysis through AP physics.

Algebra 2

The introduction of more advanced graphing techniques, series, parametric equations, and especially trigonometric functions make this class a vital addition to students' high school coursework.

Math Analysis

Also known as pre-calculus, this course lays the groundwork for calculus in the next year. It expands on the concepts from the previous year and introduces limits and vector magnitudes toward the end of the class.

Algebra 3

This class serves as a kind of intermediary course for students who are not ready to jump into calculus. However, I don't recommend taking this course. Instead, I would advise students to have confidence in the skills they've acquired so far and jump straight into calc. It really isn't as hard as some make it seem.

AP Calculus AB

AP Calculus BC

It's been a long trip from 6th grade math to get here, but this course will make it all seem worth it. Everything you do in this class will utilize skills that you've been learning for so many years. Now, you are faced with a decision: should you take AB or BC, and what is the difference between them?

BC calculus is two hours per day for the first semester. This is because it fits the whole AB curriculum into one semester. This will give you credit for Calculus I and II in college.

AB calculus, on the other hand, is only one hour per day all year. For this trade off you lose out on credit for Calculus II in college.
I highly recommend taking BC calc over AB calc. Not only does it look better on your college applications, but it also has a higher five rate (the highest score you can receive on your AP exams is a five). Not to mention the extra college credit that you earn will save you hundreds of dollars down the line.


The Optimal Approach

Ideally, students should prepare for high school from the sixth grade. Beginning in sixth grade students should order their coursework as such:

6th Grade Math Extensions

7th Grade Pre—Algebra,

Algebra 1

Geometry

Algebra 2

Math Analysis

AP calculus BC

Here, students will test out of Pre-Algebra during 6th grade and then take Algebra 1 during summer school. The same applies to Algebra 2: it should be passed over the summer of 7th grade. If followed, students will be taking calculus as freshman in high school.

What you decide to do from there, whether it is continuing on to Calculus III and Differential Equations or focusing on english and the liberal arts, the analytical skills gained through this accelerated program will surely prove invaluable assets in high school and later on in life. So for those considering taking on a more lax regimen, I implore you to consider the benefits of adhering to this curriculum. While demanding, the work ethic and mental acuity cultivated can prove useful even if not considering a STEM major.


The Takeaway

The road to success can be off-putting. Navigating through nebulous course descriptions and class lists can muddle perspective and leave one in disarray. Hopefully with what little advice I've imparted, your path 2 math will not prove so difficult to traverse in the years to come.

Tags: summer learning, summer school, advice, course descriptions