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X-post on College board. Help me understand higher level math sequences, testing, and

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high school transcripts.


Reading some threads on this board, there seems to be a consensus that the typical math sequence for the college bound students is:


8th: Algebra I

9th: Geo

10th: Algebra II

11th: Pre-calc/Trig.

12th: Calc.


Now, when I was a hs student soooo many years ago, only the most gifted students did Algebra in 8th, maybe the top 15% of the class. Currently it seems that more and more students are attempting Algebra in 8th.


What I'm curious about is if NOT doing Algebra I in 8th and instead waiting until 9th means that your student isn't on a "college bound" path. Isn't it still quite possible to wait until 9th to do Algebra I, follow that with Geo and Algebra II, take and do well on the SAT/ACT, and still be "college bound", maybe even on a STEMS path? The "do well on the SAT/ACT" is a huge qualifier.


I'm wonder it the sequence is really all that important if the student does well on testing. Now, I understand that it maybe really relevant to a student who intends to follow a rigorous STEMs path at a selective college, but that is not the circumstances of most American students. Most college bound students are not going to major in Engineering or a hard Science at a highly selective college.


Opinions please??

Edited by Stacy in NJ
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I am not an admissions official, but I teach physics at a four year university. There are, in fact, quite a few students with engineering and science majors who did NOT have calculus in high school. It does not matter too much because usually universities require students to take university level calculus classes there. (And I would highly recommend that even a student with AP calc does not use this to skip the introductory courses at the university)


So, students without calc definitely get into universities, and may even be able to choose a science or engineering career. (And, as you said, many humanities majors don't NEED calc at all.)


Far more important than calculus is a good working knowledge of algebra. The students whose weak math skills cause them in trouble in physics are not lacking calculus, they are lacking algebra 1.

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It seems to me that high schools promote a Rush to Calculus. College instructors are never as enthusiastic about the content or quality of high school Calculus courses as high school teachers or parents are.


That said, states like mine (NC) now require four years of high school math. That fourth year of math does not have to be Calculus (assuming that the college bound students are starting Algebra in 8th which to me is not unreasonable). AP Statistics seems to be rising in popularity as another choice.


Despite the love of mathematics that my husband and I share, our dearest son claimed to be born without the math gene. He could do math--just did not enjoy it. So taking Calculus in high school and earning credit on the AP exam nicely scratched a quantitative requirement from his college list. Is this a good thing? Maybe not. Perhaps a different math teacher other than his Mom could have persuaded him that Math is indeed a Beautiful Thing. Sigh. Putting my son's feelings aside, I do think that this is a path that other college bound high schoolers follow: scratching a math requirement off the list via AP.


Admissions pages of colleges often say a minimum of three years of math required. I wonder though how many accepted students only had three years of math since most college bound students take four.


Another interesting note: in my public school system, 8th graders who study Algebra I do so over the entire academic year. Wait until high school and the course is done in a semester because of block scheduling. Could that also be a motivator?


Obviously I have many rambling thoughts on this topic.


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