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Repeat pre Algebra or 2 years of Algebra?

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My DD is very similar...so similar I almost did a double take. Mine has alway been strong with abstract thinking and conceptual info so that's one difference, though. I chose to go forward with algebra and it was absolutely the right choice for us. But we are only just this week finishing chapter 6 of Foerster's and I'm not going to rush to finish by June. So, I've just made the decision to finish with Foerster's whenever we do, probably early fall, do some patty pan geometry over the summer and perhaps work through some of AoPS algebra next year and word problems. I think she might appreciate it more because she is so tired of the problems that require calculators in Foerster's.


Everyone says that rock solid algebra is critical to SATs, and we have seen tremendous growth in algebra that we hadn't seen for a while because pre-algebra just kept feeling like more of the same. She is getting the concepts but is slow. It takes her about 5-10 minutes to methodically go through the steps of this type of equation: (x)2 - 14x + 21 = 0 but she can do it and understands what she's doing and why but I can't give her a full set of problems at once.


I've been doing an interactive notebook with her this year too where she is writing down definitions, using material from Teachers Pay Teachers, Algebra Pizazz, games, algeblocks, basically anything that is more hands-on really helps her. She is an incredibly gifted kinetic learner and I have to continually find ways to supplement her rapid conceptual understanding with her weak written procedural output.

Edited by deerforest
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My daughter is very much like yours. We did two years of prealgebra and will move to algebra 1 next year. We've interspersed some geometry and number theory as well.


Pieces like commutative and distributive properties, fractions, negative numbers and distributing a negative are all very important to algebra. I'm afraid if you move on, then she might go through the motions and algorithms but never really understand it. I definitely would look at some geometry to go alongside what you are doing. You could pull the geometry sections of MEP math (free online). I'd start at  the geometry chapters of MEP 7.

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 For some reason I was under the impression one needed algebra first in order to understand the geometry!


Yes, to do serious geometry, the algebra skills are needed. However you can learn so much of the concepts without too much algebra and if you have the base of prealgebra with some conceptual understanding of the basic algebra concepts then you can do a lot of geometry. Maybe not all, but much better than just spending another year doing the same old thing.

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off topic but for geometry, I would use Paper Patty Geometry for a child who likes hands-on. 


I have found All Things Algebra on TPT to have some fun games and learning aids. I also love her curriculum - it is not self teaching but she does a great job of scaffolding lessons so kids can grasp a concept before moving on to the hard stuff. 

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One suggestion is to plan on doing Algebra 1 and Algebra 2 twice each (many students who do Algebra 1 in 8th grade re-take it in 9th grade) -- or plan on taking 1.5 years for each, so you can go slow, back-up/re-do, or find supplements as needed, and to allow the math and abstract thinking portions of DD's brain more time to mature.


All I can do is throw in our experience in case it helps. ;)


DS#2 is an extreme visual-spatial learner (VSL) -- needs visual and hands-on for taking in information, esp. abstract concepts, to make them concrete/tangible. He then processes globally (whole to parts) and randomly, rather than parts-to-whole and sequentially. Sadly, most Algebra concepts are abstract and sequential (algorithms and equation solving), so just about the very opposite of how he intakes info and processes it. :( On the flip side, he's very strong with Geometry because it is a very visual/concrete math topic.


I love EndOfOrdinary's suggestion about skipping ahead to Geometry, and it may very well do just that for your student (visualize Algebra topics), but I just have to mention that it did not really make those connections for our DS. Most of the topics in the Geometry programs we used have to do with proofs and angles/lines/polygons, and the equations for surface area, volume, circumference, etc. So not directly connecting to the Algebra topics of exponents, rational/irrational numbers, factoring polynomials, solving simultaneous equations etc. I was very excited about the graphing of linear equations, thinking this would be the concrete connection for him for visualizing equations -- and that was the topic he struggled the MOST with in Algebra 1 and 2, even after Geometry.  :eek:  :(


But, since no two students are identical, hopefully your experience would be very different from ours if you go that route! :)


Because DS was headed for a community college and possible Associate's degree rather than a 4-year University degree, we did not need to worry about completing more than Algebra 2. And not all universities require a 4th math with Algebra 2 as a pre-requisite for college admission, esp. if the student is not heading into a STEM degree program. So you may be fine only going up through Algebra 2, and if so, you would have 4 years of high school to complete those 3 Math credits.


And, as a side thought: If you need a 4th Math credit (but it doesn't have to be above Algebra 2), you might consider something like Bookkeeping, Accounting, or Business Math that might be of help to your student in the work world...


Below is our specific math journey. DS struggled tremendously with math and it was 5th grade before he finally started to "click" with some math topics. In retrospect, what I think worked to help our DS with Algebra:

- visual/tangible presentation of MUS

- reinforcing with supplements

- visualizing the concept of solving for the unknown with Hands on Equations

- developing math connections/math thinking and how to visualize "what you know" and "what you're looking for" in word problems by learning how to set up equations using the "bar method" of problem-solving from Singapore Primary

- doing Algebra 1 and Algebra 2 *twice* each


BEST of luck in finding what helps YOUR DD the best! :) Warmest regards, Lori D.



grade 5

spine: original/classic MUS Intermediate gr. 4-6 topics (topics in current Delta, Epsilon, Zeta levels) 

supplement: Hands-On Equations

supplement: resources using multi-link cubes, pattern blocks, cuisenaire rods and other manipulatives


grade 6


   fall = MUS Delta (division)

   spring = MUS Epsilon (fractions)

supplement: Singapore 4A/B and Keys to Fractions


grade 7

spine: MUS Zeta (decimals and percents)

supplement: Singapore 5A/B and Keys to Decimals and Percents


grade 8

spine = MUS Pre-Algebra

supplement = Singapore A/B


grade 9

Jacob's Algebra 1 -- all except the 2 linear equations sections -- the topic caused total math melt-down, so after skipping ahead, and coming back twice later in the year and still not getting it, we dropped that topic, and covered it the next year with MUS Algebra 1


grade 10

- fall = MUS Algebra 1 (all of it, as a review)

- spring

   spine = MUS Geometry (all of it)

   supplement = excerpts from Jacob's Geometry


grade 11 and all summer

MUS Algebra 2 -- literally done as 2 steps forward, one step back through the entire program, so all of it was done twice, and parts were done 3-4 times; we would do about 6-8 lessons, then he'd hit the wall, and we'd go back and re-do all of the 6-8 previous lessons and then re-do the 6-8 lessons where he started getting lost, and then forge ahead for another 6-8 lessons until he was lost, and then go back and re-do the previous 6-8 lessons, and then the newer batch of 6-8 lessons, and then forge ahead again


grade 12

Consumer Math

Edited by Lori D.
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Thank you Lori! That is very helpful. I was talking to my husband today about sequencing. I am so worried about her forgetting between Algebra 1 and 2, and also that we may have to go slower or go through them twice. He mentioned doing Geometry alongside the Algebra, as a second math program. We could even finish the Geometry over 2 years also if necessary.


I have no idea what kind of transcript that will look like in the end, but I just feel like I am going to have to think outside the box here as far sequencing and review.



One other thing I can share is that if the student has LDs or is highly VSL or just more delayed in developing the abstract thinking/sequencing portions of the brain, the longer you can wait on the Algebra, or take longer to do it, the easier it may be for your student.


One thing DS shared with me in 12th grade was that he wished we had done the Consumer Math earlier, and done the Algebra 2 in 12th grade, to give him an extra year for his brain to click better with the math. (I had decided to do the Algebra 2 in 11th, as I was afraid that by waiting until 12th, that would possible set him up for a failure to complete the Algebra 2 and delay graduation. Also, I really didn't see how we could *stop* Algebra at any point to delay doing the Algebra 2 -- I really do think it was best going straight from Pre-Algebra into Algebra 1... maybe the 8-month break between finishing doing Algebra 1 (in December of 10th grade) to do Geometry (spring of 10th grade), and starting Algebra 2 (fall of 11th grade) was too big of a break... On the other hand, he had just done 1.5 years of Algebra 1 of back-to-back 2 complete programs, and I felt like he needed a break with a math he would do well at (Geometry), and to give him more time for more brain development... sigh... Still second-guessing myself... Well, in the end, we got through it all. ;)



As you can see, changing things up or delaying or doubling up makes it super-tricky to figure out how to schedule you maths, because I totally agree with you that if you can go straight into Algebra 2 after finishing Algebra 1, you won't have the loss of details that doing Geometry in between can cause.


So doing Geometry alongside is a good possibility -- I would just strongly encourage you to consider taking a total of 1.5 years for each of Algebra 1 and Algebra 2 AND spread out the Geometry over that time as well, so you're doing extra-small bites of Math, so as to not kill your Math struggler with too much Math each day. It's extra-important for these students to balance out the extra time it takes on Math with time for areas of their strengths and interests, or they really burn out on high school. Scheduling Geometry for 2 years while simultaneously taking 3 years to do Algebra 1 and Algebra 2 would be a gentle pace AND it would still accomplish 3 Math credits in 3 years of time.


As far as transcript -- not very many specifically require that you submit a transcript by grade/year, so you could structure your transcript by subject rather than grade/year -- and for many schools, even the completion date is optional:



course . . .  . . . . . credit . . grade . . completion date

Algebra 1. . . . . 1.00 . . . X . . . .  xx-xx-xxxx

Geometry. . . . . 1.00 . . . X . . . .  xx-xx-xxxx

Algebra 2. . . . . 1.00 . . . X . . . .  xx-xx-xxxx

a 4th math. . . . 1.00 . . . X . . . .  xx-xx-xxxx

total credit/GPA  4.00 . . .x.xxx



If you do have to do a transcript by grade/year, then you just list whatever partial credits were completed in each grade/year, with grades. Here's a random example:


courses. . . . . . . 9th credit/grade  10th credit/grade  11th credit/grade  12th credit/grade


Algebra 1. . . . . . . 0.50 / X . . . . 0.50 / X

Geometry. . . . . . . 0.33 / X . . . . 0.33 / X . . . . . .0.33 / X

Algebra 2. . . . . . . 0.50 / X . . . .  0.25 / X . . . . .  0.75 / X

a 4th math. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1.00 / X

MATH total credit: 4.00  /  total GPA: x.xxx



BEST of luck as you think through what's best for your DD! Warmest regards, Lori D.

Edited by Lori D.
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I would be inclined to go with Algebra I over two years. Many algebra 1 texts start with review of order of operations which also reviews basic arithmetic. You could also use chapter tests from a prealgebra book if you really thought you needed to review, or better yet make your own review as you go(If you are interested I will share what is working well this year for us).


I do not like the way many prealgebra books introduce equation solving, which may influence my thinking. Any work with variables is taught from scratch in Algebra 1 books, so a prealgebra is not necessary for teaching variables and equation solving. If you do Algebra 1 over two years you can either go slowly and supplement with more challenging math thinking throughout, or work through a text and then work more quickly through another Algebra 1 text the 2nd time, preferably one that is more challenging. 


Another option is to do Algebra 1 over 1.5 years and Geometry over 1.5 years and use the extra time in Geometry to review algebra. Or maybe better would be Algebra 1 over 1.5 years, Geometry for 1 and the last .5 year go quickly through an algebra 1 text.  


I use Foerster Algebra 1, but as a 2nd text for review I like Lial's because there is a cumulative review after each chapter. That would be a good way to review during or after Geometry. If your child zips through review of algebra then you could use the extra time to strengthen mathematical thinking/problem solving by using something like AoPS the 2nd time through.


Just my 2 cents :)


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