Sunday, July 1, 2012

8th Grade Algebra 1 in Plano

I believe Algebra 1 is pivotal math course.  If a child cannot master Algebra 1, then the rest of the math curriculum is a struggle.  When Plano moved Algebra 1 down to 8th grade I was very concerned for my child's future.  I have friends who expressed great frustration with the 8th grade algebra experience.  I've been coaching my child for years on math, but ensuring my child mastered Algebra 1 while he was stuck in Connected Math was very worrisome.  I have been looking at Connected Math for years and I do not like it and do not trust it.  I am happy to tell you that I found a good solution and I will share it with you.

I entered my son in the Algebra 1 online class at Texas Tech University ISD.  It was a huge relief to me to have a curriculum I could trust.  My son would study 8th grade math at his Plano middle school, then at night he would work problems selected by an instructor from the TTU ISD.  He had a double dose of algebra.  The textbook used by TTU ISD was a traditional textbook with excellent examples.  My son could study the examples and solve the problems.  When the year was over he passed the end of course exam with a score that demonstrated mastery.  The TTU ISD experience was good for us and I am very grateful it was suggested to me by some of the sharpest people in Plano.  I want to share my good fortune by sharing this story with you.

I think you do not actually need to enroll your child in the TTU ISD if you are capable of reviewing algebra problems for your child.  You could just purchase the textbook and have your child work through it, with you checking the homework problems.   Assign 5 to 8 problems from each section and check the problems.

The textbook is Texas Algebra 1 by Allan Bellman, Prentice Hall, ISBN 0-13-134021-2 and it costs around $90.  Besides, the book can be purchased from the TTU ISD bookstore.  The course covers chapters 1 through 10.  Chapters 11 and 12 are not tested in the Texas End of Course (EOC) exam.  However, chapters 11 and 12 are tested in California, so I assigned them to my child.  Chapter 11 is "Radical Expressions and Equations."  Chapter 12 is "Rational Expressions and Functions."  I think they are important chapters and should be covered.  Here is a link to a released test from California for Algebra 1.


To allay my fears I also purchased a video course on Algebra 1 from the Teaching Company.  I do not think this was necessary, but it gave me peace of mind.  I did like the lecturer.  For important chapters we watched the video session covering that material.  It was expensive.  If you get on the mailing list for the Great Courses company, you could get the lectures on sale.  We used the textbook from front to back.  We used the video lectures occasionally.  There are free math videos at the Khan Academy online.


I was very pleased with the TTU ISD.  Here is a link for enrolling in it.  Here is the next step after enrolling.  There is no real interaction.  You submit homework and it gets graded.  That worked for us.  The TTU ISD does not really have a category of enrollment for supplemental instruction.  If you enroll as a home-schooler, you cannot receive the final exam.  They want you to pay a college test facility to administer the test.  If you skip the final, I think they do not like that.  You might be better off just buying the book and going through it from cover to cover.  The advantage of TTU ISD is that there is some material in the book that can be skipped over and the TTU ISD guides you through that thicket of material.

The Importance of Algebra

Algebra 1 is the first step toward some well paying careers.  Algebra 1 is important for the SAT and ACT exams.  Algebra 1 is important for understanding finance and loans.  If you care about money, you should care about algebra.

8th Grade Algebra in Plano

I am very grateful to the Plano parents who shared with me their disappointment with 8th grade algebra in Plano.  I found a way to ensure a good education for this course, and I am sharing my experience with you.  Algebra was pushed down to 8th grade so calculus in 12th grade would be part of the normal progression.  Twelfth grade calculus is now common up North.  Calculus in high school has been common in Europe for decades.  Pushing algebra down to 8th grade makes sense.  Students who do not pass the Algebra 1 EOC can retest or take it in 9th grade.

Many Plano parents send their children to school in the evenings or weekend to give them a competitive advantage.  Many parents pay for math tutoring, so many parents are probably not worried about 8th grade algebra.  The Prentice-Hall textbook is a low budget alternative to parents who are proficient in algebra.

I will be happy to hear of your experiences with 8th grade algebra.  Comments must be reviewed before they are published, so be patient.

Robert Canright