Abstract Math Concepts Start in 6th Grade

We love getting calls from the parents of 6th and 7th graders (and not because we charge less when tutors work with younger students on more simple concepts)! It’s because we know that many of the important concepts learned in middle school will take the student through high school. And if these concepts are not well mastered at this early stage, later material will seem impossible. Let’s talk today about math.

 

Students in New York City start to look at algebra concepts in the 6th grade. X+12=16 is the first glimpse into how abstract math can be. Not that one cannot move M&Ms from one side of the table to the other to solve this problem, but this is the first time kids see a plus sign and are expected to know it means they must subtract. And students are expected to do math problem just a bit faster than it takes to count on one’s hands (or using M&Ms ;-)). I believe that we lose a lot of students precisely here or if not at this very early stage, then shortly thereafter, say at 2x + 10X + 8 = 76. So the best thing we can do as parents and educators is make sure students have the basics down pat.

 

I love hearing from parents of middle schoolers because this means that we have nipped the problem in the bud. Unfortunately, it is much more often that parents of high schooler call us. The first question we ask is always, “Well how long has the student been a not-so-strong math student?” The answer is most often that the issue began in middle school.

 

Of course, not everyone is born with a natural ability for math, just as not everyone is born with the natural ability to be a good writer. But thankfully, if we have good teachers, these things can be taught. At IVY we believe that almost anyone can be a good student in high school if his/her teachers make the subject matter interesting, relevant and pay enough attention to the individual student. Of course, many teachers do not have the luxury of personal attention, which is where IVY comes in.

 

I will leave you with a question that we will we attempt to answer in our next post, a question many middle schooler who are struggling with math may find interesting: Why is algebra important to learn at all? When will I use it in life?