Changes to 8th Grade Math Instruction Aren’t What You Might Have Heard

“Many are puzzled about why the Common Core State Standards…seem to advise against the popular policy of letting kids take algebra a year earlier than usual. It is all pretty confusing,” argues Washington Post columnist Jay Mathews. “Common Core should not stand in the way of eighth-graders who want to start high school math early.”

But contrary to what Jay suggests, Common Core State Standards don’t preclude students from taking an accelerated path of math instruction. The changes don’t mean students are learning any less. In fact, the shift better ensures all students will have exposure to material that builds a foundational understanding necessary to succeed at the high-school and collegiate level.

“No matter what it’s called, eighth-grade math is now much more rigorous than it was,” an analysis by the Collaborative for Student Success notes. “So there is less of a need to push students into advanced math, though there is certainly no restriction of doing so.”

The Los Angeles Times explains the change “might help to solve a different problem: the segregation that happens inside schools and between classrooms, when black and Latino students are kept out of high-level classes.”

In a series of videos officials from the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics explain the focus on fundamental math skills in middle school better prepare students by building a strong understanding of the basics.

“The Common Core State Standards offer a foundation for the development of more rigorous, focused, and coherent mathematics curricula, instruction, and assessments that promote conceptual understanding and reasoning as well as skill fluency,” NCTM’s official policy position states.