There is a lot that can be said about this issue. I hope you get numerous
other response. I did want to offer one point of view.
The Vermont Framework and the NCTM standards advocate providing learning
about patterns and functions from kindergarten on. If you look at some of
the elementary and middle school standards-based programs it is impressive
what students are expected and able to do in the early grades if it is
approached in the right way. You might want to look to see what your sender
schools are doing in this regard.
Closer to home, the standards-based middle school math programs do a
wonderful job of addressing Algebra from grade 6 up. By grade eight all
kids using one of the standards-based programs will have a good foundation
in algebra. But the word foundation is a word with multiple meanings. In
this context it does not mean that the student will have learned all of the
lower order algorithms expected of a traditional algebra I student. One the
other hand, taught well students from these programs will UNDERSTAND a great
deal more than the traditional algebra student. I hopefully will post
research in the not to distant future about what students retain of their
traditional algebra instruction by their last year in high school or their
first year in college. Many students who take Algebra II in high school
need to retake Algebra I in college. Remediation is a big issue in
So the contention is that students from a standards-based program will have
a better conceptual understanding of algebra when then move on to high
school. Then the question becomes, has the high school reformed their
program to focus on high level thinking? If yes, the match is excellent.
What if they offer only traditional Algebra II? There is some research from
Connected Math, AAAS's top rated middle school math program, that students
fair well going on to a traditional Algebra II class in high school after 3
years of Connected Math.
Director of Mathematics Education
Vermont Institute for Science, Math and Technology
7 West Street
Montpelier, Vt 05602
Ph: (802) 828-0069