Many of the problems discussed in Warning Signs: Middle School still apply to high school. But, high school has four distinct paths with different areas of concern. Average paced students face very different challenges and demands than accelerated students.

As a freshman, students enter Algebra I, Geometry, or Accelerated Geometry. Respectively, they will top out at Pre-Calculus, AP Statistics, AP Calculus, or Advanced Calculus (or possibly a higher level math offered at a college). In a future blog I’ll go into more depth on the different tracks.

Freshman in Algebra I are on the lower end of math proficiency. They probably struggled throughout middle school, and the jump to Algebra will be a challenge. The students who ask for my help with Algebra I are lacking fundamental concepts going all the way back to elementary school. They have yet to master math facts, fractions, integers, and applied problems (word problems). These kids are at extreme risk of failing as freshman. My recommendation would be to get a tutor immediately. You can start with free tutoring session offered at the school, but these are group sessions. They may not work for every student. Peer help can also be a good resource. Don’t let them disengage and give up on math, get them support.

Freshman in Geometry are a mixture of students pushing and coasting at this pace. If they’ve dropped down from accelerated, then it’s a fairly easy class. At first, they will be reviewing concepts they’ve already learned. I don’t get too many of these kids as they just needed a slightly slower pace to do well. The other half are kids who were capable at Algebra in middle school, but they may already be struggling to keep up. I stated in my middle school post that grades are often inflated, and this is where I really see it. Kids that had B’s and even A’s may still have big weak spots in their fundamentals. Parents should be checking grades frequently. Pay close attention to quiz grades; low quiz grades presage low test grades. The time to intervene is early in the semester before too many test grades are in the book. Far too often, students come to me late in the semester failing and desperate to recover their grade, a nearly impossible task with so few tests remaining.

Freshman in Accelerated Geometry are the high achievers. Many of them have been in the gifted program since elementary school, and high school is where math gets challenging. Up to this point, they weren’t tested too much by lower math, so for some, they will have to work hard to get the same grades as in middle school. The teachers are distilling one and half years’ worth of material into one year. The pace will seem very fast on the harder concepts. Most of these students have good fundamentals, but the speed may prevent them from fully grasping the concepts before the test. Pay attention to how long they spend on homework and early test grades. Do not let them get behind. Concepts build on each other and failing to master even one will compound into greater difficulties in Pre-Calculus and Calculus. Another issue with this group is the tremendous pressure they often put on themselves. Stress and frustration can impede them further, and the support of a tutor can help lighten the load.

Next week: The role of a tutor.  

Feedback and recommendations for future topics would be greatly appreciated. Have a great week.