Are kids being pushed into advanced math too early?

Gianna La Fond, Staffer

From Algebra 1 to Calculus BC Lake Oswego High School offers a wide variety of math classes, allowing students to take advanced math routes and push themselves. Although the accessibility to higher math classes can be beneficial to students who want to advance quickly, it can also lead to intense pressure and stress on kids to get as far ahead as possible. The standard math route is 6th grade math, 7th grade math, pre algebra, algebra one, geometry, algebra two ending with pre-calc or AP statistics, however, many students opt, or are opted, into a more advanced path. 

The route to take a higher math class can start as young as elementary school where kids can test into the TAG program, which stands for “Talented and Gifted.” The program allows for kids to be put in more advanced classes, pushing their ability to learn. This route also allows kids to enter sixth grade taking seventh grade or even 7C math.  

However, even without the TAG program many students end up in advanced classes. The LO school district allows for kids to take math over the summer, allowing them to enter sixth grade in seventh grade math. Additionally, there’s the possibility of ending up in a higher class, 7C, which is an advanced seventh grade math class that combines seventh grade math and Pre-Algebra. By taking 7C, students can take algebra their 8th grade year. Kids also can enter middle school already in 7C and then continue to take classes online over the summer up until high school, advancing kids three to four years ahead from the standard. 

The expectation for students to be ahead has only been increasing. LOJ has gone from teaching only one geometry class with seven kids, to three different classes over the past five years. Students are even starting to take Algebra 2 in middle school. The intense pressure forces kids to take difficult classes when they are too young to fully comprehend the topics, so when they go to take even harder classes such as Calculus they struggle. Bradley Woebke, a LOHS math teacher, spoke on this saying that “math advancement should not be based on whether or not it’s been taught to you, its brain development, maturity, work ethic.”

The intense environment around math class makes it practically impossible to convince any student to slow down in math because of fear of being seen as dumb, even if it only means going from being three years ahead to two. “If students were even just a year advanced instead of two or three, they would have a much better time instead of sacrificing their mental health,” said Woebke. He also mentioned how “students don’t have to take pre-calc in high school” pointing to the fact that top colleges like Yale and Harvard offer precalc.

The teachers recognize how the pressure to be ahead affects students and how it stresses kids out. Woebke said how “Often when students get to harder classes in highschool, their hard work just doesn’t cut it anymore” and you see the effects in the students. The stress around being in advanced math contributes to the mentally straining environment of LO.