Math Program
Catlin Gabel School
Middle School Math Program Explanation
July 2013
The purpose of this explanation is to clarify the flow of the Middle School math program. It reflects ongoing changes made in the math curriculum to better meet the needs of our students. In many ways, this fall, 20132014, will be a transition year for many students as we prepare to offer algebra over the course of two years in the Middle School. It includes course descriptions, information on how placement decisions are made, and indicates how the progression of math classes occurs.
We believe building a strong algebra foundation is essential for success in subsequent mathematics courses. Algebra is one of the critical junctions in math curriculum because it demands the ability to think abstractly. It is the turning point from using arithmetic skills (concrete thinking) to solve basic math problems with specific numeric values, to creating generalized formulas for equations that use variables (abstract thinking). Abstract reasoning and analytical thinking involve building rules to represent functions by recognizing patterns and organizing data, reversibility and working backwards, and abstracting from computation. Students entering the Upper School as freshmen that do not demonstrate this foundation of knowledge will find themselves struggling when they take later courses. Therefore, all Middle School math courses focus on skillbuilding, problemsolving, and algebraic thinking, as we know these are the critical elements of a strong mathematics foundation.
Courses this Fall 20132014
6^{th} grade 
7^{th} grade 
8^{th} grade 
9^{th} grade 
Math 6

PreAlgebra 
Algebra 1A 
Algebra 1 (whole year) 
Algebra 1B 

Algebra 1A 
Algebra 1 
Year One Algebra 2/Geometry 

PreAlgebra 
Algebra 1 
Year One Algebra 2/Geometry taken in Upper School 
Year Two, Algebra 2/Geometry 
Courses next Fall 20142015
6^{th} grade 
7^{th} grade 
8^{th} grade 
9^{th} grade 
Math 6

PreAlgebra 
Algebra 1A 
Algebra 1 (whole year) 
Algebra 1B 

Algebra 1A 
Algebra 1B 
Year One Algebra 2/Geometry 

PreAlgebra 
Algebra 1 
Year One Algebra 2/Geometry taken in Middle School 
Year Two Algebra 2/Geometry 
What is Math 6?
Math 6 is a course designed to solidify, strengthen, and deepen foundational math skills. In addition, the course emphasizes creative problemsolving strategies and generalizing patterns to push the growth of each student’s abstract thinking and logical reasoning ability. The beginning of algebraic thinking is woven throughout the curriculum. The students are also introduced to computer programming during our genderbased grouping.
What is PreAlgebra?
PreAlgebra is a very broad term used to describe courses that prepare students for the study of algebra. This course includes topics that involve arithmetic review and the introduction of skills and concepts for algebra, geometry, and statistics. Our program emphasizes mastery of the facts and skills of mathematics and the development of abstract concepts, logical reasoning, and application of skills through problemsolving challenges.
What is Algebra 1?
Algebra courses vary greatly from one school to another in terms of their depth and rigor. At Catlin Gabel, our vigorous program emphasizes abstract thinking and logical reasoning. Topics covered in algebra include evaluation and simplification of algebraic expressions, solving and graphing linear equations, linear systems, operations with polynomials, radical and rational expressions, and factoring. Four dimensions of understanding are emphasized to maximize performance: skill in carrying out various algorithms; developing and using mathematics properties and relationships; applying mathematics in realistic situations; and representing or picturing mathematical concepts.
What is Algebra 1A?
This course was designed to allow students to complete the study of Algebra over two years to ensure a thorough understanding of the topics and to build a strong foundation for higherlevel mathematics. Algebra 1A is the first of this twoyear course. We believe the shift to algebra over the course of two years will allow for students to solidify conceptual understanding, as well as apply their learning through ongoing problem solving.
What is Algebra 1B?
Algebra 1B is the second year of this twoyear course.
How are math placements decided?
We strive to place students in a class that will meet their individual needs as learners. Although there are courses and typical math paths, we recognize that students change, mature, develop more abstract reasoning and improve their critical thinking abilities, hence a student may be moved up or down over the course of the year to best serve their learning needs.
In 6^{th} grade, the first weeks of school are used to assess each student’s basic math skills, abstract thinking, problemsolving ability, and spatial reasoning. Several placement assessments are used during this time, including 5^{th} grade teacher input, prealgebra readiness assessments, baseline exams, and teacher observations. The great majority of the students are placed in Math 6, a vigorous math curriculum reviewing and solidifying elementary math skills, deepening the conceptual understanding of these topics, extending these skills to more complex number sets, and exploring new topics. Students who demonstrate abstract thinking and mastery of elementary math will place into a PreAlgebra course to best challenge them and meet their learning needs.
Between 6^{th} and 7^{th} grades, students are further grouped. They are grouped by math proficiency as well as pace of learning. For our current students, placement into 7^{th} grade math classes happens at the end of 6^{th} grade. The placement includes the cumulative work over the course of the year, final assessments of content and problem solving, and teacher input. For new students, we review teacher recommendations from the admissions process, SSAT scores, and consult with former teachers as necessary.
Between 7^{th} and 8^{th} grades, the groups continue along the same lines as 7^{th} grade. The placement includes the cumulative work over the course of the year, final assessments of content and problem solving, and teacher input. For new students, we review teacher recommendations from the admissions process, SSAT scores, and consult with former teachers as necessary.
Is there movement of students during the course of the year?
If a teacher assesses a student is not able to meet the expectations of a course or is far exceeding the expectations of a course, the student will be moved to a more appropriate placement.
What if I have questions about my child’s math placement?
Parents are always welcome to directly contact their child’s math teacher, or Barbara, to discuss placement decisions and their child’s math progress.