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Geometry in middle school?

Original post made by Barron Dad on Oct 12, 2012

Is geometry offered in middle school?

I went to the Terman website and looks like the math lanes stop at Algebra I.
A fair number of 8th graders in the Cupertino school district take geometry (including my nephew), so I assumed PAUSD would have a similar offering.

What would an 8th grader in PAUSD need to do to take geometry?


Comments (61)

Posted by eucl, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 12, 2012 at 12:39 pm

take a look at Jordan's curriculum: Web Link

Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 12, 2012 at 2:37 pm

There are countries (e.g. in Europe) and apparently some school districts here (Cupertino is mentioned in the question) where geometry is taught before algebra. In Palo Alto, it's the other way around. Pre algebra and algebra come first and then geometry is introduced early in high school.

A way to get geometry early would be to skip a math level in middle school and take Alg/Geom at a high school while in 9th grade in middle school. Some advanced students do that. Most students will get geometry in 9th grade (freshman year of high school).

I hope this helps.

Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 12, 2012 at 2:39 pm

I meant to say while in 8th grade in middle school (not 9th grade)

Posted by sat mom, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 12, 2012 at 4:34 pm

In Menlo Park, it's pretty standard for advanced math students to take algebra in 7th grade and geometry in 8th grade, with algebra II in 9th grade.

Not that there is any point in rushing math, just pointing this out.

Posted by parent, a resident of another community
on Oct 12, 2012 at 6:03 pm

Unfortunately, in Palo Alto, the focus is on bringing the lowest performing students up and not on helping gifted students...

Posted by mom, a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 12, 2012 at 6:50 pm


"What would an 8th grader in PAUSD need to do to take geometry?

Where do you want to get to after? PAUSD has various options.

Instead of spending a full year on Geometry, you take it as part of an advanced Algebra II class in 9th grade, followed by Trigonmetry/Analytical Geometry in 10th grade.

Web Link

Posted by mom, a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 12, 2012 at 6:54 pm


This link is better,

Web Link

Posted by Jan H., a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 12, 2012 at 6:58 pm

Jan H. is a registered user.

I always found that the learning disabled students and the gifted students got the most attention. It was the vast majority in the middle who were overlooked

Posted by everything will change, a resident of Meadow Park
on Oct 12, 2012 at 7:58 pm

When Common Core hits in 2 years, math in middle school is going to look very different. Don't be surprised if Geometry for 8th graders goes away.

Posted by Barron Dad, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 12, 2012 at 10:40 pm

To clarify, if your kid is ready for pre-algebra in 6th grade, and algebra in 7th grade, then what does he do for 8th grade math in PAUSD? Does he have to travel to Gunn/Paly for his math class? Or is there another option?

There's got to be a lot of kids in our town in this situation.

Posted by mom, a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 12, 2012 at 10:59 pm

Barron Dad,

Call the schools for details. Either way, to take the higher lane in 6th grade - you need to be identified for it in 5th grade.

If your kid is ready for Geometry/Algebra2 Honors end of 7th grade, they would likely need to take that class at the High School.

Call the schools for details.

Posted by It is offered in most districts, a resident of another community
on Oct 13, 2012 at 12:40 pm

Most school districts offer the option (for advanced students) of taking Algebra 1 in 7th grade, Geometry in 8th and Algebra II in 9th. And when students take Geometry in 8th grade, they do so at the middle school and there are several sections full of students.

I am surprised Palo Alto does not offer this.

Posted by a mom, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Oct 13, 2012 at 2:27 pm

The PAUSD strategy is holding back everyone and does a mostly review of 5th grade material at 6th grade, and starts pre-algebra at 7th grade for everyone unless you are the very few how knows how to get around.

Posted by mom, a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 13, 2012 at 5:43 pm

it's offered inmost district

"Algebra 1 in 7th grade, Geometry in 8th and Algebra II in 9th." gets you WHERE in 10th grade?

The way Palo Alto does it, the higher lane will have you in TRIGONOMETRY/ANALYTICAL GEOMETRY in 10th, and MANY Freshman take this in 9th grade.

Geometry is blown out by 7th or 8th if you want it, just in a different way.

The LOWER alines take a full year of Geometry, don't ask me why. Higher lanes cover it within Algebra I and II and you can be as speedy as you want, and have it done by 7th grade if you can do it.

Posted by ex jordan parent, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 13, 2012 at 10:43 pm

I'm not sure about the other two middle schools, but at Jordan, 6th grade students can take a test at the end of 6th grade, basically the 7th grade pre-algebra final. If they pass it, they skip 7th grade math entirely and take geoometry/algebra 2 in 8th grade. When my child was at Jordan there was, I think, one section of this offered at Jordan. Then in high school, they are a year ahead and if they are successful they complete BC Calculus in 11th grade, a year ahead of the normal "highest" lane.

Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 14, 2012 at 10:06 am

There is usually a small group of students at each grade level that take a higher math class than is technically offered per the catalog. There are some kids that take math at the high school while in middle school.

Posted by Jan H., a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 14, 2012 at 12:07 pm

Again, why is there so much variation between schools in the same district? Are there no district-wide standards?

Posted by neighbor, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 14, 2012 at 12:14 pm

I was always amused by the parents who pressured their kids to be one year ahead in Math, starting quite early with year-round tutoring, in order to finish BC Calc AP in 11th grade. Some average to high average academic kids (compliant types, naturally). A real badge of honor around here for these parents. Meanwhile, some of the students (who were not especially interested in Math) are studying other subjects in college. Yes, it is impressive for college apps. I would just preferto reduce this rush-rush for no other reason than bragging rights and a slight edge for the apps.

Posted by sat mom, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 14, 2012 at 1:12 pm

As one who was a strong math student and has kids with strong math skills, I have to share neighbor's amusement. Why push the kids? It doesn't really matter whether they make through calculus (terminal point for most kids) a year or two earlier or later. For the kids who are truly gifted in math, the curriculum isn't going to matter anyway because they will be doing their own thing.

The problem with offering the more advanced math at an earlier age is that in addition to the tiny percentage of kids who are truly ready for it, you will have a whole lot of kids who would be happier in a slower-paced environment. It's like forcing a kid to learn to walk at the age of 9 mos. Wait a few months and it will be easier all around.

Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 14, 2012 at 2:21 pm

Jan H - the variation between the schools is because of "site based decision making".

Posted by Confused parent, a resident of Stanford
on Oct 15, 2012 at 11:56 am

Essentially at Terman they go out of their way to not allow you to take Algebra or Geometry early. Before 6th grade school ends they allow you to take a math class to be able to get in Algebra instead of pre-Algebra but to be able to pass this test you need to already know Algebra to be able to pass the test to get into the Algebra class. Note if you get into Algebra the instructor Jorgens is an excellent teacher.
Then the next year they will allow you to go into Geometry/ Algebra II. I am not sure why they do not give a separate class for Geometry and Algebra II. Then once you get in the class they try to discourage you even more by giving the kids a 30 year old text book plus no class notes while if you take the same class at Gunn they give you a new text book plus a website with class notes. If for some reason you were not in the Algebra class in 7th grade they will give you a test to get into the Geometry/ Algebra II class. Please note once again you will be tested on Geometry/Algebra II material to be able to get into this class.
To me it quite interesting how our government and corporations says they want more people to learn math but somehow the math departments are going out of its way to dissuade people from trying to progress in this area. I believe they only feel like certain people should be allowed to be in their club.
FYI, I believe Jordan must be doing something different to allow more kids in the Algebra class in 7th grade maybe they allow the kids that are good in math work on Algebra etc.

Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 15, 2012 at 1:12 pm

When my kids were at Jordan, a number of 6th grade students did 7th grade math (unfortunately with a teacher that complained that she had to spend time with them). For each math section in 6th grade, the kids could "test out" of that section and work on more challenging math during that time.

My kids found most of middle school math and science to be focussed on being organized and not on the actual interesting material (emphasis was on neat notebooks for science, math homework put together in order of assignment with a cover sheet, etc.)

If we want our kids to be good at math and science, we need to appeal to their curiousity, not their organizational skills.

Posted by mom, a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 15, 2012 at 2:17 pm

confused parent,

"departments are going out of its way to dissuade people from trying to progress in this area. I believe they only feel like certain people should be allowed to be in their club."

To be clear - the higher lanes are extremely advanced by ANY standard. Freshman kids taking Trigonomtery/Analytical Geometry in 9th grade or 10th grade is huge.

WHat is discouraged, and rightly so, are kids who cannot handle the speed or the depth of the Math, and potentially struggle.

Honors and higher math lane classes are not classes you can struggle in. You may call it a "club", but I have noticed that the kids in these classes are there because of real ability. Some say tutoring too, and that may be the case but that happens in the lower lanes as well.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 15, 2012 at 2:45 pm

The real problem here is that once a higher lane is offered in PAUSD there will be parents who want their kids in it rather than kids who deserve to be in it.

Parents are often the ones pushing their kids harder than they should be, not the kids or the school. I know of a family where the student has just received a B in higher math and is being punished by the parents and a warning to make this up by the end of the semester, or else (else what????). Parents are definitely pushing the kids and when a class like Geometry is offered in middle school, the applicants will be numerous due to parental pressure and not to ability.

Posted by Barron Dad, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 15, 2012 at 4:11 pm

The current PAUSD system does not sound suitable for advanced math kids.

For social reasons, I don't want my middle school kid to travel over to Gunn for math class. He should be able to take his math classes with similar friends at Terman.

I'm more concerned about him being bored if math class is too slow.
If he's curious about high school level geometry and Terman doesn't offer it, then he can just learn it from Khan Academy, Udacity, or some other free online resource.

If PAUSD doesn't meet advanced math kids' needs, then it looks like parents need to supplement with online resources. There's no way I would ever pay for a tutor for a kid who is just curious to learn more math.

Posted by Mom, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 15, 2012 at 4:44 pm

Do you know why people are crazy about skipping Math a year or two?

It is because they want to have higher GPA for college especially because UC Berkeley asks us to get 4.2 GPA as average accepted freshman.

The math the students take after skipping(a highest lane)gives him/her 5 points for an A.

There are more details after finishing high school math toward boosting GPA for college. I'll stop.

Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 15, 2012 at 5:52 pm

If I remember correctly advanced math was taught at Jordan, it is just not part of the course catalog. It was taught before school and the students must be truly gifted in math.

Posted by Anti-intellectual?, a resident of Terman Middle School
on Oct 15, 2012 at 9:20 pm

There seems to be an anti-intellectual, scared tone in some of the responses here. (e.g. "Why does your kid need to do advanced math?").

This sounds like scared parents who are afraid of other kids outgunning their kids in the classroom and setting the bar too high for getting into top colleges.

However, no one questions kids who want to be super advanced in sports. Getting advanced lessons in baseball, soccer, or basketball and playing in elite leagues that require many hours of practice each week is considered "ok". You know there are parents who also push for this because they are hoping it'll improve their kid's chance of getting into a top college.

But getting ahead in math, English, or any other subject because the defined lanes may be too basic for some kids? Shudder....suddenly something is wrong with that? That is disturbing, esp. in a pro-education city like Palo Alto. We can do better.

Posted by mom, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 15, 2012 at 10:42 pm


This us against theml ping-pong gets pretty boring, and I tend to notice this sort of gifted and advanced talk happens mostly with Elementary and Middle School parents. The sky is the limit, and shudder if you will question anything that could hold Johnny back.

By late middle school, parents are more humble, and notice exactly how gifted their kids are or not.

If all the schools were holding everyone back there wouldn't be so many advanced high lanes kids in High School. What the schools will not do is force feed you Geometry in middle school which is valid.

Posted by Paly Grad, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 16, 2012 at 3:54 am

Some students are able to test out of math and skip one (or more) years. Most of these students competed in math competitions in middle school or were part of some math club.

Every year at Paly, there are perhaps one or two dozen students who take trigonometry their freshman year and complete BC Calculus their junior year. (I was one of them.)

Some students — a handful — even skip two or three years, completing BC Calculus their sophomore year or freshman year. Once a student completes BC Calculus, he/she may take math courses at Stanford for the following years. Students are not randomly chosen to skip a year. Almost all students who skip usually score well above average even when placed in the more "advanced" class. Often, the "best" student in BC Calculus is a sophomore or junior.

It should be noted that PAUSD high school math classes are more challenging than those at many other districts. Skipping a year or more of math yields very few benefits unless you are adamant about taking Stanford math. Analysis H and BC Calculus (to a lesser extent) are particularly challenging courses, covering material that other schools do not. Many exams have means in the 40s and 50s and are as (or more) challenging than what you may find at a tier-1 university. Students definitely do not get bored. This is saying something when 10% of a typical BC Calculus class is competing at national and international math competitions.

Paly (when I was there a couple years ago) did not subscribe to the advanced math arms race that has taken over other schools. A rigorous presentation of the material was valued more than having students complete calculus early. My year, the average AP score of all students in BC Calculus was a 5.0. (Not one of 60 students scored beneath a 5/5.) I only know of a handful of schools in the state/country that come close.

Posted by Mom, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 16, 2012 at 5:26 am

Paly Glad,

Some things have changed since you left PAUSD.
I heard Stanford Math was no longer available for high school students.
Well at least for Gunn students. Is it still available for Paly students? Or did this path of PAUSD Math go more secretive in depth?

Posted by Palo Verde Parent, a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 16, 2012 at 8:15 am

I think that Stanford math is no longer an option due the increased number of students completing BC calculus by the end of their junior year. Stanford was not interested in having 20+ students auditing their courses. I believe that the high schools are looking into an option of teaching a course on their sites that covers the level of math after BC.

Posted by Gunn mom, a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 16, 2012 at 8:16 am

"Many exams have means in the 40s and 50s and are as (or more) challenging than what you may find at a tier-1 university."

If the mean score on an exam is an F, that does not mean that the class is rigorous, regardless of what the Paly math department (and I suspect that Paly grad is a paly math teacher based on the amount of information he/she seems to have about mean scores of students). An "F" as the mean score means that the teaching has a problem because the students do not comprehend the material.

Just want to make sure that parents get this point -- if your student is getting an F on a test that does not mean that the class is good. That means that it is being poorly taught, the curriculum is out of whack to the ability of the students, and your student's self-esteem is going to be negatively impacted.

We have to stop confusing student failure and rigor in mathematics education in PAUSD.

Posted by Mom, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 16, 2012 at 8:31 am

Thank you for your info, Palo Verde Parent.
I was waiting for this kind of information for my 5th grader.
I am going to follow the lead.

Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 16, 2012 at 8:31 am

Gunn mom - you are correct, some of our math teachers seem to think they are teaching at an elite college where you deliberately flunk a percentage of your class so it seems more prestigious.

If a large percentage of a class is failing, either the teach is not teaching or the students should not be in the class.

Posted by Paly Grad, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 16, 2012 at 8:44 am

@Gunn Mom
Tests were often curved as is common at any college. No one got an F. Distribution was around 5 Cs, 30 Bs, 30 As.

Posted by Gunn mom, a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 16, 2012 at 8:48 am

Paly teacher/grad

If a student is getting 50% of the answers correct on a test, then either the teaching and the curriculum or both are in need of adjustment. Just because everyone else is also only understanding and mastering 50% of the content and you curve the grades does not mean that you improved comprehension only that you don't want an angry mob of pitchfork-wielding parents in your office.

Posted by Mom, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 16, 2012 at 9:14 am

@Paly Glad

First of all a high school is not a college.
Also, curving test scores should be used to mend a small failure of testing as a tool of measurement, not to almost "double" the scores.
That's what other moms are talking about.

Posted by a mom, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Oct 16, 2012 at 9:27 am

I understand the math classes at PAUSD is teaching more difficult material than other at other district. But do the colleges know about it? Would they treat a "B" from our class as the same as an "A" from other district? If not, then the classes at PAUSD are putting our students at a big disadvantage when applying colleges. Those students can learn a lot more math at a better college when they are treated the same in high school as in other district.

Posted by Gunn mom, a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 16, 2012 at 9:27 am

Well said. High school is not college, and no college would accept that kind of a curve anyway. That teacher would be told to improve or move on.

Posted by mom, a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 16, 2012 at 9:28 am

Gunn mom,

For the honor classes and highest lanes, what you say is very true. For regular lanes, a similar situation of self-esteem happens for struggling students. It's a complicated choice to push students beyond their sweet spot in Math, or getting everything to match perfectly - student ability, curriculum, how it's being taught, and the problem is more complicated for the gray areas of the extremes in student ability.

A general risk of the pushing culture though is that non-high-lane students, or those who can't handle the honors classes are subliminally made to feel bad at Math because they are not in the highest lanes, and look elsewhere. Some actually run away from anything with Math.

Posted by mom, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 16, 2012 at 9:49 am

Paly Grad,

"Often, the "best" student in BC Calculus is a sophomore or junior."

Do you think this has to do with what someone mentioned above about compliance. Younger kids are more compliant, and (provided they are talented in Math) developmentally, the younger kids may be less stressed about other stuff? Or likely it's that they are really gifted, or both. I may have answered my own question.

Posted by Gunn mom, a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 16, 2012 at 9:52 am


We need a curriculum and math instruction that allows every child to have appropriate challenges and to stretch while not throwing them into the deep end of the pool. The math instruction in PAUSD is behind the times. Stanford does not even allow its student teachers to student teach in math in our high schools because of the precise problems being discussed on this thread. When I first heard that, I was just shocked, absolutely unacceptable. Other districts nearby are getting these bright young students and we aren't because the Stanford faculty have decided we are too behind the times in our instructional practices.

Meanwhile we have math snobs who think that student failure is a sign of rigor, and that openly brag about teaching classes too hard for the plebian masses. I am not surprised ordinary kids are becoming math phobic in this environment -- how would you feel getting a paper back that says "50" or "40" or worse at the top of it every week? The teacher quoted above said that the MEAN score is a 40 or 50. That means that a bunch of kids did WORSE than a 40 or 50. Seriously? Just read that horrible Paly math letter.

Yet Palo Altans continue to believe, against the evidence, that our math program is the best. No. Our kids are the best. Our math program is probably making them worse off.

Posted by Paly Grad, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 16, 2012 at 10:47 am

@Gunn mom

First of all, I am not a teacher. Second of all, I did not say that students were consistently getting 50s or 40s on all papers. Most students got full or near full marks on homework and quizzes. Yes, exams were often hard with average scores around 70 and occasionally in the low 50s/high 40s, but it does not mean that we only understood 50% of the content. Again, the average score on the AP exam was a 5/5! (You can't possible tell me that students didn't understand the content!) It's normal to get 40-70% when you have 1 class period to complete an 8 page double-sided exam, with many particularly challenging questions toward the end. You get some of the challenging questions and you don't necessarily complete others. I can't and did not speak of regular classes, but I did not know any "honors" student who was at all "hurt" when he/she got a 40% on a test. We laughed about it an worked through the course together. People realized that tests were hard but were fine with that with it since it was challenging for most.

What do you suggest: That tests be so easy that everyone gets at least an 80 or 90%? You just can't do that in an advanced math class when problems are complex and build upon each other, and where there are inherently many places where students can lose points (especially in derivations or long calculations). This is an honors math class: Students are expected to take challenging classes in college after graduation, and the preparation we received was tremendous. All the students I know who took BC Calc are doing extraordinarily well in college.

@mom: Colleges accept even more skewed curves. I'm in college right now and the average score on a physics test last semester was 25%. When I took math at Stanford, the average on our of midterms was in the low 30s. This is not at all unusual in science, engineering, and mathematics classes. Also, APs are supposed to be college-level courses (though this is not always the case at other schools).

With regards to my comment: "Often, the "best" student in BC Calculus is a sophomore or junior". Yes, it is often because of a combination of both (but mostly talent). The students who skip two or more years are often the ones who do very well (sometimes top 50 in the country) on tests such as the United States of America Mathematics Olympiad (USAMO) and other international math olympiads.

But, yes, I do agree that it is unfair that many students get Bs at Paly and 5s on the AP, while students at other schools get A+s and 2s and 3s on the AP tests. That's because they have ridiculously easy tests in class, but cover very little material. I don't see what Paly can do about it except curve the classes even more? Dumbing down the content would be ill-advised since students wouldn't be as prepared for college.

Posted by Mom, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 16, 2012 at 11:10 am

Paly Glad,

First of all, thank you very much for your insider comments.
We, moms, made some comments on your postings, but overall, we got good information, leaned a lot. Please keep coming back for comments on PA online in the future.

I agree with you. What can we do about it?
It is very hard to change things already there and usually no class fits for all the students in it.

Posted by RogueTrader, a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 16, 2012 at 11:12 am

I can only give anecdotal personal experience. My oldest child simply took the the highest lane offered to the general class (no skipping), and finished Calc BC senior year. She got admitted to schools that are very demanding in math (MIT, Caltech). She ended up choosing an Ivy, tested into second year math as a freshman, and did very well in the class.

So based on anecdotal experience, the conventional math offered at PAUSD is plenty to be admitted to a good school, and PAUSD prepares students well for college level math classes.

On a separate but related note, I have been very pleased with PAUSD, and I hope school board candidates like Ken Dauber on not planning on dismantling or weakening it.

Posted by Gunn mom, a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 16, 2012 at 11:18 am

@paly "grad"

You have too much information about grade distributions within courses and tests not to be a teacher. No student would have information about the grades of others at this level of detail and every parent reading this knows it.

Here's your actual quote about scores on tests: "Many exams have means in the 40s and 50s"

This is not consistent with your new post that "exams were often hard with average scores around 70 and occasionally in the low 50s/high 40s." So which is it, 70s or 50s?

Your last comment about "dumbing down" the curriculum sounds very familar to readers of the Paly math letter. I think we know what is up here.

Posted by RogueTrader, a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 16, 2012 at 11:41 am

I just wanted to supplement the comments made by "Paly grad"

1. It is, indeed, common for math and engineering tests to have a low mean grade, e.g. 20-40%. It doesn't mean the students only have 20% comprehension. Often, tests are constructed that require a deep, second or third level understanding of the subject. It's very common in college, because profs want to identify the small handful of students who score 90% on a test with a mean of 30%, and recruit those students for graduate school, etc.

2. I completely agree with "Paly grad" that PAUSD prepares their students very well for college. Again, I hope the school board is not planning on weakening anything.

Posted by Paly Grad, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 16, 2012 at 12:11 pm

@Gunn Mom

I can assure you that I am a student. All our exam grades were posted online (on this site called WebGrade) as were class distributions. This was done through a standard practice in every math class I took at Paly. It's not as though test scores are classified data. We would have been furious had we not known what the averages were (since our overall grade depended on this).

Average exam scores were usually in the 70s, but many tests (maybe 4) were in the 50s. We had about a dozen tests if I remember correctly.

@ Mom

I think one thing Paly could do is make it clear to colleges how difficult PAUSD schools are. The school profile (which gets sent with students transcripts) should include a note about Paly's stance against grade inflation. (Princeton does this when people apply to graduate schools). Many private schools and elite public schools also make this clear.

It's not fair when students from Southern California — which tends to have much, much easier schools than the Bay Area — graduate with 4.87 GPAs (and a 1800 SAT) when a Paly student with a 2250 and 5s on many AP tests struggles to get a 3.8. Colleges put a lot on emphasis on sky-high GPAs as much as the school might seek to deny it. You see quite a few of the 4.9 GPA/low SAT students at the UCs and Stanford. East Coast schools seem to value standardized tests more.

Posted by mom, a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 16, 2012 at 12:22 pm

Gunn mom,

I think you're completely wrong that Paly grad is a teacher.And you're making broad political points which mix apples with oranges. I have a student who has been in the regular highest lanes and what Paly grad describes is what students in those classes already know. They know what grades their friends get, and can do the Math for how the class stacks up.

Your point about the Paly Math letter, and Stanford opinions on Math teaching, are issues relevant to the regular lanes, or below Algebra II. It's an entirely different ball game for the advanced honors classes to which Paly grad speaks to very accurately, and has made clear he/she is not referring to the regular lanes.

Is your point that students with moderate ability need to also complete BC calculus by 11th grad? That makes no sense.

The best of all worlds is that each student has options to challenge themselves, options to remediate, and options to change lanes accordingly. PAUSD has traditionally had more and better options for the students who want the tough challenge, and less for remediation. It is great to aspire for both!

If honors students have been willing to pay for the challenge accepting tougher grades it also speaks to the quality of preparation.

Honors classes do count extra so a B is an A, and so forth.

Posted by mom, a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 16, 2012 at 12:27 pm

Paly grad,

I hadn't seen your post before posting mine.

I'm glad you clarified you are indeed a student, everything you said is consistent with what students in honors classes know.

And I agree with your points on how Paly could improve in better communicating how honors courses work, to the colleges, and to parents too.

Thanks for helping us in the conversation.

Posted by Gunn mom, a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 16, 2012 at 12:47 pm


I agree with you about kids needing challenges at every level. There is an incorrect assumption that student failure proves "rigor" in PAUSD and this operates at every level in math. High school is not college -- colleges are trying to weed out students who cannot do the work. High schools are not.

Posted by mom, a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 16, 2012 at 3:58 pm

Gunn mom,

To be able to provide opportunities for kids to be challenged at every level, you need to weed, and make sure kids in any class are a good fit. Advanced classes weed kids out by exerting a certain level of rigor which can be perceived as bad, but the only way to know you don't fit in a class is to fail at it.

Obviously, it would be wrong for a high school to weed out kids and leave them without any options, and I think Palo Alto is trying to correct that. Rigor is not bad and as long as what you mentioned- curriculum, teaching, student ability - is carefully monitored and geared to help students, it should be ok.

The Paly letter was wrong because it wanted to leave certain kids without options.

Posted by Ask PAUSD, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 17, 2012 at 8:57 am

Here we have yet another set of ill-informed postings on the Palo Alto Online. If you want correct information about PAUSD math curriculum, I suggest you contact PAUSD not an online blog of random citizens who know little or nothing about district programs.

There is so much misinformation here...I urge anyone who cares about accuracy to contact the district directly. they will be happy to outline their middle school curriculum for you. Good grief. PA Online is NOT a reliable information source. It is a gossip column.

Posted by furrydoggy, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 18, 2012 at 12:56 pm

To the original post - yes, your kid can definitely take Geometry in middle school - I personally know bunch of kids who did that.

As a parent of a kid who got mauled on her first Calc BC test, I can tell you that most of info expressed by "Paly grad" and "Rogue trader" are correct.
1. Higher lanes math at Paly are definitely not for the faint of heart.
2. BC Calc's tests are not "curved" per se. They are pre-curved - that is, you can get 110 on a 100 point test. So, it may not help much.
3. Yes, kids should definitely be challenged with their course work. However, watch their performance like a hawk. If they are not doing well, it is no shame in dropping down a lane or two (or get help).
4. Yes, many top performing kids in these classes are sophomores or juniors. And yes, they are elite-college bound.
5. Yes, the average test score is usually around 70%. However, if kids are unlucky and have an off day, it is possible to get 40-50%.
6. Do not EVER fall behind in the course. The course goes very very fast.
7. Ideally, you should get a tutor if you kid struggles. For people with average means like us, studying with friends will really help - but tell kids to focus when they study together - it is not the time to be social.
8. Contrary to what the teachers say, doing all your assigned homework will not guarantee an A in the class (unless you do every single exercise problems).
9. Contrary to what the teachers say, homework is not 60-90 mins. It is more like 3 hours (and they have multiple homeworks per week). It really helps to get a solution key for your kid. Some of the problems will take a long time to figure out without hints.
10. If the mere thought of getting a B or C scares you (because you have your sight set on that uber elite university), then you need to "game" the system such as taking these classes at community colleges during summers.
11. Similar to Rogue Trader's experience, we have quite a few friends whose Paly kids end up at Cal, Ivies, Stanford/MIT. With no exception, these kids are kicking butts at these elite universities. (With apology to Rogue Trader's kid), doing well at foo foo Ivies, in my opinion, is no big deal - that's expected of Paly kids. But kicking butts at MIT/Caltech - now that's something.

Posted by Chill Everyone, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 18, 2012 at 2:46 pm

It's just high school math. How hard could it be? We are not talking about exams with IMO level problems on them.

Posted by Mom , a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 19, 2012 at 10:26 pm

I took math at Stanford after finishing the required math for engineering before attending (so I was fairly very good at math), but hated the math classes I tried there (after loving math). Many other math-loving folks I know did the same at Stanford. I wouldn't want my child to take math there even if he/she was qualified. Sorry to the profs on this forum (but, the teachers all seemed to be grad students more interested in research than teaching, not profs, anyway). So I guess I support the "what is the rush" group or at least the "don't rush to take courses at Stanford" group. Even if a kid loves math, high school is a time to learn many other things, as well. I think glass blowing seems REALLY cool, along with Journalism, and many other options.

Posted by Person, a resident of Duveneck School
on Feb 15, 2013 at 7:07 am

I am taking 9th grade math in 8th grade, and they offer the highest ninth grade math lane at jordan, which is Geometry algebra 2.

In sixth grade, you do "the packet program", where you work through 7th grade's math in packets. You also have to meet certain requirements, like you need to do extra math problems called Einsteins and get certain grades on the end of the year math tests. You can also test out of sixth grade math, and learn math that isn't covered in the sixth grade curriculum.

In seventh grade, you take algebra 1 with the eighth graders. A few students who did not pass the test in sixth grade to skip a year study the eighth grade material as well as taking the seventh grade class this year.

In eighth grade, everyone in Jordan who manages to skip a grade in math take Geometry Algebra 2 at Jordan, and the class runs from 8:00 (ten minutes before classes normally start) to 9:05.

A bit less that eight percent of people skipped one grade this year, but about four skipped two grades, two (i think) skipped three, and one skipped four (that is not normal, it just happened). If you skip more than one year than you do math first period at paly, have to get to jordan by brunch, and take the rest of your classes at jordan. You lose 1 elective (out of two) if you skip more than one grade.

Posted by person, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 15, 2013 at 7:13 am

I also wanted to add, if you skip one grade in math you take BC calculus junior year and then take a semester of math senior year that is not in the catalog (My sibling is a junior at Paly and also skipped a grade in math and just recently found this out). However, they do not offer a second semester math class for those who skip a grade in math.

Posted by Madhouse, a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Feb 18, 2013 at 1:58 pm

This is institutionalized prelearning of the material. According to the above "student" there is some large number of 6th graders taking both 6th grade math and independent studying 7th grade math in packets doubtless with a tutor, in the hopes of landing in the high math lane. If they don't land the jump they do it again taking 7th grade math with the 8th tutor packetorama meanwhile competing with 7th graders even though they already learned the material with a tutor. And on. Obviously this ramps up the competition in each grade. School officials often criticize "precooked" students but they don't say that they are the ones who precooked them.

So know we know how the Paly math department came to the conclusion that some kids are truly motivated and the rest are "slackers."

Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 18, 2013 at 5:49 pm

At Jordan, it is now considered "cool" to skip a grade of math. Kids have tutors (which the parents may or may not admit too) in order to skip a grade. The idea of skipping a grade in math was intending to keep the truly gifted math students engaged, not as a status symbol.

I often wonder what happens to these kids once they reach college age and no longer have tutors to help them with their work.

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