Math Curriculum in Middle School

Parent Q&A

WCCUSD Math program for 6th grader Jan 26, 2021 (1 responses below)
Help with 6th grade math catch-up Feb 22, 2017 (2 responses below)
Adjusting to middle school math expectations Jan 4, 2017 (5 responses below)
  • WCCUSD Math program for 6th grader

    (1 reply)


    I'm trying to understand what curriculum WCCUSD follows for teaching math for 6th grader. I read that Albany Middle school follows College Preparatory Mathematics, but I couldn't find any specific info on WCCUSD site. All I see is " WCCUSD Essential I can Student Standards". Can anyone provide any information around the math program at WCCUSD?

    It's definitely NOT CPM at WCCUSD. (Spoken as a parent of a student who was in 6th grade in WCCUSD and 7th grade at AMS with CPM.)

  • Help with 6th grade math catch-up

    (2 replies)

    Hi community. Due to some transition issues, it looks like my sixth grader is not going to be fully caught up on the math standards for his grade. I would love either a short summer intensive, a self-paced online course, homeschool curriculum or a class/tutor that would be specifically geared towards getting him fully up to speed and run by someone familiar with the sixth grade curriculum, rather than a 'fun with math' kind of program. This isn't a learning issue, he's strong in math, but an exposure issue--he just needs to be introduced to the concepts. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated--Oakland area would be easiest but nearby would be doable. Thanks in advance.

    Do Kumon over the summer. They will test him to see what level/concepts he needs to start at, and then he will work his way through packets. It's redundant and your kid will dread it (they have to do 20 minutes daily). However, it is amazing at reinforcing concepts.

    Seems to me that Kumon (or Sylvan) would be your last choices because you mentioned that your child is strong in math and needs exposure to concepts.  Kumon (& Sylvan) support practice in basic math procedures and skills but do little to help a student understand the deeper knowledge concepts in the new Common Core Math Curriculum.  Check the CA Common Core Math Standards internet links as well as your school district's website for more details on this.  As well, whatever curriculum is being used at your child's school will also have a website with "parent resources."

    In addition, there are a number of excellent private learning specialists and extra-curricular math programs in the East Bay Area and they can help your child get caught up to grade level math concepts in an enjoyable and effective manner.   BPN has a list of community professionals and tutoring services and BPN Archives have many referrals and reviews.  

    What you are looking for is available in the East Bay.  Maybe try your "Nextdoor" online network for specific local referrals.  When my son was younger, he periodically went to Evan Delageane, who used Making Math Real© methods, and this was sooo helpful.  Unfortunately, Evan has moved out of the area.

    Check BPN Archives,

    take care,

    Local Parent of a teen

  • My child is a new 6th grader at King Middle School. While things seem to be going well and as expected with the transition to middle school, I'm finding myself a bit concerned with one of the teachers and need a sanity check from other parents. My student is struggling with math. He didn't have any problems in elementary school and we haven't received any communication or concern thus far. He came home with a very low grade, not even approaching where he needs to be. No comments were listed. In reaching out to the teacher, we first had a heck of a time receiving a response, then when we did get a response the answers were extremely stand-offish and curt. She had no explanation except for us to go through the Powerschool site through every assignment listed and graded and see where he was missing points. We did this and it turns out that he was missing some points with incomplete homework and low scores on tests. While I admit we have not been checking Powerschool, we have not seen any tests or homework returned that indicated low scores or missing work. The only place it was listed was Powerschool. It was never communicated that this is the primary means of monitoring progress. Needless to say, my son is less than enthusiastic about this class. He is not an overly emotional child by any means, but feels the teacher is cold and can't be bothered. I'm truly taken aback at how "self-service" things seem to be. In addition to having a very substantial homework load nightly, my kid is now having some anxiety about even approaching the teacher with clarifying questions.

    Can someone get my expectations in check? Is it too much for the teacher to provide more insight than to send a link to powerschool? While we aren't expecting her to be warm and fuzzy, we truly have the impression that she cannot be bothered. I am going to make a point of scheduling a face to face meeting with her, but was hoping for some support and insight. 

    I feel like it's appropriate for you and your child to lower your expectations for how much a teacher is supposed to manage. You may not like the teacher's personality, but as for your being responsible for checking Powerschool and communicating with your kid about those earlier test scores, that really is on you. Was there a back-to-school night? If this wasn't communicated then, then that's certainly a problem, but -- teachers are slammed, they have too many students, and it's unrealistic to expect them to go down a list of students and follow up with parents on moderately low performance. 

    I think you have to make a distinction between the reasonable expectation that there is less hand-holding in middle school, and your dislike of this teacher's personality and style. 

    Hi there. I have a 7th grader and he probably had the math teacher you are talking about. Even if your son has a different teacher, 6th grade is just a whole lot different from the Elementary experience: kids are much more responsible for their own learning and it is not a warm and fuzzy place. Even so, I would really suggest setting up a meeting and going in and talking to his teacher, and just be honest, not defensive, just honest. I found her to be very concerned and helpful under the stern and offputting exterior. 6th grade was an adjustment for our whole family, but we are all doing better this year. Best to you new Cobras!

    Depends on the teacher, school and district.  Hate to say it but your experience is more the norm now.  Don't  blame the teachers, not their fault, this is how our education system now operates.

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Homeschool middle schooler for more rigorous math?

June 2013

My son's in a middle school in OUSD. This coming year, OUSD has pretty much abandoned any serious advanced math program in 7th grade (and may well do so in 8th grade as well, based on the district's version of the new Common Core math standards, explained to parents at a meeting hosted by the district earlier this year). Their solution for kids who want to get to high school calculus is to take both algebra and geometry in 9th grade - which is ridiculous.

Trouble is, math is the subject my son most excels in, and loves. He didn't place into the one single advanced math class being offered in 7th grade in our school. This required a very high set of standards - he didn't get the required As in both semesters in 6th grade math, due to organizational issues with homework, and not to lack of understanding; many of his math proficient friends didn't make it in either. 6th grade had no advanced math classes, and he's been terribly bored all year long, covering material that he learned in 4th and 5th grade, and learning nothing new. This summer, he's actually begging his father and me to teach him algebra. We both have degrees in math, and work in math-related fields, so we could easily do this. But if we do, he's going to be even more miserable in math class next year. I don't want to totally home school my son (I have a full-time career; he's an extremely social child - and a preteen!). But, would it be possible, even legal, to pull him out of school for math only, and teach him ourselves? Or, would it be better (at this extraordinarily late date) to find a private school that still has openings, and enroll him, hoping that the math program there would be better? frustrated with OUSD

have you thought about it's in downtown berkeley, it has both during school (for homeschooled) and afterschool programs, it started in math and science but is broadening out. lots of motivated kids, small classes, etc. maybe there is an afterschool class that works for your son? anon

Can your son take classes at a local community college? Students can do so while in high school, so I'm thinking you can at this age, too. This is done frequently by students at my son's high school--at the high school orientation there were lots of questions about how the transcript issue is handled.

The situation you are describing reflects something about how arithmetic is taught in elementary/early middle school. OK, most of this needs to be learned, but arbitrary standards for speed and accuracy - external or via a within school competition for spaces in more advances groups - end up holding back kids who may well be long ready to learn more abstract mathematical concepts or may benefit from more challenging applied math problems. You are spot on with your worry about your son being bored, because some kids do tune out and and do not realise when it's time to pay attention again, which can then result in them failing.

If you have the resources to go private, that may be good for many reasons. However, from what I have heard from other parents and experienced myself, private is no guarantee for good math classes. Why? Because good math teachers need at least two kinds of skills: math and communication. People with that combination of skills can find better paid jobs in IT and biotech, especially in this area.

In my view, the priority is to foster a good attitude including an excitement about problem solving and a love for mathematical structures. Can you let go for the specific expectation about your son being taught algebra and geometry as defined by the California State curriculum (whatever that may be) and instead focus on getting your son's brain active with interesting problems? Marilyn Burns' books ''The I hate mathematics book'' kept my spirit up under similar conditions a long while ago - and I became a mathematician. Still, math class could be painful; my middle school math teacher turned a blind eye to my reading books secretly. For Vi Hart ''doodling in math class'' has become a theme, lot of inspiration at her blog:

When my daughter faced similar issues recently, we did supplement a bit at home doing puzzles from books, the AMS08 competition and Math Counts Despite some tension due to her sense of independence and our occasional overdose in interference, it was a fun type of challenge for her.

The best thing I came across is a weekly Math Club ''Brain workout'' organised by a parent initiative, the Russian Academy in South Berkeley. I highly recommend it. They also have summer camp and a newspaper, and all info is here: Best of luck, Julia

I can not address the partial homeschooling option for you, but here is my advice as a parent and a former teacher. I was not particularly happy with the math at OUSD.

As far as enrichment, you actually have it easy, given you are comfortable teaching math AND your son wants you to teach him--this may change; adolescence does that.

The ultimate goal is for him to excel at and enjoy math. You rightly worry about his being miserable in math class.

FIRST: Explore private schools and if it doesn't work, GO to his middle school and demand that he be placed in the advanced class. Mention that you and your husband were math majors. It is (perhaps a bit) obnoxious, but unfortunately most people are intimidated when you bring up math. Additionally, (see the section below) have him do a few problems and bring those in. IF you have the time, inclination, and your son's permission, you could even offer to help either do a math club at the school or help organize a competitive math team. This gives the school a benefit and a way to save face.

SECOND Do teach your son more math, but stay away from Algebra. Suppose, you did a wonderful job at teaching him all of Algebra 1, what would this accomplish? A bored child in an Algebra class! Teach other topics in math, say probability or statistics--the latter if he loves baseball. For a rigorous summer of math you could use the Art of Problem Solving books:, ''Introduction to Number Theory'' or ''Introduction to Probability''. The probability book supposes some Algebra, but you could get through the first third of the book without much if any Algebra. Another option, less rigorous would be to use the ''Calculus by and for Young People'' book. It has been used with very young children, so lack of Algebra is not a problem. Given your particular situation, a lesser choice would be to dip in and out of the Singapore Math series, it's not a bad choice, but I think the previous two are better given you and your son.

THIRD, another option would be,let him do math by programming math problems, etc. in Scratch, a graphical programming language. It's free.

FOURTH, I don't think there are any but see if any of the local math circles are meeting over the summer.

LASTLY, in order to teach your son habits of mind not generally taught until college, give him difficult but age and ability appropriate problems, from something like, Problems of the Week, to let him work at problems that are not solved quickly. Bring out a piece of paper and let him explain what he thinks the solution might be and how he to solve. Best of luck Nick


13yo cannot manage to get a good grade in exams

March 2013

My 13 year old has 6 A+ and one B ( for algebra) My husband occasionally helps her with math. She also has a weekly tutor. My husband and her math tutor are quite puzzled. She is very quick to comprehend math concepts yet cannot manage to get a good grade in exams. She is very keen to study science but not being proficient in math will hold her back taking Chemistry etc in High School. I can't put it down to exam anxieties and this problem does not manifest itself in her taking exams in other subjects or piano exams etc. I would love to hear about a tutor or method to help figure out this problem. Thanks in advance. Perplexed

Oh my gosh, give your poor daughter a break. She's getting a B in a class and you're looking for a miracle to solve this ''problem'' and are worried she can't take chemistry, etc. in high school?

No one is perfect, and you're asking her to be. She gets the concepts. In some classes she's just going to do better than others. This does not mean she can't advance, succeed, take science, etc. The biggest impediment I hear to these things is the pressure you're putting on her by wondering what is wrong that she can't get an A. Not just an A, but an A+.

There can be lots of reasons why she's not getting an A. Teacher exams are unclear. She's missing some concepts from the previous level of math. She has a good grasp of the basics but can't quite put it together on the tests. Her brain hasn't developed sufficiently. And on and on. B is good enough.

My father put so much pressure on me to get good grades--and I did. And he grilled me on every grade the slipped slightly or wasn't an A. I'm an adult now, and no one cares what grades I earned in high school, but it took me years to be able to feel pride in my accomplishments. When an A is the only acceptable grade, achieving all As is both a maximum and minimum. Just reading your post brought back all that misery. Tell your daughter you are proud of her extraordinary efforts and that she's doing great.

Sorry, but you need to get some perspective on this. A child who is getting those grades does not have a ''problem''. A problem is when your child really doesn't understand the lessons or concepts and there's a lot of frustration and tears and anxiety. A problem is when they don't do homework or study or space out in class and leave tests blank. A problem is when they're failing. The part of the brain used to understand math is simply not the same as the part used to understand words. It sounds like she's certainly understanding it and can do 100% in a non-test situation but simply doesn't do *quite* as well in a test situation. Tests are timed and it's easy to miss a step or make a simple error in calculations, even when there's no anxiety. It might simply be there's not enough time to check all her answers. The use of math in real life is not a test situation. Getting a B will not hold her back in any math classes as long as she is understanding the concepts. Mom of Two

Some questions: How did your daughter do with multi-step processes like long division? Can she work with fractions and proportions? Does she understand the idea of undoing?

Algebra is the abstraction of arithmetic, and often with algebra earlier math confusions pile up, so if students who need to think too much about earlier concepts, they lose the overall understanding of the problem.

There is also a lot of growth in the regions of the brain that control the ability to understand abstract ideas around 15 or so, so moving Algebra to eighth grade has made it much more difficult for many students.

My suggestions would be 1) Don't let your daughter overgeneralize the situation -- it isn't the worst thing in the world to get a B; and something that seems hard now, may well seem easy the next time she sees it in a year or two. (My daughter has a friend who somehow managed to decide that ''I can't do math because girls aren't good at math'' despite the evidence all around that some girls at their school are very good at math. Presumably her parents didn't know that 30% of tenure track profs in math/stats are women.) 2) Play math games like Set, Mastermind, Connect-4, and Ken-kens with her to develop her logical thinking. 3) Talk to the teacher and the tutor and see what they've observed about your daughter's learning style. 4) If she has been accelerated let her repeat Algebra 1 in eighth grade. a math teacher

How nice your daughter is so accomplished! 6 A+! And a B in algebra! Good for her! Be grateful she is dong so well. Why are you so concerned about a 'B'?? How much pressure does a 13 year old need to have? Is she upset? Is she upset that her grade is disappointing to you? Let her be..... appreciate her...she will learn science (and chemistry) just fine if she doesn't feel like a failure. learned that lesson

A miracle worker? Your child's grades are exceptional. Rather than push for perfection, rejoice in your daughter's accomplishments and let her know that she is doing extremely well. A ''B'' is a very good grade. Needing your child to get straight A+'s is your issue, not hers. If she understands the material then she'll be fine in chemistry when she gets there. Your daughter clearly works hard, has great study habits, and is bright. Let her be.

I say this as a parent of a kid who gets good grades, and as an alum of a highly competitive high school. Seared into my brain is a memory of one of the best students in my grade banging his head against his locker because he'd ''only'' gotten a 97 on a math test and was certain his future had been ruined. Doesn't believe in perfection

Be happy with the 6 A pluses and ignore the B! mom of 13 yr old with BPluses and 1 A

I've been tutoring math and physics for 30 years here in the east bay and I'm an electrical engineer. Reading your post made me cringe. If you want your daughter to do well in math then back way way way off. Otherwise you will turn her off completely and she will drop from a very respectable B to C's or maybe even D's. Leave her alone. Give her math mind time to mature and don't ever even mention her grades in math other than to say, with deep sincerity and appreciation, ''Wow, sweetie. That's GREAT that you got a B in such a difficult subject. Why when I took algebra, I totally sucked at it.'' I'm on my knees begging you, please leave your daughter alone. And then she will surprise you by getting B's and sometimes A's all the way through calculus AB/BC followed by getting into some of the finest universities in America. Sean

A ''B'' in math at 13 yrs old is fine, especially if you believe she understands it. Also a B in math at 13 certainley does not preclude one from pursuing science... And remember her interests may change in high school or college or later. I recommend that you keep up the thoughtful and positive support, let her know how proud you are of her hard work. And dont make her feel ashamed of a B. she is probabaly hard enough on herself already. Scientist who got a B in Math at 13


College Prep Math in Middle School

Jan 2013

My daughter goes to a private school in the East Bay and they have just started teaching College Prep Math in middle school (I think also sometimes called integrated math but not sure about that). Her current school goes through 8th grade and we are planning to send her to a private high school -Head Royce, Bentley, College Prep. I have several concerns. Do private high schools teach CPM? Is it hard to transition from CPM to traditional math? Will private high schools look at this negatively when she applies for admission? I will be following up with these schools but would love to hear from the community too. I have been looking online at reviews (including BPN) of CPM and haven't seen anything very positive. Has anyone had a positive experience with this teaching method? Thank you everyone for any information you can provide. Math mama

CPM is an excellent choice for a middle school math program because it strikes a nice balance between developmental, hands-on activities, and developing abstract reasoning. Teaching calculus, I see so many students who were pushed into abstract curriculum too early, and have difficulty remembering basic fraction and integer operations because they never had the hands-on experience that a curriculum like College Prep Math provides. math geek


BUSD Middle Schoolers with Math Ambitions

April 2012

Hello - my 5th grader is one of a cohort of kids (10 or more) who'll all head to Longfellow in the fall, which I'm quite satisfied about in general. I'm happy that Longfellow has wonderful math teachers. But I understand that a significant percentage of their students enter in 6th grade being 'below proficient' in math. Consequently, much effort goes towards helping those kids gain proficiency in 6th grade. Meanwhile, this cohort of kids including my child have come from a teaching experience where their teacher worked diligently to challenge them in math, and now most of them are well beyond proficient. Does anyone have any ideas about how to keep this cohort challenged when it comes to math? (They're all doing Spanish immersion so they're all in the same class.) I'm quite willing to hear about afterschool/evening options for math challenges. Hire a tutor to work with any of these kids in afterschool sessions off-campus? Other ideas? I don't particularly want to force the school to make special accommodations because 1) I do believe their focus should be on bringing kids up to proficiency, and 2)these requests to the school only result in school staff thinking you're 'entitled'. Any ideas out there? math curious

I think your instinct to look for enrichment, rather than acceleration is the right one to foster long-term understanding and enjoyment of mathematics. Math Circles are a great way to learn more mathematics (often at more advanced level than school mathematics, or exploring topics like number theory and topology that K12 mathematics usually doesn't have time for.)

Here's the general web site:

The Oakland/Eastbay math circle meets at Laney college and is pretty easy to take a group of students to on an informal basis. When I attended most of the teachers leading the activities were Cal Mathematicians/Grad students leading activities on topics related to their research. The wonderful thing about this style of teaching is it starts off with easy access points and then goes into an understanding of deeper mathematics.

Berkeley Math Circle -- which is more of an Eastern-European style circle and pretty competitive.

My understanding is that if you want to set up a math club/circle the people at MSRI/Math Circles will help you. What you would need is a sponsoring teacher and a group of parents to organize/supervise in the afternoons. This might be a second step after attending another circle for a year or so to understand how they are organized.

Another possibilitity is The Julia Robinson Math fair at Stanford is coming up in May. The festivals occur at different locations several times a year (Cal is in January.) These are half day math festivals where students can try many different problems and experience math in an exciting environment.

If the children you want to encourage to think more about math are girls there is an ''Expanding your Horizons'' conference at Mills College where students/grad students from Mills and Cal present math and science workshops for middle-school and high school students.

Math Paths is a sleep-away math camp aimed at providing support and education for future mathematicians. It starts at 6th grade. It's aimed at students who love solving problems and are interested in mathematics competitions.

This year at Longfellow a small group of 6th graders that met several criteria were offered a more challenging math curriculum beyond both the standard 6th grade and the math challenge workbook. It is my understanding that this course will be offered again in the fall. If your child meets the criteria s/he will be invited to be challenged. I am sure you and your student will be happy at Longfellow. See you on campus. Cherene, Longfellow PTA President

At Claremont Middle School in Oakland, a parent started a club called MathCounts for kids who love being challenged in Math. They meet outside school hours and do proofs, etc. and compete (very successfully) in region-wide math competitions. Advanced kids have also requested to join and succeeded by participating in math classes above their expected grade level. Two plans you might put into action! Good luck!


Math workbook recommendation for 8th grader

July 2011

Hi: I am looking for a (pre algebra) math workbook for my daughter who will be entering 8th grade in the fall. Have you found any math workbooks to be particularly helpful? Any you particularly like (or dislike?) Do you know a local place where one can buy them? Thanks LR

Here is the workbook we used to review Algebra for our student: Larson Passport Prac WB Bk3 Pe 99 Looks like Amazon doesn't sell it anymore, but some people are still selling it.

There is also the Dummies book: that you should be able to find locally.

We are using a Dummies workbook for review of Geometry before school starts in a few weeks. -Math Review ever summer!


Girls & Math - Self-Confidence

June 2009

My daughter is starting middle school this fall. She's always been an excellent student, with particular strengths in language and art. However, her math skills are good - not extraordinary as are some of her other skills, but more than adequate. However, a couple of weeks ago she said to me ''I'm not that good at math.'' I know this isn't true, and that she is comparing her math skills to her reading and writing, but I'm concerned that at 11 years old she's at an age where self-doubt in girls about math abilities is reinforced, even with teachers who make an effort not to do this. I'm searching for resources that will help shore up her confidence about math. She doesn't need a tutor, just to know that she CAN do this and her skills and abilities are fine. I looked at the books by Danica McKellar, but they are designed to make math fun for girls who are into celebrities, hair and makeup, etc. - things in which my daughter has no interest. Does anyone know of other ways to build confidence in this area? We live in San Francisco but are usually in Berkeley on the weekends. Don't need another mathphobe

I am a soon to be retired math and physics tutor. In spite of saying she doesn't need a tutor, that is the single best way to inspire her. A good tutor's main job is not to improve her grades (most of my students are b+ or A students even before they come to me), it is to make the student confident in their math abilities and to inspire them, and hopefully even make math their favorite subject. One-on-one tutoring is in any case so much more powerful than ANYTHING a classroom teacher, public or private, can do for a student sitting in a room with 20 or 35 other students. You seem to be looking for books to do this complicated, difficult task. The Danica books you mentioned are the only ones out there that I have seen that are somewhat in the direction you are looking but it seems you don't feel they are right. Frankly, I just can't see a kid that age getting inspired by yet another book. She needs someone sitting right next to her sowing her that she can be the top math student in her class. There is nothing more inspiring than being very good at what you do. When other students start coming to her in class to ask, ''Wait a minute, how do you do that again?'' she will soar.

One other thought; almost all of my top math students say they are not good at math (in spite of their A's). I ask them why they think that when it is so obviously not true and they always say, ''Because it's so hard.'' That's because math IS hard. It is not some candy- ass subject like English or history where the biggest challenge is to try to stay awake as you read about the dusty battles of Napolean. In math you must USE your brain and actually THINK. And this is a hard thing to do. You can almost feel your brain in pain as you try to work through a problem. So tell her, just because math seem hard, doesn't mean at all that she is not good at math, it just means that even for smart people, math is hard.

My daughter was the same way, but later on, in high school. I kept reinforcing that she was a great problem-solver and some math is more interesting, complex, or challenging than other types. We forget that there are all types of math (arithmatic, geometry, algebra, trigonometry, calculus, word problems, etc.). I think if it's broken down into smaller bits and she sees that she likes or feels more comfortable doing some types, and the others are not as easy to grasp for her, it's not like she's not that good at ALL of it... It's like learning a language. She's young and has not yet discovered all the areas of math. Some people grasp the concepts and some have a harder time of it. Some have that kind of head and some don't. I don't think it has to do with gender at all. I think it also depends on the teachers that you get. So, keep in touch with your daughter's math teachers over the coming years.

PS I was not very confident in math when I was young and now I see that part of it was because I didn't have any guidance as to how to LOOK at it. I'm a great PROBLEM-SOLVER, love puzzles and playing pool, and that's what's it partly about, but no one one really broke it down that way. I also had an awful foundation...'nuf said...

Good luck! anon

From my perspective, it is nice just to piont out things around you and your daughter that are math related, and see how they help show us things or help us make decisions. From the ''price per oz.'' on the shelf labels at the grocery store, to graphs and charts in newspapers, to food labels, to cool diagrams and hands o activities at science museums (Cal Academy, Larence Hall of Science, Exploratorium). Lots of hands on physics has a huge math component. So just noticing and discussing a little bit may help her feel more comfort with math concepts, or see how she already uses them.

Perhaps she would like to have a more instant recall of basic math facts (i.e., times tables). Ask her if she wants help with that, then you two can work together on quizing each other this summer. Knowing the times tables inside and out can make the rest of math much less stressful, at her grade level.

Consider what tyope of math she did this last year in school. Many folks are better at spacial stuff than they are at equations (or the other way around). If this is the case, you can encourage her and remind her that everyone has strengths, and each of us has to work hard on something.

The last bit: if an honors math track is offered where she goes to middle school, ask her if she is interested, and if she isn't, don't push her into it. It is likely best, in my opinion, that she excell in the regluar class than bomb in an excellerated class. Her near- term success, may set the stage for future growth i skills, and at least, won't squash her self-image more. Mom

One of the things I noticed is that the girl's basketball team of which my daughter was a part in middle school was also composed of top students. They usually did their math together before the game, and it was *fun* because they all cared. They were all very competitive which meant they competed in math as well as basketball, but were a team so they helped each other on homework. So look for a supportive ''team'' that values studies (avoid solitary sports like track - you're looking for team support) - it can be sports like basketball or perhaps a club like drama or art or language (you'd be surprised at how smart some of these kids are - memorizing lines or constructing sets is hard work and takes skill). Good luck. Lynne

Three authors Wendy Lichtman: ''Secrets, Lies, and Algebra,'' which also has a sequel (I read the first, my daughter read both and loved them); a middle school girl sees the world in terms of math, and tries to solve a mystery. Set in North Oakland/Berkeley, so the locations are fun to read & the classroom part is right in the details.

Marilyn Burns: ''Math for Smarty Pants,'' and a number of other recreational math books.

Theoni Pappas: Books for kids (and adults) about math topics and history.

You could ask Diesel to order the books for you, or go up to Lawrence Hall of Science and see if they are in their bookstore (the best bookstore in the east bay for math/science books for kids and teachers.)

You could also check out some of the math games (SET is my favorite; or Mastermind); and ''Family Math'' a book that LHS puts out with games for families to play. math teacher

My middle-school-aged daughter (now in 6th grade) LOVES the Expanding Your Horizons Conferences. If you want to encourage your girl's self confidence and love of the STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) -- these workshops are for them (also some have parent workshops). My daughter enjoyed the one at SF State so much (her first conference), she then went to the DVC and Mills College conferences. We'll be signing up for more. Sign up early because they fill up fast! Brenda


My daughter wont even try at math anymore!!

Sept 2009

My daughter has just started the 7th grade, and already she is complaining about her math class. (Pre-Algebra) My husband and I have tried many different tutors in the past 3 years, and they have helped to a degree. However now, Christina wont even try or attempt to work on math. She is now telling me that ''she isn't smart enough'' to do math, and that she ''wont need it anyway.'' I have tried reassuring her to no avail. My husband and I really don't know what to do about this. Any advice out there?

Hi Our 5th grader had a HUGE math phobia starting in 2nd grade and worsening to the point of sobbing nightly over math homework in 3rd grade. We finally found a great tutor who has completely transformed our daughter into a mellow, confident math student. Deborah Brunelle's information follows: Deborah Brunelle Learning Specialist roomtolearn [at] She is a gifted teacher and has truly made a difference in all of our lives! Good luck. anon

You don't say if your daughter is doing well in her other subjects or not. If she is doing really well in language-based classes and only suffers in math, the school should investigate the reason for that discrepancy. It sounds like this is really hard for her. Math changes at a certain point in the curriculum and kids who got by with rote memorization of procedures and applied them to easily recognizable formats find that without comprehension of concepts they can't cut it. There are other learning issues that might explain this problem, but your daughter's refusal should be taken as a comment on the degree of difficulty math poses. Don't let her suffer too long! Ask the principal of her school to assess her if this refusal doesn't seem to ''fit''. Math confidence is really important, especially for girls. It can come from knowing a lot of math, and it can also come from knowing why math is really hard for you to do. Self-esteem suffers when kids think that they're ''dumb in math'' or get told they are not trying hard enough when they are truly doing so. Good luck. It's a process Linda

You have my sympathy. I have two grown daughters, and I remember the ''I won't do this dumb math'' stage very well. In my opinion, a 7th grade daughter's brain is well on its way to being conditioned for independent motherhood, and it's hard to teach it anything it doesn't want to learn. I would forget about math and concentrate on the positive things. Does your daughter still like to do some things with you? Then count your blessings, and quietly (almost non-verbally) share your wisdom about being human. If your human activities include some applied math, so much the better. But don't worry. You've already taught her 95% of what anyone can teach her. You won't see it for many years, but there is a lot of your own goodness locked away in your daughter. Best wishes A Berkeley Nerd

My daughter started to have trouble at about the same age. My niece had tried Kumon and had great success so we decided to try it. It has helped my daughter tremendously and I would highly recommend it. Kids will complain that they have to start at a place that is below where they are in school but the whole purpose of the program is to build a foundation. They want the kids to start someplace that is easy for them so they can feel successful and then move on to the next level. There are Kumon centers all over the place and you can find them on the internet ( The kids go into a Kumon center to take a little test and then they know what level to start your child at. They are then given work to take home. They are supposed to complete one packet of work per day, it takes about 20 minutes. They then go into the Kumon center twice a week for about 45 minutes. My daughter's mental math is really great now and it makes it so much easier for her now that she is in geometry. She never really complains about going to Kumon and I never have to nag her to complete her work. Kumon only costs $100 per month which I think is a great deal! Kumon Believer

Our 5th grade daughter started intense math phobia at age 7 peaking around age 8 with sobbing, protracted math homework meltdowns to rival any 2 year old tantrum. We were absolutely at our wits end and unable to help her ourselves. We found an amazing math tutor who has completely turned our daughter's math identity around. I highly recommend that you contact Deborah Brunelle, Learning Specialist her email is roomtolearn [at] The transformation from complete paralysis to comfortable confidence has been truly astounding to us. I hope you will give it a shot. Good luck anon

So many students feel ''I'm not good at math'' or worse. No child needs to feel this way if they are taught in a way that they can understand. Many children, particularly right hemisphere kids (aka ''big picture learners'')- (and adults) who are very creative, verbal, and bright, struggle with math because the procedures they are supposed to ''memorize'' don't form a picture for them.

I would highly recommend finding a skilled teacher/learning specialist/ed therapist who is also well versed in Making Math Real. This is an incredible approach to teaching math and can be used in instruction to support any textbook or math program. Learning Specialists or Ed. Therapists who use MMR will do direct instruction, help students form a picture and link this picture to the math procedures. will give you more info. about their program, but they won't recommend people. Lots say they have been ''trained'' - which might mean they have taken a class or two. But it's more the teaching not the program... you need to find a highly skilled teacher who also uses MMR. Best is to hook up with someone who has also been an instructor (or second best an intern) in their summer camp program. Learning specialists and teachers who have been trained in special education also have been trained to work with lots of different learning styles and can focus in on your child's specific processes of learning. MMR instructor


Math options for middle schooler not being challenged

Dec 2007

We're looking for a good math enrichment website that is free or by subscription that our 6th grader could use for math enrichment (not remedial - he's in advanced math now). We don't want to enroll him in a formal program, but want a website (preferably interactive) we can use when he is home from school or bored. Preferably pre-algebra, intro algebra, or applying math that he would be learning in the 6th grade. Nancy

Johns Hopkins University Center for Talented Youth

I'm so glad you asked that question -- there is a wonderful math website out of the University of Cambridge called Nrich. Each week they have a new problem for levels ranging from about our 4th grade through high school. There is also an archive of the problems.

I've also heard good things about the Berkeley Math Circle, and the Oakland Math Circle, but haven't tried them yet with my sixth grader. Carol


Math options for middle schooler not being challenged

Mar 2004

I'm seeking math options for a middle schooler. He is currently a 7th grader getting an A+ in 8th grade algebra at his private middle school. Next year he will stay at the same school for 8th grade, but his teacher has stated that his math class will consist entirely of independent study, with at most 1 class period/week with her. Aside from the fact that I don't want to pay tuition for my son to teach himself math, my son is not happy about the idea of independent study. It was offered this year and he declined. I also think he will rarely get his 1 class period/week with the teacher. I'm pursuing Honors Geometry at Berkeley High as a possibility and was wondering if there were any other options for him? Any ideas? Thank you

regarding the gifted 7th grade math student -- my daughter is also a 7th grader earning an A+ in 8th grade honors algebra -- her teacher has recommended honors geometry at berkeley high for her next year -- i'd be happy to share the limited info i have with you -- you can e-mail me.

This is in response to the mother who is seeking ''Math Options '' for her middle school son: A very viable option for your son would be to enroll him in a math class at your local community college. Although we home school our high school age teens, I know of several middle school age children who, with the permission of the instructor take college classes. Another benefit is that credit and/or AP standing can be received and applied to your son's transcript. Wendy


Math enrichment for middle school

Jan 2004

My 7th grader is bored and frustrated with his 7th grade math class. The teacher allows him to work independently with another child because they have tested out of the regular curriculum. But he says this just means that they get to work ahead in the book by themselves. He came home saying, ''Mom, I don't like to teach myself math.'' Any ideas or recommendations of classes or tutors? I should deal with the school, but I think that is unlikely to get me any results in time to save his love for math. I have looked through the list of tutors on the web-site, but I'm not sure that a traditional tutor is what he needs. Thanks for any suggestions.

You might try looking into the Educational Program for Gifted Youth (EPGY), a distance learning program run by Stanford University. My son started taking math classes through EPGY 3 years ago when we gave up trying to persuade his teachers to supplement his work and tutors didn't work out. He enjoyed the challenge and as a result was able to take high school level algebra as a 7th grader and geometry in 8th grade. The big downside to the program is its expense, which is $450 a quarter. Another resource you should check out is the Academic Talent Development Program (ATDP) summer school run out of the Education Department at UC Berkeley. They have a variety of classes including math classes for this age group in their secondary division. My son has gone to ATDP for 2 summers now and really enjoys it, because, unlike EPGY, it involves a live math class full of motivated, talented students who all enjoy math! ATDP also offers financial aid. Both ATDP and EPGY have great websites. Maybe have a look. math mom


6th grader wants to move on to algebra

May 2001

My daughter is doing very well in 6th grade math and would like to move on to algebra rather than taking 7th grade math next year. Have other parents had this experience? How did it work out?

I'm not sure I understand your question. But if your child is being offered honors algebra as opposed to regular algebra, I'd look at it closely. Secondhand observation of one friend of my child's showed that it was very hard. If it's a choice between pre-algebra and algebra, and your child's teacher feels comfortable with that, that course seemed appropriate for my child who had to work hard but not too hard. Also, drop a line to Neil Smith and ask him for a name of a 7th grade math teacher to talk to. He's very responsive. My student has Ms. Mukerjee (sp?) who is very enthusiastic. You might want to talk to her.

Regarding a 7th grader skipping 7th grade math and doing 8th grade algebra. My daughter, now in 9th grade at BHS, did algebra in 7th grade (geometry in 8th and now algebra 2 in 9th). At this point I feel it was the right thing for her, and she agrees. She is alittle nervous about the progression and taking higher levels in the next few years as her other classes become more complicated and the work load increases dramatically (with Latin and other AP possibilities). BUT--she would have been very bored and I wondered if she would have begun to lose interest in math. She has one of the most difficult math teachers and does work hard but is doing quite well. I think one has to look ahead to the path your child would be on and think about the rest of her/his course load. Also going to BHS in 8th grade for math was workable because she went with a small cohort group from Willard so the bus issue, being on campus, etc was an ok adjustment for her.I don't like pushing kids, particularly teens who have so much to struggle with as they grow, but I think in our case it was a good decision. Think about your child as a whole and all the other factors. Good luck. Karen

I am a ninth grader at Berkeley High. I skipped up to Algebra in seventh grade. It was difficult to be in a class where I was the youngest, but once I was used to it, I did OK in the class, although sometimes it was a struggle. I would recommend Algebra if your child is good at picking up new concepts very quickly and doesn't have social issues about being in a class with all eighth graders.

My daughter skipped 7th grade math last year and took Algebra. This year she's taking Honors Geometry early in the day at Berkeley High, then returning to King Middle School for the rest of her classes. She's doing well now, but there were two problems in the 7th grade:

1) At first, she had to do a lot of catching up, because every one else had pre-Algebra and she hadn't - learning new terminology and such. That settled down after a while.

2) At the end of the year, she earned a B, which did not qualify her to take Geometry at Berkeley High. (She needed an A.) In order to qualify, she had to take a scheduled test at Berkeley High, which she did well on, so she got to take Geometry.

The problem is, that if she had not passed the test, we were told she would have to take Algebra all over again in eighth grade, because Math is required and King doesn't have anything more advanced to offer. That would have been embarrassing and disappointing for my daughter, and I fear it would have turned her off to math. I question whether it's a good idea to take Algebra in 7th grade if you run the risk of doing well and still having to take the entire year over again. Beverly