Though I currently teach 6th grade math, I am well versed in high school math. I taught both Algebra 1 to freshman and Algebra 2 to sophomores a couple of years ago. Time and time again, I found myself reteaching math concepts students should have been proficient in before entering high school. The middle school transition to high school is going to be hard, but it shouldn’t be because of math.
I’ve compiled a list of middle school math skills students master master to thrive in high school.
7 Middle School Math Skills Students MUST Master
In addition to that, I taught ACT preparation as part of Algebra 2, and I found many of the problems I encountered to be skills that students learned in middle school but more rigorous. In fact, I looked at three ACT practice tests and found that around 40% of problems are covered or introduced in grades 6, 7, and 8.
- Order of Operations – introduced in Grade 5. Any substitution problem most likely will involve order of operations. The quadratic formula is one giant order of operations problem.
- Proportions – introduced in Grade 6. Considering that many linear equations represent proportions, proportions are foundational for high school algebra.
- Integer Operations – This is introduced in 6th grade, but students still struggle up through high school. Though access to a calculator should help with this skill, I would still see students distribute a negative number incorrectly.
- Solving Equations – introduced in the elementary grades. If students have a firm grasp on how to isolate the variable using inverse operations, then they will be more successful when the variable is on both sides or when they are solving systems of equations.
- Measures of Central Tendency and Variability – introduced in Grade 6. Mean, median, mode, and range will follow students from Grade 6 to the ACT. On the practice ACT I took, I saw at least two questions regarding this skill. Armed with a calculator, there is nothing challenging about this skill — except remembering what each word means.
- Percents – introduced in Grade 6. The mistake I saw most often when solving problems involving percents was that students struggled to move the decimal the correct direction the correct number of times. Though I don’t think percents are explicitly expounded on more in high school, it is one of the most applicable real-world skills.
- Substitution – introduced in Grade 6. Substitution is foundational for success not only in high school math but in high school science as well. Students who can substitute values can be highly successful checking their work in Algebra and using formulas in Geometry.
High school teachers, what skills would you add to this list? If we can ensure that students are stronger with these math concepts, then we can feel relief knowing that we have made the middle school transition to high school easier for our students.