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New Math Program Accelerates The Accelerated

Worth County Middle School’s gifted and mathematics departments began a journey three years ago that would allow accelerated students the opportunity to earn a high school mathematics credit during their 8th grade year. The program allows students who excel in mathematics to cover the entire middle school mathematics curriculum in 6th and 7th grades and to take Algebra I while in 8th grade. This allows them the freedom in 11th and 12th grade to choose mathematics courses that are directly aligned with their preferred career fields.
Before beginning this program, gifted mathematics teachers visited several surrounding school districts to learn how they utilized the accelerated mathematics curriculum for their students. Our gifted mathematics department then worked to construct a test that could be given to 5th grade students in order to determine which students qualified for the accelerated mathematics program. Once we determined which students would be best served in the program, the mathematics department worked to make the curriculum prescribed by the state work for our students. When asked how they felt about being chosen for the program, students reported that they were very proud of their accomplishment but were anxious about the requirements of the program.
In 6th grade the students cover the entire 6th grade curriculum and the first half of the 7th grade curriculum, and in 7th grade they cover the second half of 7th grade and the entire 8th grade curriculum. Each year they are responsible for taking the Milestones End of Grade Test for their current grade. Even though they cover the units at a much faster pace than the regular classes, these students have excelled and thrived in this environment. The students have found that working together with their teachers to shape the curriculum to meet their needs has been very beneficial.
In 8th grade the students take Algebra I. They are assigned teacher-made workbooks for each unit and work at a pace that is equivalent to or quicker than the high school students who are also taking this course. These students are expected to maintain an 80 average to remain in the accelerated program. We have been very successful this year in that all students have remained eligible after the first semester. Our school does offer tutoring 3 days per week, and many of the accelerated students have taken advantage of this opportunity. 
Our school system ultimately decided to go with Algebra I in 8th grade because we believed this would allow our students the opportunity to be more successful in their high school career. This path allows students to choose mathematics courses in their final years of high school so that they are more prepared for college when exiting high school. Recently, our county was awarded a grant allowing our high school to become a college and career academy; this will certainly enhance the learning opportunities of these students as well. By completing their high school credits during their junior year, students also will have the opportunity to take college and career ready courses such as Calculus, Statistics, and college mathematics courses. The students are excited by the future opportunities afforded to them, especially being able to take college courses while in high school. 
The gifted mathematics program has been successful, and student grades reflect the effort they have put into their school work this year. They are challenged daily by not only their teachers, but also their peers to do their very best. Many students have found this to be very rewarding and use the motivation of their peers to drive them to be the very best they can be.

Angie Rachels is a guest blogger for GPB Education and a Mathematics teacher at Worth County Middle School in Sylvester, Georgia. She has been teaching Mathematics for 11 years, serves as the Mathematics department chair, and is a sponsor of the Junior Beta Club. Angie currently teaches 8th grade mathematics, Algebra I, and... more