Middle school functions as a halfway point between elementary school and high school, with most students already having basic reading and math skills. A good middle school math curriculum provides students with the background they need for the challenges of high school statistics, calculus and algebra. Students learn a wide variety of basic math operations and continue to review basic arithmetic.
While the elementary school curriculum is devoted to the basics of simple arithmetic, middle school mathematics typically involves larger and more complex numbers. Students work with numbers to the trillionth place value using long division, multiplication, addition and subtraction. They'll also learn how to calculate means and medians. Order of operations typically plays a central role in middle school arithmetic because it prepares students to master algebra and advanced math.
Middle school math often involves numbers that are not whole, including fractions and decimals. Students learn how to multiply, divide, subtract and add fractions. They'll also work with square roots and learn how to find the least common denominator and greatest common factor. Factor trees are a common tool in the middle school math curriculum.
Many middle schoolers learn the basics of geometry, including the Pythagorean theorem. They learn spatial reasoning skills by measuring angles, determining the area of shapes such as triangles and circles, constructing scale drawings and measuring the volume of three-dimensional shapes. Basic geometric vocabulary, including words such as hypotenuse, ray, angle, sphere and vertex, is generally a prerequisite for this knowledge, and teachers sometimes devote several units to basic math vocabulary.
One of the most important benefits of math classes is that they teach basic reasoning skills. Students will learn how to estimate answers to problems and may learn shortcuts for number operations. They learn, for example, that when multiplying numbers with many zeros, they can take off the zeros during multiplication and then add them back for the answer. They also learn to read and create graphs and may learn shortcuts for checking their work.
Different schools have different approaches to teaching algebra. Some place advanced students in algebra, while others offer algebra for all students. At minimum, most students get classes in pre-algebra. In these classes, they learn what a variable is and learn basic operations using a variable. They may also learn how to do linear equations and may do algebraic word problems and fill-in-the-blank questions.
- Montgomery County Public Schools: Mathematics in Middle School
- Fairfax County Public Schools: Middle School Mathematics
- National Association of Secondary School Principals: Middle School Mathematics Curriculum -- A Guide for Principals
- Virginia Department of Education: Geometry for Middle School Teachers
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