# Math and Math Acceleration

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I am not 100% sure how much the below section is applicable to the kids in the Ladue School nowadays. Couple things though:

1) Math is mostly a universal kind of course, meaning, there is no American math, or Chinese math, or Indian math,… there is only one math: we want our kids to learn the right math, not the wrong one (wrong math is not math, it’s probably more like a fiction 🙂

2) No pain no gain. I am not saying “work harder” is the most important. But the kid is expected to do some work, not just reading through the textbook.

**My own math learning journey**

I talked a little on math and math acceleration on my own math learning journey on my blog post – My Zhenhai Middle School Days我在镇海中学的日子 . Here is what I said:

*……Related to that, my class got a very well known counselor and he was pretty strict too. He is unconventional in some ways,* for* example, he was math teacher, but he rarely gives lecture. He gave us a lot of homework instead, basically we learned ourselves through doing those homework. We joked the homework is never ending. Because as soon as we finish some, he would give out new ones 🙁 I recall some kids really struggled because they are not used to the pace, the work and I am guessing due to lack of instructions. I am not saying the teacher is all bad. Maybe he was not the best teacher for some of the kids. For me I think I learned self-study in his system……*

In Chinese below

……*与此相关的是，我班有一位非常有名的辅导员，他也很严格。他在某些方面不按常规，例如，他是数学老师，但他很少讲课。他给了我们很多功课，基本上我们都是通过做功课来学习的。我们开玩笑说作业永无止境。因为一旦我们完成一些，他就会给出新的:-(我记得有些孩子真的很挣扎，因为他们不习惯节奏，工作，我猜是由于缺乏指导。我不是说老师都不好。也许他不是一些孩子最好的老师。对我来说，我认为我在他的系统中学会了自学*……

I recall I was usually one grade ahead in terms of math, for example, when I was at grade 6, I learned grade 7 contents myself,… and so on. I wasn’t the most advanced kid on math acceleration – I recall one kid in my class finished all high school math when he was at 8th grade (the last year of middle school). Again we don’t have a formal math acceleration program, but I think probably half the class (we have about 50 kids in our class, so that means 25 kids), were able to have a pace like I had. That’s the main acceleration that I did. I don’t recall do anything extra at elementary school, for high school, I may have done some on my own (don’t recall exactly), plus the thing I mentioned below. But I do recall in terms of math education, the math teacher at my 5th grader left me impression: at one time, he put up a chart that ranks all the kids’ math quizzes. I was the top student. I understand this is likely illegal here in today’s America, and I don’t know if it’s legit in China nowadays. And imagine how the kids ranked towards the bottom would feel. But at the time, it did boost my confidence on my math. Also note: I moved from my village school to this town school at the beginning of my 5th grade: so I was also a new student there trying to fit in.

At the freshman year of my high school, I was very fortunate to have a math teacher who I like, and he also thought highly of my math skills, for some reason 🙂 I think probably because I did okay in the math competition at the local level. Anyway I was invited to the training for math competition in the summer break. Basically another very good math teacher gave us (probably 4 kids) extra lesson for a week or two. That was probably the highlight of my math journey.

**Math and Math Acceleration at Ladue Schools**

This is the district web page for Math education

And the School Board documentation (power point) on Math Acceleration: so board does have some consideration on this topic. This is mostly for elementary school students.

Math Acceleration at LMS. Btw, quite a bit of useful information on curriculum including Math at this LMS web page.

**My Observations**

Mainly from our two daughters, and plus other friends’ kid.

- It’s relatively easier to accelerate in elementary school. Things get harder in middle school and beyond.
- Prepare early: this is probably more relevant for middle school kids, as it’s harder to pass the acceleration tests. I noticed the “Advanced Geometry” test takes two days (2 hours in each of the 2 mornings).

**Why Accelerate?**

Or Benefits of math acceleration. Right now, the main thing I can see is the kid get to take the Calculus, and the Physics/Chemistry curriculum that requires Calculus, also some other AP courses such as AP Statistics. Most of those STEM courses have prerequisites, and if a kid takes the math in regular pace, eventually he/she won’t have much time to take the mentioned AP courses above.

But, personally I don’t think AP courses are “do or die” for kids during college applications/admissions. Note my older kid is going to be freshman in HS this fall, so take my advice for what it worth 🙂 (Update 09-03-2024): I read from another Ladue mom that she basically said similar things regarding AP courses: don’t go to the AP arms race, take some if applicable, and show that one is capable of higher-level learning during college application.

**What are we hope to achieve on kids’ math**

Some of the people in the Spoede Elementary School know that I was involved in the Math Fact Scholars here for quite a few years. Personally I think both the math facts and the problem solving are important. When I grew up in China, we had to memorize the multiplication table, and all that. I understand we are at different times and different country, and I came across this tweet just today – it described some of the phenomena here in the math education in the USA, unfortunately. Let me paste the image below.

Personally I really hope we can go back to this. I also pasted one of the pictures below.

Back to the topic, I think I like to see a few things on my kid’s math.

- This is most important one, that is they have confidence on math and they know how to learn by themselves. If in doubt, they know how to reach out (a teacher, or a parent).
- They are not afraid of the tests: the math test, the MAP test, and other tests that potentially could use math, science for example.
- They know how to apply math in daily lives, be at McDonald’s or a grocery store, and college savings/budgeting too.

Please note all this is possible. Again to get to there, instead of “being dreadful of math (or substitute with any other subject”), needs the work and collaboration between, kids, teachers (school) and parents.

Last but not least, I want to leave a positive story at the end. In my recent trip to China, we go to this “bun store” quite frequently every morning, the lady who probably got education level no higher than high school, is a math or calculation wizard, she doesn’t use calculator, she can come up with a total as soon as we ordered the “bao zi”. Her mental math is way better than me: how did she get this good? **Practice, practice, practice**. This is also the slogan we say at Math Fact Scholars program.