Accelerated math classes at Pentucket were first launched in 2013 and made available to the class of 2018, current sophomores. Since then, Pentucket has been expanding the program each year. The district currently offers an advanced Algebra I class for 8th graders, Accelerated Geometry (for freshman), and Accelerated Algebra II (for sophomores). Next year, there will even be an Accelerated Pre-Calc class (for juniors).
With course selections coming soon, the question posed by many students is this: are these accelerated classes really worth it and are students truly more challenged than in a regular honors class?
According to the 2015-2016 Program of Studies, accelerated courses are designed for students planning to take higher level math courses in high school. They also must have “exhibited a strong foundation in their understanding of [math] concepts to imply readiness for an accelerated pace and complexity.” Classes will be faster paced and more demanding, requiring students to grasp concepts quickly and without a large amount of additional instruction from a teacher.
Mr. Seymour, Pentucket high school principal, states that he hoped to create accelerated courses that began as early as middle school in order to provide students with classes that would fulfill their desire for an academic challenge, and he says that he believes that the school has accomplished this goal. Whether this is true or not is still up for debate.
Many sophomores currently in Accelerated Algebra II shared their views on the class.
“I don’t find it that challenging, and sometimes I wish we would go faster, but other times I wish we would go slower. In the beginning of the year, we spent a lot of time going over things that we already knew. I feel like now that we’re doing new things, it feels rushed,” says sophomore Liza Russell.
Melina Demokritou agrees with Russell. “I think that if we went slower I would die of boredom,” was her response when asked if she thought that the accelerated class was better suited for her than a normal honors class.
On the other hand, other students find the accelerated classes sufficiently challenging.
Hayley Palermo says, “The class challenges me in a good way because I am learning complex material and truly working harder in order to understand it.”
Noah Elias-Guy says the class’s level of difficulty depends on the teacher, but he admits that in general, they are faster paced than honors level. Personally, he says that he is able to understand math quickly, and doesn’t want to spend more time on units than necessary in order to move on into different concepts.
There is also an Algebra II Honors class available to sophomores who took Accelerated Geometry in freshman year or those who wished to take both Algebra II and Geometry at the same time in order to be eligible to take Calculus senior year.
It is slightly slower paced than the Accelerated Algebra II class, but is still more advanced than the rest of the sophomore class, who are taking Honors or CP Geometry. The honors level class is approximately one unit behind the accelerated class.
Ms. Barlow, who teaches one of the Accelerated Algebra II classes as well as the Algebra II Honors class says the main difference in the classes is the pace. “Both classes (for me) have the same amount of homework each night. Both classes also have a weekly Ten Marks assignment. Both classes have similar assessments,” she says.
Ms. Barlow says that “Criteria to take an accelerated course is based on academic work habits, quiz averages, test averages, mid-term, and attendance.” The requirements seem to be valid, as 85% of the class is able to keep up with the work, according to Ms. Barlow.
A student in Ms. Barlow’s Algebra II Honors class, Savana Silva, is satisfied with the class, although she feels that it is slow. Although she thinks she could handle the more challenging pace of Accelerated Algebra II, she would rather get better grades in the less vigorous class.
Many students are excited about the opportunities that accelerated classes give to those in them.
A 8th grader at PRMS, Tori Gifford says “I think [the class] is harder because we go through units faster.” Gifford is currently taking the advanced math class offered for 8th graders. She also says that her teacher, Mr. Gilmore, has taught her class several concepts that are not required in the curriculum and are not taught to students in normal classes.
She says that although the most “advanced” part of her class is the faster pace, she feels more prepared for high school having taken the class.
This is essentially what Mr. Seymour hoped to accomplish by creating the accelerated track at Pentucket.
Sophie Webster, a junior, said “It’s great to have the AP and honors level classes in place, but I feel like it would be nice to have more opportunities for advanced or accelerated courses earlier in high school, especially in science,” she said. Webster is part of the class of 2017; the accelerated math classes were introduced for the grade underneath her.
The majority of the students taking the advanced classes seem to be satisfied with the faster face pace and feel that they are challenged by the material that they are learning. However, if these accelerated classes are truly faster and more vigorous than honors level classes, why are the classes weighted equally?
Both the honors and accelerated classes of Algebra II receive 5 credits toward the graduation requirement for mathematics. An A+ in the accelerated class is equal to an A+ in the honors class.
If the accelerated classes are more challenging and require students to learn and develop more difficult concepts with less guidance from teachers, shouldn’t an A in a harder class be worth more than an A in an easier class?
Ultimately, if students are looking for a challenge in a faster paced math class, accelerated classes are for them. If students are simply looking to boost their GPA by taking more advanced classes, they won’t find their solution in these courses. How one views these advanced classes simply depends on an individual’s dedication to furthering his or her interest in mathematics.