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Guest Blog Post – Readying Students for High School: 7th & 8th Grade Math

Throughout this school year, we will feature guest bloggers to share different perspectives on or experiences with boys education on our Head of School blog. Next up, Pam Weikel, 7th & 8th grade math teacher, discusses what we do to prepare our students for high school math during their final two years at Regis. This is last part of a multi-part series focusing on math education at Regis.

The question I get most from my 8th grade Algebra 1 students is, "Why do we need to learn this?" The answer I give them: "Algebra teaches you how to think and problem solve!"

In algebra class, there is no doubt that subject matter is rigorous and challenging, but algebra is about more than just learning how to solve a problem. Learning algebra helps to develop critical thinking skills, the ability to problem solve, think logically, and utilize deductive and inductive reasoning. These critical skills can be applied across all different subjects.

This past school year, we adopted a new program called Big Ideas for both 7th grade Pre-Algebra and 8th grade Algebra 1. Big Ideas provides a rigorous, focused, and coherent curriculum for our students. It balances conceptual understanding with procedural fluency and promotes a greater understanding of how mathematical concepts are connected to each other and real-life. The program also further strengthens our students' foundational skills and provides the knowledge they need to succeed academically in high school and beyond.

During their final two years in middle school math, students are challenged to think more abstractly, question processes and learn while making errors! Using a combination of hands-on-manipulatives, paper and pencil, technology, mental math and number sense, my classroom becomes a space where we all learn to explore, communicate and challenge one another. Some days we succeed and some days the struggle is real!

By the time 8th grade students leave Regis, they have mastered solving and graphing linear functions and inequalities, quadratic equations, operations with polynomials, identifying algebraic and geometric sequences, and they learn real world application in relation to algebra. We hope that students who excel in algebra will take their mastery even further and place out of Algebra 1 at their respective high school. Regardless of high school placement in math, Regis 8th grade students leave here with an advanced understanding of mathematical and algebraic concepts.

In the bigger picture, all the math in my classroom is more than just learning how to solve a problem and arrive at the right answer. It's about learning how to communicate with one another, how to make wise choices, how to deal with failure, how to be a better student, friend, son and citizen. There are days we have real conversations about what to expect in high school, peer-to-peer relationships, or how to communicate better with our parents. We share our stories and experiences, we laugh, we cry and there are days we get frustrated and angry, but we talk about it and we learn from it. In short, I strive to connect with the students and prepare them for high school. At the end of the day, these boys become my boys.

I came to Regis three years ago to start a new career—apprehensive and unsure. Little did I realize what a positive and rich experience these three short years would be.

Bio: This is Pam's fourth year at The Regis School of the Sacred Heart. Prior to joining Regis as a middle school teacher, Pam spent the previous 19 years working for The Friedkin Group of Companies in Government Affairs. Making a career change into teaching, Pam is certified to teach Early Childhood through 6th grade, 6th-8th grade ELA, Math and Algebra. A native of Houston, Texas, Pam received her B.S. in Communications from the University of Texas at Austin. Pam has a 16 year old daughter who attends St. Pius X High School, as well as two dachshunds, Biscuit and Max.