Algebra 101 

Students prepare for advanced high school math courses in elementary school.

January 26, 2009

The number of CPS elementary school students taking algebra courses has more than tripled since 2006, giving students a head start on advanced high school work.


That’s why CPS has launched a new initiative, High School Algebra I for Middle Grade Students, to give elementary-aged students the opportunity to take a high-quality, rigorous algebra course before they enter high school.


The goal of the initiative is to increase the number of students enrolling in a high school algebra course in the middle grades, and to do so in a way that both supports academic excellence and eases the transition to high school. Algebra in the middle grades enhances the opportunity for students to take advanced placement mathematics courses in high school, thereby opening the doors of opportunity in college and beyond. Currently, there are 145 elementary schools that are offering a high school algebra course to well-prepared middle grade students.


Middle Grade Algebra selection process


Elementary schools invite their middle grade students to participate in the high school-level algebra course. Students are chosen based on an evaluation of their ability to successfully complete the course. The student selection criteria are focused largely on students demonstrating a deep understanding of mathematical concepts including, but not limited to, multi-step problem solving; fractions, decimals, percents, and proportional reasoning; positive and negative numbers; variables and patterns; graphing; and exponents. Other criteria taken into consideration include standardized test scores, performance in prior mathematics classes, and student motivation, based on attendance and other indicators.


Elementary schools that plan to offer a high school algebra course must register their course with the Office of High Schools Programs (OHSP) annually. Course approval includes, but is not limited to, the following: schools must have a qualified teacher, a minimum of 120 contact hours of algebra instruction scheduled for the year (at least 60 minutes per day if algebra is the only mathematics class in which students are enrolled), and a course that follows the CPS Algebra I framework.


In order for students entering high school to place out of algebra and be eligible to enroll in Geometry or the next level mathematics course (varies by high school), they must have earned semester grades of “C” or higher  in an OHSP-approved algebra course, and receive a “Pass” or “High Pass” on the year-end Algebra Exit Exam.  Students who achieve a "Pass" score on the exam demonstrate a generally consistent command of algebra and can apply it in a variety of settings. Students who earn a "High Pass" score demonstrate a comprehensive, flexible, and consistent command of algebra and can apply it to any setting. 


Learn more about High School Algebra I for Middle Grade Students and other CMSI programs.