Should Your Child Take Geometry This Summer? 4 Questions to Ask First
I teach Algebra and Geometry at an educational enrichment company that focuses on helping students excel, so I get questions like this frequently from both parents and students. If they’re asking about taking Geometry with a program like ours before starting it in school, the answer is a definite “Yes.” Since Geometry takes a different set of skills and logic than previous math classes like Algebra, more experience beforehand will help students when they take the class in school. For the same reason, if the parent is asking whether the student should take Geometry at school over the summer to try to skip ahead, the answer is almost always, “No.”
Very few students will excel in Geometry if they take it as a shorter class over the summer. And it doesn’t matter how well they did in Algebra – that’s no guarantee they’ll do well in Geometry. Students have been learning the logic and processes needed for Algebra since elementary school. Geometry requires additional types of logic and thought processes that few students have encountered before. That may change if schools continue to follow the Common Core; however, for students approaching Geometry now, there are several very important details you should consider before enrolling the child in a summer Geometry course (meant to replace the full year school curriculum)
1. What Do the Teachers Recommend?
My first advice when students ask this question is to talk to their teachers. Ask their current teacher if it’s a good idea. Ask the person in charge of the summer Geometry course how students do. Finally, ask the school’s Algebra II teacher or possibly other higher math teachers (since Geometry ideas continue to be used in later math like Pre-Calculus, Calculus, and even Physics).
These are the teachers who have to teach students who are relying on only a short course for information. If the teachers say that students who take the summer course usually have a hard time in it or in the next class, then, it’s probably not the best idea. If that teacher says those students do fine or some of them do fine, then, it’s worth considering (in other words, move on to the next question).
2. What Will Your Student’s College Degree Require?
Some degrees require high levels of math, including higher levels of Geometry. A full year of Geometry will provide a more solid foundation for that than a short summer course, which can make a big difference GPA-wise. So if you know what degree the student plans to pursue, that’s something to take into account.
Check the required credits, too. The last thing you want to do is find out too late that the summer course doesn’t count for the same number of credits towards graduation or towards that college’s entrance requirements. In fact, check the credits any time you go off a school’s planned schedule.
3. How Is the Summer Geometry Course Taught?
I know from several of my students that the summer Geometry course for their school is only offered online. If that’s true in your area, proceed with caution. With online courses, students have to be very self-motivated and able to learn on their own. That makes it doubly hard to do well, and with what is already a hard subject for most students, that’s rarely a recipe for success.
4. Is the Student Very Good at Support and Analysis?
Most people think the hardest part of Geometry is memorization, but for most students it’s really learning how to use support and analysis. In other words: writing proofs and solving for measurements in complex figures. To excel at Geometry, students need to be able to
- break a figure down into smaller parts
- consider the number of ways they’ve learned to solve a specific part
- choose the right way based on the information that is given
- use mathematical theorems, properties, and postulates to support that process (to show why that process is correct)
Sound complicated? Intimidating even? To many students, it is, especially when they learn that proofs can have more than one right answer. That’s why taking Geometry as a shortened summer course is not an ideal solution for most students.
That said, if after answering all these questions, you decide that your student is up to the task, I highly recommend doing Geometry in an educational enrichment program first. And there are two major reasons:
- Seeing how well the student does at the Geometry enrichment class will show you whether the student is really ready for the summer course – without affecting his or her GPA.
- Getting an introduction to Geometry and practicing the new logic and processes will be helpful no matter which Geometry course the student takes at school. And if the student is going to do the shortened course (which will most likely be a more difficult learning experience), that extra practice ahead of the class can go a long way to improving grades and understanding.
Long story short, I don’t recommend taking Geometry over the summer at school to try to get ahead. But definitely don’t do it without considering these questions. You don’t want pushing ahead too fast now to cause problems later.
Any questions? What would you like to know about preparing your student for Geometry?
Author: Elizabeth F., Writer and Teacher at MathWizard, Inc.