Math is becoming an increasingly essential component of our lives. Higher levels of math are being required for high school diplomas. In addition, higher and higher levels of math are being taught to middle and high school students. Because passing math courses is so important, much consideration must be given to a student’s placement in a math class.

My district uses several factors when determining which math course an incoming freshman will take. Part of the decision is based upon the student’s sixth and seventh grade math state assessment scores. Higher scores indicate that the student may be ready for Algebra. Lower scores mean the student will likely be placed in a basic math class.

Counselors and math teachers also put value into the opinion of the eighth grade math teachers. To help decide which math placement is right for a student, the eighth grade math teacher completes a form discussing the student’s mathematical abilities. The eighth grade teacher also records the student’s grades for the high school personnel to review.

One determining factor in the placement of a math course for freshmen is a placement exam called Orleans Hannah. The Orleans Hannah exam is different from other tests in that it helps to determine how easily a student will be able to learn math skills. Like most tests, the Orleans Hannah exam has question and answer type problems. In addition to these problems, the exam also has a teaching portion. The test describes how to carry out a math function and then shows examples of the skill being completed. The student then must answer the same type of problems on his/her own. The student may refer back to the directions and example if necessary. This portion of the test plainly tells the students how to answer the problems. Therefore, it is not assessing the student’s ‘know how’ but the student’s ability to learn.

The high school math teacher, the high school counselor, and the student’s parents determine the final decision on the placement of the student into a math course. This placement is very important because once a student is placed in a math course; he/she may not be relocated in a lower course. However, if the first placed is found to be too easy, the student may move up into a harder course.

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