# What Are the Different Types of Math in 8th Grade?

Many American eighth graders find themselves taking different math courses than their peers. A major reason for this is that curriculum in the U.S. varies by state and often school district. Also, courses may vary not only by locality, but according to real or perceived math aptitude, as seen with tracking systems, Advanced Placement or remedial programs.

## Background

Throughout most of the latter portion of the 20th century, many eighth grade math courses were arithmetic-based, and students didn’t take algebra or geometry until high school, if at all. But beginning in the 1990s, these subjects -- or lead-in courses for them -- became more common in eighth grade classrooms across the country. This emergence of advanced classes at the eighth grade level was fueled in part by a desire for U.S. students, lagging in math compared to some of their first-world counterparts, to become more internationally competitive.

## Pre-Algebra

An eighth grade pre-algebra course almost always serves as a precursor to a ninth grade Algebra 1 course. As its name implies, the purpose of pre-algebra is to foster the development of skills and concepts necessary for success in Algebra 1. Topics studied during pre-algebra include advanced facets of arithmetic, specifically, classifying and performing operations on rational numbers using the order of operations. These numbers include fractions, square roots, exponents and negative numbers. Students learn about basic number properties, such as the associative, commutative and identity properties. Pre-algebra students also explore basic algebraic concepts, using variables in evaluating and simplifying expressions and solving one-step equations. They also use algebraic concepts to solve percent and proportion problems and to construct graphs in the coordinate plane.

## Algebra

Students taking Algebra 1 in eighth grade likely completed a pre-algebra course -- or at minimum, a general math course introducing basic algebraic ideas -- in seventh grade. After a review of those concepts, Algebra 1 students spend much of the year focusing on solving linear and quadratic equations, inequalities and systems of equations. They encounter multiple types of equations, the solving of which may entail processes such as factoring, substitution or the quadratic formula. They begin to understand equations as functions, a special type of quantitative relationship, and they graph linear and quadratic functions on the coordinate plane.

## Geometry

In some districts students taking geometry in eighth grade may be very advanced -- having already completed Algebra 1 in seventh grade -- or the district may sequence courses in a less traditional order, resulting in Algebra 1 being taken in ninth grade. Although pre-geometry courses are quite rare, most students entering geometry have an introductory degree of familiarity with the basic topics from previous general math courses. Geometry concerns shapes, their properties and the relationships among them. Figures studied in detail include angles, lines and planes, all types of triangles and all other types of polygons such as cylinders, spheres and pyramids and circles. Students also explore the concepts of congruence, angle bisectors, similar figures and parallel and perpendicular lines, as well as construct proofs based on theorems and postulates.

## Blended

Many schools offer courses fusing components of geometry, algebra and advanced arithmetic. These courses can go by many names, but are often just known as “eighth grade math.” In addition to geometric, algebraic and pre-algebraic topics, blended courses often include units on number sense and operations, measurement, scientific notation, absolute value, area and perimeter. Others may include units on data analysis, statistics and probability.

References

- National Center for Education Statistics: Initial Findings From the Third International Math and Science Study – Synthethis Report, Chapter 2 - Curriculum
- The Brookings Institution: Advanced Math in Eighth Grade, Tom Loveless
- Math in Mind: Pre-Algebra
- Common Core State Standards Initiative: Mathematics Grade 8 Introduction
- Regents Exam Prep Center: Geometry
- Time For Learning: Eighth Grade Math Curriculum
- AAA Math: Eighth Grade - Topics

Resources

Writer Bio

Based in western New York, Amy Harris began writing for Demand Media and Great Lakes Brewing News in 2010. Harris holds a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from Penn State University; she taught high school math for several years and has also worked in the field of instructional design.