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Pacing in Algebra 1: Principles of Secondary Mathematics

As you are guiding your students through the new Algebra I: Principles of Secondary Mathematics (A1:PSM), you find that the suggested pacing isn’t working for you. What can you do?

The most honest answer is that you can do anything you like! This is your curriculum, your students, your classroom. No single pacing suggestion will work for every family, and that’s okay! There’s flexibility built into A1:PSM. Let’s help you tap into it.

But before we do, let us share the single most important thing we learned about pacing in A1:PSM from our pilot families: As families progressed through Unit 1 and beyond, the students and families moved increasingly faster through the curriculum. Probably the most common experience our pilot families had was that Unit 1 took some time. It is a new curriculum and it took a little time to adapt to the design and structure of the curriculum. So we encourage you to give yourself and your students some grace and the time to get into the rhythm of the lessons that have been designed specifically for this curriculum and its students.

Our Suggested Pace

In both our 5-Day and 6-Day Pacing Guides, we suggest you allow your students 1–2 days each to work through Part A and then Part B content. This includes the Explore section in which students watch videos while filling in guided notes and examples and then complete a Checkpoint.

Following the Explore section, students complete Practice 1 and the Mastery Check.

If needed (based on your assessment of their Mastery Check), students can rework problems from Practice 1 and/or complete all or some of the optional Practice 2 problems, and then attempt the Mastery Check again.

Pacing Tips

Here are some tips for working through the lessons based on feedback from our pilot families.

Tip #1: Break it down! Neither Part A nor B needs to be completed in ONE sitting.

While the goal might be to complete this work in 1 to 2 days, it can be easily broken down into bite-sized chunks. Several comfortable stopping places have been built into the curriculum. Depending on your students’ preferences, Parts A and B can be broken down into very small segments.

For example, students could:

  • Complete the Warm Up, watch the first video, complete the notes and examples and the Checkpoint, and then take a break until you have a chance to review their work. Then repeat this process until the Explore section is completed.
  • Next, tackle Practice 1 and either jump right into the Mastery Check…
  • Or take another breather between Practice and the Mastery Check.

Tip #2: Reduce the Practice

A great suggestion from one of our pilot families was to “assign” only the even-numbered or only the odd-numbered practice problems to students. This obviously reduces practice time by half! If you find that students need more practice, you can have them go back and do the other problems.

Tip #3: Use the examples and Checkpoints in lieu of some of the practice problems.

Another suggestion from our pilot group was to use the example problems as extra practice problems. The student would watch the example, pause the video, work out the example problem(s) individually, then restart the video to check their work and understanding. Combined with the even/odd approach to the practice problems, they found they were working more efficiently.

Tip #4: Adapt the Targeted Review.

The practice problems cover only what was taught in the lesson, while the Targeted Review covers any previous concepts the students have learned. Our suggested pace allows for the Targeted Review to be completed after the test, which can take extra time. Another tip is to break up the Targeted Review problems among the practice pages or save them for review before a Unit test.

Tip #5: Use the Checkpoints and Mastery Check as a discussion launch board.

The Mastery Check does not have to be completed perfectly to achieve the lesson objectives or mastery of that section. It is there, along with the checkpoints, for students to check in with you to discuss what they are learning.

Remember, we learn best from our mistakes! If students are making mistakes in the practice pages or the Mastery Check, it’s a great time to discuss the problem and allow for “teach back.” The instructor notes in the Instructor Handbook can help guide those discussions as well as provide you with answers.

If students understand the concept or understand why they made a mistake, they may not need to go back and rework any of the practice problems, work extra problems, or redo the Mastery Check. They have learned from their mistakes and are ready for the next section. 

Not sure what your students should teach back? The Mastery Check Rubric has “I can” statements you can use for further learning. 

Mastery Is Taking Too Long

So what can you do if your students aren’t keeping pace with the suggested guide?

First and foremost, it’s okay! Let us repeat that. It is okay if your students are not keeping to the pace that we have suggested.

We call it a suggestion because it is just that. For many families that have chosen to homeschool, mastery is at the center of that decision. We believe strongly in the concept of mastery. As our own Ethan Demme says, “The mastery approach lets students spend the time they need to build strong foundations so that by the time they get to calculus or organic chemistry or whatever other field of study, they are equipped to learn complex topics.” Additionally, mastery helps students with college and career readiness.

Algebra I is a foundational level that is critical for student success in subsequent upper-level math curricula. It’s important to allow your students the time they need to truly master the content.

What Is Working for Families?

Before you decide to implement any of these pacing tips, we want to share some of the feedback we received from families just like yours that piloted the A1:PSM curriculum. Here’s a summary of what some families had to say.

Student feedback:

  • I really loved having a set of notes to look back on if I needed to review. This year was the first time I really understood the value of math.

Parent feedback: 

  • This curriculum has better explanations and a better handle on the information when students are done. She is thinking about having her older daughter redo Algebra 1 with PSM. 
  • The curriculum is very thorough. I love that my daughter could complete it independently, and when she needed help, the Instructor Handbook was exceptional.
  • Fun process. Helpful for their family because mom works. This allows them to homeschool and homeschool well.  
  • The guided notes are what makes A1:PSM worth the purchase. It provides not only the what, but the why. The Mastery Check forces them to understand what they learned.
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