Math Trajectory at TCS

Assistant Head for Academics and Upper School Director Allen Broyles, Director of Learning Strategies & Academic Support Michelle Toma-Harrold and Math Specialist Tom Pittard have news about some exciting refinements to our math program. TCS is now adding options to our primary math curriculum, Math in Focus (Singapore Math), to include more accelerated options. These revisions and updates to Math in Focus in grades 4 – 8 will make sure our students are prepared to pursue the widest possible array of math levels when they leave TCS.

We now provide Math 6, Pre-Algebra, Algebra I, and Geometry for our Middle Grades students and expect that most TCS students will complete Algebra I in the eighth grade. Some students learn better when they are able to spend more time with each topic, and as such would finish the Pre-Algebra course in eighth grade. Similarly, students who master new math concepts and skills very quickly may finish eighth grade with an Algebra I and Geometry credit. Most independent schools do some type of placement exam to determine math placement, while others also look at course titles taken. Public schools look almost exclusively at course titles and credits. In either public or private schools, ninth-grade students may be placed in Algebra I, Geometry or Algebra II, depending on their middle grades math progress.

To supplement Math in Focus and offer high school math courses to those students who are ready, We have chosen College Preparatory Mathematics for Algebra I and Geometry. These courses complement the collaborative and creative instructional approach that Math in Focus takes. Our Pre-Algebra course, which is taught in the sixth, seventh, or eighth grade depending on a student’s math level, is one that we have created by carefully synthesizing topics and skills from the Math In Focus texts to match Pre-Algebra content in other settings. This ensures that our students are learning concepts and skills that will serve as prerequisites for courses to follow.

To prepare students for the right math option in middle grades, we have also made adjustments in fourth and fifth grades. Some fourth-grade students may work on concepts and skills from both fourth and fifth-grade books, and some fifth-grade students may use books for both fifth and sixth grades. In designing these modified courses, we have looked very closely at the math scope and sequence and have taken great care to ensure that students are not left with gaps. In grades prior to fourth grade, students will work in their grade level materials and teachers will adjust the pace and depth of work to best meet students where they are and move them forward as is suitable. The math trajectory is illustrated in the graphic below.

The teaching team – which includes the classroom teachers, MichelleToma-Harrold, and Tom Pittard – assesses the needs of each student to determine placement. 

After the year begins, it is possible that a few students may be switched from one group to another when it is determined that there is a need for additional support or challenge. Occasionally, parents request a move to another group or course trajectory. These requests will be considered from the perspective of student performance at school and what the team determines is the best placement for their success. 

Some parents wonder if they can provide tutoring to accelerate their child’s learning or to change their child’s placement. Generally, if a student requires one-on-one work to reach a certain level, it is likely that they will find the pace of the higher level stressful, and a move would only be recommended through a careful conversation with the teaching team.

We believe that these revisions and updates to Math in Focus in grades 4 – 8 will ensure that all students will be supported to pursue the most appropriate path in mathematics according to their needs and abilities. This plan will better provide students the challenge and support they need and reflects our commitment to continually improving our students’ academic experience and outcomes, as we remain committed to developing caring, empathetic graduates. 

If you have any questions about these changes, or about your child’s experience in math, please don’t hesitate to reach out to your child’s teacher or to Tom Pittard (, 404-873-6985).