SWS math teacher Jeanne Stevens shares some images of what grade 9 math is like at our high school.

Last week was the last week of ninth grade algebra at the high school for the school year. We finished earlier than usual due to the strange circumstances of the year. (At the high school we’ve taught everything in blocks this year, alternating two subject classes at a time.) On the last in-person day of the block, I was delighted to experience the buzz of a regular math classroom—I’d missed that buzz on Zoom! Students were working with each other, solving problems together, and, my favorite part, periodically calling out things like, “Oh! I get it!” That exciting energy is always present in a ninth grade algebra class.

From the students who struggle a bit to those who have taken Algebra I in its entirety before, there is so much good, crunchy thinking to do with the ninth grade algebra curriculum. After our last classroom day, my students took a cumulative block test on their asynchronous Zoom day. I kept my Zoom call open to answer any clarifying questions, and at the end of the period I was delighted to have a student drop by to thank me for a fun year. The student went on to tell me that he was really excited for his journey to calculus in twelfth grade, but, he asked, “What is calculus exactly?” I loved this question, of course, so I pulled up a page from the online calculus textbook I’ve been using this year and gave him a sneak peek. “Whoa!” he said. “What do all of those symbols even mean? What is lim, and sin??” I assured him that by the time he was a senior, he would know what all of those symbols mean.

This is my favorite part of teaching math at our high school, how each year students gain more skills, confidence, and intuition, and yet by senior year that wonder and curiosity about what it all means is still very much alive.

–Jeanne Stevens, SWS High School Math Teacher

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