We have compiled the following list of frequently asked questions and answers concerning student placement in mathematics courses. We encourage parents and students to review this information. If further clarification is needed, please feel free to reach out to math teachers, school counselors, or the K-12 Math Supervisor.

 Q: Why and when does “leveling” in math classes begin in Tolland Public Schools?

Instruction in mathematics is heterogeneous (not leveled) from Kindergarten through Grade 5. To meet the needs of developmentally and otherwise diverse learners, teachers use multiple instructional strategies to support students’ learning. Whole class instruction, modeling, group work, guided and independent practice, problem solving, math centers, manipulatives, experimentation, exploration, and technology are all used frequently in a typical mathematics class.

Such strategies are the mark of good teaching and can be extremely successful. However, there are limits to what flexible teaching techniques can achieve, particularly in a sequential content area such as mathematics, where prerequisite skills and understanding play a critical role in student achievement and learning. Thus, in addition to employing a range of teaching approaches in classrooms, there are two levels in math beginning in Grade 6.


Q: What is the difference between leveling and tracking?

“Leveling” is distinct from the practice of “tracking.” In a “tracked” system, once students are placed in courses at a particular level, it becomes very difficult to change course. In traditional tracked systems, students tend to be placed in the same track for all subjects. In a “leveled” system, students have many ongoing opportunities to move up or down through levels when doing so becomes appropriate. 


Q: Tolland has designated "levels." What do they mean?

Beginning in Grade 6, students are grouped into two levels for mathematics instruction. 

  • Grade 6 Math and Grade 6 Advanced Math
    • Grade 6 Math is for students who are achieving at grade level and able to handle the mathematical content at the expected and expected pace for this age. 
    • Grade 6 Advanced Math is an accelerated course covering all Grade 6 and about half of the Grade 7 concepts outlined by the Common Core Standards. 
  • Grade 7 Math and Grade 7 Pre Algebra
    • Grade 7 Math is for students who are achieving at grade level and able to handle the mathematical content at the expected pace for this age. 
    • Grade 7 Pre Algebra is an accelerated course covering all Grade 8 and about half of the Grade 7 concepts outlined by the Common Core Standards. 
  • Grade 8 Math, Grade 8 Algebra 1A, and Grade 8 Algebra 1AB
    • Grade 8 Math is for students who are achieving at grade level and able to handle the mathematical content at the expected a pace for this age. 
    • Grade 8 Algebra 1A  is an accelerated course that is identical to Tolland High School’s CP Algebra 1A course. 
    • Grade 8 Algebra 1AB is a double accelerated course that is identical to Tolland High School’s CP Algebra 1A and Algebra 1B courses. 


The words ”Grade Level Math”,  "Advanced", "Pre Algebra",  and "Grade 8 Algebra" come with unintended connotations that sometimes, unfortunately, convey the wrong impression. Grade Level Math is not a low level; it is a rigorous academic level of study. Advanced, Pre Algebra, or Algebra are above and beyond the expected norm for the age or grade. 


Students in an Advanced, Pre Algebra, or Algebra mathematics courses are expected to:

  • Demonstrate a strong command of specific prerequisite skills and conceptual understanding
  • Work at an accelerated pace, at a deeper level, in a more challenging context
  • Be a more independent learner, needing less support
  • Apply skills and be able to transfer their learning and understandings to new challenging problems


Q: How is a student’s placement in a math course determined?

Course recommendations for students are made with two general factors in mind; challenge and success. The goal is to challenge every student at the appropriate level for that student by placing them in a class that will support their growth and success. We are looking to find the class the is "just right" for each individual student. 

No single factor alone determines the placement. Teachers look for a preponderance of evidence to support the placement decision. Factors considered in the process are the student’s current mathematics class and performance, previous class performance, NWEA scores, other documented assessments and district benchmark scores, and the student’s maturity, motivation, and work ethic.

There is no crystal ball or formula to predict success with 100% certainty. However, we have reviewed and studied data and evidence of math placements, and will continue this practice so that we can continue to fine tune our process. We believe that the process and criteria used are reasonable and fair, and do indicate the most appropriate place for a student.


Q:What are the characteristics of a student ready for an accelerated pace?

  • The student is developmentally ready for the abstract thinking required in higher level mathematics.
  • They can apply their understanding of a concept in order to transfer it to a new situation.
  • The student is proficient at word problems and can problem solve in various contexts.
  • They learn by understanding, not by rote repetition, so that they can absorb new concepts quickly.
  • Since they understand the concepts, the student demonstrates retention of concepts over time, without re-teaching.
  • The student has strong calculation skills and well-developed number sense.
  • The student has exceptional work habits and student skills. They advocate for themselves, when needed.

Q: I hear that algebra is critical for future success in mathematics. Should every student be enrolled in Algebra 1A or Algebra 1AB in Grade 8?

A quality math program prepares students for the successful study of algebra at the developmentally appropriate time for their individual need.

If a student is struggling in algebra, she or he is not learning the concepts. Because Algebra 1 is the foundation for all future mathematics courses, this can negatively impact the chance of success in each successive math course. Enrolling in and “taking” Algebra 1(A or AB) is not equivalent to learning and understanding the key concepts of algebra. Our primary concern is that each student is placed in a course where they will learn and be successful.

Please refer to the link below for more detailed information about the importance of readiness for Algebra.


Q: I really think my child should give Algebra 1A a try in Grade 8. What’s wrong with that?

  • Placement into an inappropriate level can have serious consequences that may even have a lasting impact on future learning and your child’s mathematical mindset.
  • If a student is struggling and becomes frustrated, they will not learn the content, concepts, and skills at a level necessary for success in the present course or subsequent courses. This can have serious consequences as a student progresses to higher mathematics courses. If a student is struggling because they lack the necessary prerequisite skills for algebra, she or he may still lack these same skills by the end of algebra.
  • A student in Algebra 1A in Grade 8 who earns a C or lower may be recommended for CP Algebra 1A again in ninth grade. The concepts and skills in Algebra 1A are important for future success in all subsequent math courses. A grade of a C in the 8th grade Algebra courses indicates that a student has not mastered these key prerequisites and will ultimately struggle later, especially in Algebra 2 and beyond.


Q: What should I consider if I think my child's math placement is inappropriate?

  • Why do I think my child should be in a higher level? What evidence supports that?
  • How much assistance does my child require to do her or his school work (from me….. from a tutor ….from the teacher after school)?
  • Does my child take responsibility for their own school work (Records homework assignments… Completes assignments in a timely fashion.... Asks questions in class)?
  • Is my child motivated to do this? For the right reasons?
  • Have I discussed this with my child's teacher so that we can share our perspectives; what I see at home and what the teacher sees in the classroom setting?


Q: What can I do if I disagree with my child's placement in a math course and/or would like to learn more about my child's placement data?

Please contact TMS School Counselors, they will be able to provide you details regarding your child's recommended math placement, data, and support you through the placement process. 

To request a change in placement for Grades 6-8, you must complete the Request Math Appeal Form available from TMS School Counselors. The request will be reviewed by the administrative team. Please note that if a student has not met any of the criteria, it is unlikely that such a request is in the student’s best interest and it will not be honored.

For any requested change in course placement, please be aware of the following:

  • The teacher is obligated to maintain the rigor and pace of the course.
  • The teacher will not be able to provide remedial tutorial help to meet the prerequisites of the class.
  • Students who have been granted a placement change will have their data reviewed at the end of Quarter 1 of the following year. If they have not maintained a 85% or better at the end of Quarter 1 they will be moved to a course that is more appropriate for them. 

The decision to request an appeal must be considered carefully by both parent and student.