In a previous post, you read how success in high school math plays into the process of college admissions. The facts were pretty clear: high schoolers need math to get into college, and high school math includes algebra and beyond. Most high schoolers, that is, meaning those following a traditional curriculum path, who are seeking traditional college admissions. Case closed.
But, wait a minute. Do kids without math ever get into college? Aren’t there colleges that don’t care about math? And what about unschoolers — don’t they attend college, too?
In this post, you’ll hear about exceptions. You’ll learn 2 different ways to receive credit for math experience — not the number of math courses completed — practices which may appeal to readers taking a different path toward achieving math understanding. Links are also included at the end of this post; these may be of particular interest to unschooled students and others looking for a non-traditional way to learn math in high school.
Demonstrating competency using examinations
While it is true that most colleges require 3 or 4 credits of high school math, students may attempt to demonstrate competency without having credits on the transcript. Subject examinations offered through The College Board are one way to demonstrate math competency in college with or without ever taking a formal math class in high school. Students should begin by inquiring at the college of their choice as to whether subject exams can be used to document math proficiency. Sometimes, taking one or both math exams provides all the evidence a college needs to insure the student understands algebra through precalculus or trigonometry and the student may be considered on that basis alone. Note that not every college accepts subject exams, and even those that do may not consent to using results in this way. It is up to students to find out, or find other colleges that will.
Students without traditional math preparation may also inquire as to whether the colleges of their choice accept CLEP examinations through The College Board. Though not all colleges accept the CLEP either, those that do may allow credit for tests passed in one or both of the math exams presently available through CLEP. In some cases, these tests provide a way for self-taught math students to demonstrate what they already know. Even better, students who pass CLEP exams earn college credits, too, and never have to take the class in college, either.
Find a college that de-emphasizes math
Choosing a college is hard enough. Finding a college willing to accept a student with little or no math experience can be even harder. But colleges like these do exist, assuming students find one they like. A thorough college search may uncover colleges that do not require the SAT and schools that admit anyone who applies. There are tuition-free colleges and colleges that aren’t really colleges at all. Students may also search for colleges that emphasize math scores less than others, admitting students who score in the lowest percentile on math exams. These searches can be performed using college guides available in most bookstores and using free online search engines, too. The best insurance, however, comes from speaking directly to college admissions officers and staff who are familiar with non-traditional and/or homeschool applicants to see if the student stands any chance of gaining entrance.
Demonstrating competency using portfolios
What if a graduate ”gets” math, but just demonstrates it differently than other high school graduates? That is where a student portfolio comes in. Just like a resume or a biography, a student portfolio reflects the unique experiences and characteristics of the student it represents. If a student can demonstrate an understanding of mathematical ideas, whether practically or conceptually, colleges may be persuaded to take a look. Careful portfolio preparation could make the difference between a student who lands a personal interview at a college and one who does not. Portfolios may include anything that paints a complete picture of the student and his or her understanding of the mathematical world, up to and including the level expected by college admissions departments. With alternatives to traditional classroom schooling growing in number every year, many colleges are becoming more able and willing to discern information and evaluate students based on mastery and not just coursework alone.
Just learn the math!
With all that said, there is still so much to be said for just learning the math. Today’s high schoolers have so many options for learning math with ease that it seems silly to deny a student the chance at success if they want it.
Courses on computer, video and DVD are plentiful and may be just the ticket for students who are unable to learn from books alone. Courses like Math U See and Teaching Textbooks are just two examples of products that many families have found extraordinarily helpful for teaching math at home.
Math tutors are found in every community and the good ones have no difficulty teaching high school math and preparing students for college admissions exams. Parents who feel they lack the ability to teach math themselves or help with student homework may hire a tutor for sessions once or twice each week until the student feels comfortable completing the work alone.
Test centers and online seminars all over the country offer math practice and test preparatory courses. Study materials are available online and at bookstores all across the country, too. Many students successfully study for the SAT and other exams simply by taking practice exams from previous years. Others use test materials to key in on the kinds of questions they need to study, or hone in on subjects they need to study a little bit more.
Adult education programs are well-known for offering remedial math courses and math for those who have been out of school for a while. These courses may sometimes be used for high school credit and often provide transcript documentation, too.
Don’t forget the many private schools and curriculum suppliers who offer free homework help and online tools, either. Homeschoolers may join these programs in 9th grade and stick with them, or can jump in during 11th or 12th when studying for math exams becomes more of a focus.
Not every student may be a math whiz or enjoy math, either. But no student needs to fail with the number of resources available today. Changing ones attitude about math and finding just the right combination of tools can prepare a student just enough to gain admission and pursue a dream. Leave no stone unturned when it comes to finding what works best.
Internet articles for continued reading:
Math (a collection of articles compiled by HEM Magazine)
Zen & the art of unschooling math (Life Learning Magazine)
Unschooling and math (Sandra Dodd)
Unschooling Math (from Growing Without Schooling)