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Questions about 9th Grade Math Lane Selection

Original post made by Incoming 9th Grader on Jun 29, 2012

I am going into 9th grade at Gunn High School next year, and was looking for advice on lane selection for math. I have a grade in my class that would easily allow me to take the highest lane. Right now, I am signed up to take the highest lane, which is my math teacher's recommendation. Recently, though, I learned more about the amount of time involved in homework, and was wondering if I should try to switch to a lower lane.

I am very interested in math, and feel that I would really love the higher lane. However, I am definitely taking the highest lanes in Science, English, and I am taking Spanish 2 for an elective. I also have a packed schedule outside of school- I participate in soccer, orchestra, and private music lessons. In addition, I was looking forward to possibly playing on the Gunn soccer and track and field teams. I really love math, and focus hard on my work, but I am worried about time. Everyone is always saying different things about the amount of homework in the lane. I would love some advice about the amount of time that each lane demands, and what the impact of taking the different lanes is. Does a choice restrict the future classes you can take? Does it matter in the end if I take the higher lane?

Thank you so much.

Comments (9)

Posted by Parent, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 29, 2012 at 1:02 pm

Good question. My advice is to try it and see how it goes. Some kids find the math harder than others; what for one kid might be 2 hours of work a night can be 30 minutes for another. You don't know unless you try, and you say you do like math.

Taking the highest lane is useful if you think you might want to go to elite colleges and/or study math-intensive subjects (hard sciences, engineering, etc.). You'll learn a lot of math in either lane, and more in college if you choose to pursue, so it is not like you'll be missing out on a key learning experience. But the top colleges like to see kids taking the most challenging courses, so you have to calibrate yourself to what you want to achieve.

All that said - if you find it is too much work, drop down a lane. High school is a good time for exploring interests and just having fun. Learning math is fun, but too much becomes a real grind and potential source of anxiety. No need for that unless you have a goal in mind that requires it.

Good luck!


Posted by Private Parent, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 29, 2012 at 3:49 pm

I'm with Parent--

It's much easier to drop down a lane than to move up. So if the top lane is too much, you can easily switch to the lower lane. But if the next lane is too little, you are going to have a very hard time switching.

But if you do need to drop down, go ahead and do it--it's not a failure, it's a choice of where to best spend your resources.


Posted by Recent Gunn Grad, a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 30, 2012 at 7:55 pm

I agree with what the parents said.

I recently graduated from Gunn, and it is indeed very, very easy to drop down a math lane. It's much harder to jump up a math lane. Talk to your counselor about the process - to talk to them you just drop in.

The math lanes are Geom/Alg 2H, Alg1A/GeoA, Algebra 1A, followed by some lower classes.
You would start with Geom/Alg 2H. I would advise you not to drop any lower than Alg1A/GeoA as those classes might be too easy - however, it is up to you to decide.

You should take a few quizzes and maybe take the first test and see how you do before dropping down. It goes without saying that it can take time to adjust to high school classes. I remember getting B's on the first few math quizzes I took in high school, which was discouraging to someone who was good at math. Nonetheless, I really managed to adjust and ended up doing very well in the class, and in future math classes (up to calculus).


Posted by Parent, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jul 1, 2012 at 1:58 pm

I am another parent, of a current Gunn student, entering senior. I would definitely advise against taking the highest lane in everything, ESPECIALLY if you have any outside interests besides homework (let alone all those that you have.)

It is definitely NOT easy to transfer up OR down OR to move your schedule around AT ALL at Gunn. As an otherwise excellent student who participated in ONE sport in the spring, my student found that the sport actually took her out of 50% of her class periods for the ENTIRE season - and the subject was Spanish 1.

The school would not accomodate any schedule changes. The school also will not accomodate moving PE periods to end of day, if that's not the PE period you are already assigned, they reserve the end of day period for multi-sport students only anyway.

NOt that it would have helped - they often had to miss two periods more than once a week to get to away events.

Therefore she found herself A in the first half of the year in Spanish, basically trying to teach herself spanish in the second half. She ended with a D.

Furthermore, she attempted to move her schedule around in other years in just one or two cases, and magically and mysteriously there just never is the ability to get the schedule changed....

So, my recommendation is NOT to start out in the Freshman year by loading yourself up to the breaking point. I would back off the load until you see how it works out. You can increase the challenge in the Sophomore and Junior year if you feel inclined. But your GPA is going to follow you around, and Gunn High School is not willing or not able to help an otherwise good student with what they would consider such minor inconvenience as how to salvage a bad schedule.


Posted by parent, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jul 1, 2012 at 2:07 pm

"the sport actually took her out of 50% of her class periods for the ENTIRE season"

To clarify, the sport took her out of 50% of the class periods for the entire season - in her G period. Her G period was Spanish I. In other words for the entire spring season, she missed two out of four sessions per week, of that single class. Additionally, away games required early dismissal from F and G periods. So her F period suffered somewhat as well, although not as much as G. The issue comes when F and G are the core classes rather than basket weaving and PE.

By the way, the late start at Gunn exacerbates this issue for student atheletes who's sports occur directly afterschool. The later start, gets them out of final period later, but sports start times are changed. Other schools are impacted, daylight hours are fixed, bus availability, etc., so the athletes now, who might have only had to miss 10 minutes of their F period and their whole G period, might find they are now having to miss two whole periods.


Posted by Mom, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jul 2, 2012 at 2:22 am

Your question is difficult to answer. Remember that Palo Alto has a lot of math geeks and they will be your competition.

If you are going to earn a lower GPA, freshman year is the year to do it. Your GPA still matters in freshman year, but colleges are more forgiving if the grades are lower in freshman year.

You should have taken an aptitude test in 8th grade. If you can find out what your score was, that would help your decision. Also, just because your teacher says you are capable of being in the highest lane, doesn't mean you will earn an "A".

If you are in sports, you will be able to skip P.E. and use it as a study period for the entire time that you are participating on the team. This is nice and not offered at all schools.

You only need to be in the highest lane math to qualify for certain classes - I think they are science classes. But the second lane also qualifies you for certain classes.

Don't assume you can easily drop down a lane as prior posters have mentioned. If a bunch of people drop down, will there still be room in the second lane to wait a month and then drop? You'd have to ask a counselor. Remember that the second lane still ends in Calculus, so it is still considered well by colleges.

If math is your forte, you might consider dropping to regular lane English in sophomore year and take Spanish 3 instead of Spanish 3H in sophomore year.

You've got a lot of extracurriculars going on. I don't know how you can play soccer at Gunn and then track/field. Don't you have to play club soccer, which will conflict with track/field? Are you fast in completing homework? Answer better be "yes."

I totally disagree with the poster that "High school is a good time for exploring interests and just having fun." IN PAUSD, it's not fun. It's rigorous, depending on which teachers one has.

Paly makes sure to not put core classes as the last period for athletes, being that they might miss the last class. Gunn doesn't do this for their students?


Posted by Fun is Good, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jul 2, 2012 at 8:50 am

"I totally disagree with the poster that "High school is a good time for exploring interests and just having fun." IN PAUSD, it's not fun. It's rigorous, depending on which teachers one has."

If high school isn't a good time for this, then what is? The school doesn't choose your courses, lanes, college ambitions, extracurricular "load," how you spent your summer, etc. - that's all up to you and your family.

Good for you thinking about how to balance hard courses vs. non-academic interests. Make sure you include time for just plain screwing around too!


Posted by another parent, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 3, 2012 at 10:59 am

Gunn has instituted 0 period PE for those with conflicts. That might leave G period open. F-period is the best prep for athletes because many events are on Thursdays.


Posted by Mom, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 7, 2012 at 11:25 pm

Not that the student would have a choice about the prep period, and if they get the bad end of the draw, the absenteeism caused by athletic competition can trash academic performance in one or more classes. The Gunn parent above raises a significant question about the reality of what we are asking students to manage...how can a student miss 2 of 4 classes and not be stressed and behind?


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