Math Placement Help for Pre-Algebra and Geometry

Math Placement Help

One of the challenges of homeschooling is knowing when to offer instruction in a particular subject or topic. I was recently asked when it was appropriate to move a child from foundational math to pre-algebra and it made me wonder how many other homeschool parents ponder the same thing. I decided to chat with a math teacher, who has about 30 years experience teaching high school math, to ask him about pre-algebra and geometry.


What is taught in pre-algebra?

Pre-algebra prepares the student for more difficult concepts in algebra by covering topics such as negative numbers, integers, properties of operations, exponents, factorization and the manipulation of equations.

What math concepts should the student know, or at least be familiar with, before starting pre-algebra?

Mastery of basic math skills including addition, subtraction, multiplication and division is very important. Additional concepts that the student should know include:

  • fractions and decimals
  • variables
  • inequalities
  • basic awareness of exponents
  • knowledge of basic geometry such as finding the perimeter and area of different shapes
  • recognition of patterns
  • ability to do word problems

In what grade does a student typically start pre-algebra?

Pre-algebra is typically taught in 6th or 7th grade.

Of course, your child might be ready sooner or later. More important than grade level is your child’s ability to handle more complex math concepts. Math builds on itself so a solid foundation is more important than rushing through material to get your child up to “grade level”. However, if your child excels at math and has knowledge of the concepts listed, they might be ready to move on to pre-algebra. That’s the beauty of homeschooling…moving at your child’s own pace.¬†

Still wondering if your child is ready for pre-algebra? Take a placement test to see where they are in their math skills. Most curriculum providers offer placement tests for students.


What is geometry?

The simple answer is that geometry is the study of the properties and relationships of points, lines and shapes with an emphasis on proofs.

What math concepts should the student know, or at least be familiar with, before starting geometry?

A student should have knowledge of the following:

  • basic math skills
  • different categories of shapes
  • 2 and 3 dimensional shapes
  • parallel and perpendicular lines
  • basic algebra and how to do algebraic proofs
  • how to prove something

The best way to determine your child’s readiness for geometry is to take a placement test and/or review the table of contents for the curriculum you plan on using. Does your child have the skills needed to learn what is being taught in geometry?

When should geometry be taught?

Geometry has traditionally been taught after algebra 1 and before taking algebra 2 since basic algebra skills are needed to learn geometry. Some educators believe that this disrupts the flow of learning algebra and suggest using curriculum that integrates geometry with algebra.

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