You may be surprised at how advanced your child's studies of math and science are becoming now.

When it comes to mathematics, middle schoolers continue to develop proficiency in computing with whole numbers, fractions, decimals, and percentages. They also delve more deeply into geometry, probability, and statistics, and start honing their algebraic reasoning skills. Data analysis is a major focus, with students recording and analyzing information in tables, charts, and graphs.

The idea is to help students identify patterns of change and linear and non-linear relationships — a crucial component of algebra and other advanced forms of math and science. Other things that middle-school students will work on:

**A Push Toward Algebra**

A movement to make math more rigorous in the middle-school years has resulted in an increased emphasis on algebra, and a push to integrate it with geometry and other topics in the curriculum. The reason: as a "gatekeeper" to more advanced studies, algebra provides children with a clear advantage. Consequently, many schools push pre-algebra and algebraic reasoning at an earlier age. In 6th grade, for instance, children will solve word problems using graphs, tables, and equations. They will also work to solve simple equations containing a variable, such as 27 = 4x + 3. Eventually, students will become more adept at translating word and geometric problems into equations, and solving them.

**Physical, Life, and Earth Sciences**

Middle-school students delve into more sophisticated hands-on science activities and experiments, and material that continues to deepen their understanding of these three disciplines. Concepts, skills, and terminology become more advanced, laying the groundwork for high school biology, chemistry, and physics.

For example, students might examine the structure of cells, atoms, and molecules, study the periodic table and various chemical reactions, learn about the tectonic plates, and examine the hows and whys of earthquakes and volcanoes. Students will be expected to do more research, using outside sources such as reference books, magazine articles, and the Internet. And they'll be asked to share their work in written, oral, or multimedia presentations.

**More and More Math**

Math will play a larger part in science during the middle-school years, as students measure, weigh, calculate, and record data in graphs, charts, and diagrams.

They learn to become more systematic in how they control variables, make observations, collect evidence, and record data. Middle-school students may get additional opportunities to plan, conduct, and showcase their own experiments at science fairs. Fairs, which can be classroom-based, school-wide, or regional, require students to conduct an independent-research project on a subject of their own choosing, then exhibit and defend their findings.