Math

Upper School Mathematics at Northwest prepares students for college-level mathematics and other STEM fields, teaches students to become creative and independent problem solvers, and strives to motivate students to appreciate the elegance and wonder of mathematics.

Features of Our Program

We are aware of the diverse learning styles of our students. Within each course, instruction is targeted to meet the needs of individual learners.

We do not separate courses as honors level or regular level. We believe all students deserve the most rigorous math course.

We strategically target the use of technology and combine its use with traditional paper and pencil problem-solving techniques to help students learn, apply, and visualize concepts.

In addition to teaching mathematical concepts, we also teach students how to study and learn math.

We use a variety of teaching strategies, including lecture, partner work, collaborative groups, discovery, flipped classroom models, and projects, in the pursuit of our goal of providing all students with the best possible mathematics education.

For students new to Northwest’s Upper School, placement into math courses is determined by several data points: the student’s previous math courses, a subject-specific readiness test, the previous math teacher’s recommendation, and in some cases, an individual conference with the family.

The most common sequence for students in the Upper School is in 9th Grade, either Algebra I or Geometry or Algebra II; and in 10th Grade, either Algebra II or Pre-Calculus. The sequences described here for the Upper School are the most typical; however, there are a few students at the school who accelerate through the curriculum in grades earlier than the ones mentioned here.

Juniors at Northwest typically enroll in either Math Analysis, Pre-Calculus, or Calculus; and seniors chose from a variety of math electives, including Calculus, Advanced Calculus, Mathematical Modeling with Financial Applications, and/or Statistics. Our senior math courses are so popular that almost half of the seniors at Northwest enroll in two math classes.

Though technology is integrated throughout all our courses, Northwest also offers specific courses in computer science, including Computer Science Principles, and Programming in Python.

See below for a description of courses.

  • Algebra I

    This rigorous, full-year Algebra I course builds the mathematical foundation to all other Upper School math courses. Students work with monomial and polynomial expressions, solve linear equations and inequalities, solve systems of linear equations, and are introduced to quadratics. Applications of linear relationships are a core part of the course. Students also study exponent rules and begin to work with rational expressions. The concept of a mathematical function and its applications to the real world is introduced.

  • Geometry

    Geometry is a course of logic and problem solving in both two and three dimensions. Topics include points, lines, planes, angles, congruence, similarity, the Pythagorean Theorem, special right triangles, right-triangle trigonometry, circles and other polygons. Logical reasoning is emphasized through justification of processes. Students work with geometric concepts in the coordinate plane, compute area and volume, and explore the ratios of similarity. Additionally, throughout the year, students will reinforce skills learned in Algebra I.

  • Algebra II

    Algebra II formalizes the concept of a mathematical function through an in-depth study of linear, quadratic, radical, polynomial, and exponential functions. Students are also introduced to a library of other parent functions and learn how to transform them in the coordinate plane. The focus is on developing algebraic fluency and problem-solving skills in a variety of contexts. Properties of functions and functional vocabulary are used throughout the course.

  • Math Analysis

    This course is taken as an option after Algebra II. Students enrolling in Math Analysis will both review and build on skills from Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II. Following a less theoretical and more practical approach, this course allows students time to work on gaps in algebraic skills, build confidence with mathematical facility, and practice using these concepts as they commonly appear on a standardized test.

  • Pre-Calculus

    This course is for students who desire a theoretical, conceptual, and rigorous mathematics course after completing Algebra II. Pre-Calculus continues the in-depth study of functions started in Algebra II, with an emphasis on preparation for calculus. Rational, exponential, logarithmic, and trigonometric functions are presented along with their applications. Students learn to move fluently between verbal, numeric, graphic, and formulaic representations. Real-world phenomena are modeled by each function.

  • Calculus

    In this first-year calculus course focusing on the mathematics of motion and change, students are introduced to limits, derivatives, and integrals and their connection through The Fundamental Theorem of Calculus. Students learn to calculate limits, derivatives, and integrals, and apply these skills to real-world applications.

  • Statistics

    This course is available to seniors as a primary math course or an elective taken in addition to another math course. We live in a data-driven society; therefore, interpreting data accurately is vital. Students learn to interpret, process, and visualize the data we confront in our daily lives. Students read, discuss, and write about the use and misuse of statistics in media and politics. Students design and conduct observational studies and experiments. Applications in this course include a wide variety of disciplines: psychology, sociology, biology, criminology, political science, business, economics, and law.

  • Mathematical Modeling with Financial Applications

    This course is available to seniors as a primary math course or an elective taken in addition to another math course. Students study applications of mathematics including economics at the macro and micro level and finance at the federal and personal level. Students also study the creation of algorithms and big data. The class dives into the stock market, game theory, and using mathematical models to simulate decision making.

  • Advanced Calculus

    This is a second-year calculus course. Topics include limits, vectors, proofs, and advanced integration techniques. Students differentiate and integrate functions and relations expressed parametrically and in the polar coordinate plane to find area, volume, and arc length. Additionally, infinite sequences and series, convergence tests, improper integrals, power series, and Taylor polynomial approximations are explored, culminating in Euler’s identity. The course concludes with an extension of the ideas of calculus to three dimensions, including equations and intersections of lines and planes and partial derivatives.

  • Computer Science Principles

    Students discover how the internet works and the basics of computational thinking. Topics include an introduction to scripted language and event-based programming, big data, privacy and security, and the social impacts of computing. Students create projects, rapid research, flash talks and film reviews. They also apply the general principles of program design and algorithmic thinking to create their own applications.

  • Programming in Python

    Python is a programming language with a simple syntax and a powerful set of libraries. This course is an introduction to Python, covering data types, control flow, object-oriented programming, and overall program design.