Welcome to Zero Period: An Eighth Grade Math Program

Jon Barker is an EGAP Algebra I teacher at Saint Ignatius High School.

It’s Monday at 7:00 a.m. and about 50 eighth grade boys and girls from Cleveland Catholic diocese schools gather in two Saint Ignatius classrooms for Honors Algebra 1.  They’re committed to learning – and being competitive in mathematics.  Parents are committed too, as they adjust schedules to bring their child to this free program offered since 2010. 

It’s the Eighth Grade Algebra Program (EGAP) and the brainchild of Rev. William J. Murphy, S.J., President of Saint Ignatius High School.  “We saw a clear need for eighth graders to be able to take Algebra 1,” he explains. “But not all Catholic elementary schools could do that, so we developed a way to fill the gap.” Fr. Murphy is proud of this partnership to support educational excellence at diocesan schools.  Now in its fourth year, about 180 students from 24 Catholic grade schools have attended the classes that meet for the full school year.

Dave Sabol is Math Department Chair and explains that the SIHS math curriculum is typically set up for freshmen to begin with Algebra 1. EGAP provides an option for advanced students to go directly into Honors Geometry as freshmen if they attend SIHS.  But the program is not seen as a recruiting tool, since all students in the program, both boys and girls, can potentially receive credit at other high schools.  “We’re really interested in Catholic grade schools in Cleveland continuing to thrive,” says Sabol.  “We can help by working with their advanced students.”

Michael Zelko, a junior at Saint Ignatius, attended EGAP while at St. Mary Byzantine in Parma. He currently takes calculus and plans on taking multivariable calculus as a senior.  “My elementary school had an advanced group of four or five students, but we were self-taught and could only do so much,” Zelko recalls. “Saint Ignatius actually made a class just for us, with teachers getting there early.”  He admits it was hard adjusting to the 7 a.m. class but he got used to it. “Our class was notorious for not asking questions, so Mr. Barker had to shake things up.  We had a lot of fun in that class!”

Jon Barker is one of four teachers switching off each semester. “The program is targeted to any student with pre-algebra skills and ready to jump into algebra,” Barker explains. “It’s important to help kids who are struggling, but equally important to help those who are ready to move ahead.  If they’re ready to fly, why hold them back?” Barker makes learning hands-on and active “to wake them up” though he says it’s already a motivated group. 

Brian Messina, Saint Ignatius class of 2016, attended EGAP while at St. Angela Merici grade school. “It allowed me to take an elevated class and progress into higher math in high school,” says Messina. “My friends were impressed I was willing to make the commitment.  I could help other kids when I went back to my school.”

For more information on EGAP, visit www.ignatius.edu/egap

Gay Eyerman

Gay Eyerman is a freelance writer. For more information on this story, contact Lisa Metro, the Director of Communications at Saint Ignatius High School.

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Volume 1, Issue 10, Posted 5:47 PM, 04.02.2014