A previous blog focused on the benefits of math instruction for preschoolers because it predicts future success in school. Fifteen years ago, President Obama signed legislation prioritizing math and science education.
The policy statement for the National Council of Teachers of Math (NCTM) states: “All students should have access to algebra in a pre-K–12 mathematics curriculum . . . Algebraic ideas need to evolve across grades as a way of thinking and valuing structure with integrated sets of concepts, procedures, and applications.” Success in Algebra I can predict on-time high school graduation.
Although many school districts limit algebra instruction in middle school to “advanced” students, national survey data indicate that “all students benefit from taking algebra; among those with very low prior achievement, the benefits are somewhat smaller, but algebra is still worthwhile for all students.” A recent study conducted in California reported substantial benefits of 8th grade math: “Enrolling in 8th-grade algebra boosts students’ enrollment in advanced math in ninth grade by 30 percentage points and eleventh grade by 16 percentage points. . . Women, students of color, and English-language learners benefit disproportionately from placement into early algebra.” Because math skills are sequential, students who take algebra in elementary or middle school can enroll in more advanced math classes throughout high school.
Many students in urban schools are restricted from taking algebra because they do not earn passing grades in courses that are prerequisites for more-advanced subjects. Those who struggle with math can benefit from additional instruction, such as “double dose” math, with two math classes per day, with the second class providing support and extra practice. “Students placed in the extra classes thus received substantially more algebra instruction than other students.” In addition “high dosage tutoring” can provide additional support. Creative solutions are possible. All students should deserve the opportunity to succeed.