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ERIC Number: EJ875695
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2010-Feb-10
Pages: 2
Abstractor: ERIC
ISSN: ISSN-0277-4232
Early-Algebra Push Seen to Be Flawed
Viadero, Debra
Education Week, v29 n21 p1, 14 Feb 2010
Spurred by a succession of reports pointing to the importance of algebra as a gateway to college, educators and policymakers embraced "algebra for all" policies in the 1990s and began working to ensure that students take the subject by 9th grade or earlier. A trickle of studies suggests that in practice, though, getting all students past the algebra hump has proved difficult and has failed, some of the time, to yield the kinds of payoffs educators seek. Simply sticking students in courses without preparing them ahead of time for the class does not seem to work as an intervention. It seems to work with adequately prepared students, but not for the most challenged students. The research news has not been completely bad, however. Michigan State University researcher William H. Schmidt, in a not-yet-published study, analyzes data on 7,000 7th and 8th graders across the United States who took part in the Third International Mathematics and Science Study in 1995. He compared the performance of 8th graders with that of "feeder classes" of 7th graders from the same school to calculate how much students gained in mathematics over the course of that pivotal 8th grade school year. What Mr. Schmidt found was that the learning gains were greatest for students who moved from either a general math class or a prealgebra class into a full-blown algebra class. His findings are in keeping with a larger body of studies from the 1990s and early 2000s that suggested algebra was, for many students, the primary gateway to advanced-level mathematics and college. The problem was that too many students--particularly those who were poor or members of disadvantaged minority groups--were turned away at the gate, screened out by ability-grouping practices at their schools.
Editorial Projects in Education. 6935 Arlington Road Suite 100, Bethesda, MD 20814-5233. Tel: 800-346-1834; Tel: 301-280-3100; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Grade 7; Grade 8; Grade 9
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Arkansas; California; Illinois; Texas; United States