Exposing struggling students to algebra in middle school may not improve their math test scores and may, in fact, lead to lower grade-point averages and reduced chances of taking and passing more advanced math courses in high school, according to two new studies from California and North Carolina show.
“It is possible for children in 8th grade or even younger to take algebra and do well in algebra, but not all students, and the defining characteristic seems to be prior knowledge,” researcher Loveless said in an interview. “If a student is well prepared, algebra is a good thing regardless of the student’s age,” he said, “but if a student is not prepared, it can be a bad thing, regardless of the student’s age. Developmental readiness shouldn’t mean a developmental mandate.”
Taylor, D., Kurlaender, M., & Rose, H. (2012). Access to Algebra I: The Effects of Online Mathematics for Grade 8 Students. Presentation at the American Educational Research Association conference, Vancouver, April.
Clotfelter, Ca., Ladd, H., & Vigdor, J. (2012). The aftermath of accelerating algebra. Duke University.