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Studies Question Value of Early Algebra Lessons

Published on: 
Tue, 04/24/2012

From Education Week:

“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,” Mr. 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.”

In California, the universal-algebra policy is on hold in part because of such concerns.

“The bottom line is: It doesn’t appear that being in any [algebra] courses makes a difference in terms of the math [test],” Mr. Taylor said. “Does a universal policy really fit all kids? ... If we’re creating policies that don’t improve education for every single kid, maybe we should rethink those policies.”

The news wasn’t all bad for algebra at AERA; the American Institutes for Research’s “Back on Track” study with the University of Chicago found that introducing online and face-to-face summer algebra programs in Chicago led to a near-doubling of credit recovery for students who failed algebra in their freshman year, said Jessica B. Heppen, an AIR principal research analyst.

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