When Should Teaching Algebra Begin?

When Should Teaching Algebra Begin?

As districts rethink decisions to delay algebra until 9th grade, some stakeholders say doing so allows more time to master core math concepts, according to K-12 Dive.

In San Francisco, students will once again be able to take Algebra I in 8th grade beginning in fall 2024. The district’s initial decision in 2014 to hold the course until 9th grade intended to address racial gaps, but researchers at Stanford found those gaps remained after the change. Cambridge Public Schools (Mass.) made its 2017 decision for similar reasons but plans to reintroduce Algebra I to 8th grade math over the next few years, GBH News reports.

Kevin Dykema, president of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, wants to make sure students have time to strengthen their core math skills before moving forward in the subject. He suggests keeping algebra at the high school level provides more opportunity for all students. More time allocated to mathematical basics may help decrease student struggling, he says.

“Too often, when we put algebra in the 8th grade, we skip over content in the 6th and 7th grade,” Dykema said. “Students start to gloss over key concepts. For many, that leads to frustration later, because they didn’t have the foundational concepts that many teachers covered for their peers.”

Dykema is focused on grounding students in the subject — and even seeding an interest in mathematics. By rushing, he said, students may still earn the credit — but they could also develop an eventual distaste for mathematics because they never had the chance to steep themselves in the work and discover how math can apply to their everyday lives.

“We need to make sure students are successful no matter when they’re taking this class for algebra,” Dykema said. “It’s about increasing opportunities for all students and moving math understanding rather than using it for rising through to the next course.”

K-12 Dive

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