NEPC Review: The Misplaced Math Student: Lost in Eighth-Grade Algebra

Review of The Misplaced Math Student: Lost in Eighth-Grade Algebra: The Brookings Institution report questions the efficacy of increasing the number of students who take algebra in eighth grade. Although this policy has resulted in more equitable access to advanced math study, the report argues that a subgroup of students enrolled lack the basic mathematical skills needed to succeed. The report further argues that the presence of lower achievers may weaken the instructional opportunities of highly proficient students. The report recommends that algebra placement be based on student readiness, not grade level. Although the report presents a sound case for better mathematical preparation for all students, the suggested remedy—-delaying algebra for most until “readiness” is achieved and allowing fewer students to take algebra in eighth grade—-is a flawed solution to address the problem of low achievement. A brief overview of the experience with eighth-grade algebra for all in the district where the reviewer works yields findings consistent with the report’s call for better math preparation but inconsistent with its call for fewer to take algebra in eighth grade.

Suggested Citation: Burris, Carol C. (2008). Review of “The Misplaced Math Student: Lost in Eighth-Grade Algebra.” Boulder and Tempe: Education and the Public Interest Center & Education Policy Research Unit. Retrieved [date] from http://epicpolicy.org/thinktank/review-misplaced-math-student

Document Reviewed:

The Misplaced Math Student: Lost in Eighth-Grade Algebra

Tom Loveless
Brookings Institution