Universal Eighth-Grade Algebra

September 29, 2008

An article recently released by the Brookings Institution, The Misplaced Math Student: Lost in Eighth-Grade Algebra, reports trends in middle school mathematics enrollment. Over the last two decades, the United States has pushed for increased enrollment of 8th grade students in Algebra courses. This push, stemming from growing global competition, sets students on a more structured path towards enrollment in high school calculus classes. The theory set forth by these studies describe remedial and general math classes as “curricular dead-ends, leading to more courses with the same title and no real progression in mathematical content”.

The article describes 8th grade enrollment in Algebra as an argument for equity. How does this article compare with your own philosophies of Mathematics instruction in the United States? Does this push strengthen students’ mathematical understandings, or does it leave them unaware of the reasoning behind the equations?  Perhaps it does neither, or both. We would like to hear from you: teachers… students…  practitioners of mathematics; what do you think?