What prepares students for algebra

6352465915_319953b7a9A new four-year study in Mississippi funded by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) will look at what works to get middle-schoolers ready for algebra in 8th grade.

Mississippi requires students to pass Algebra I to graduate, but it has the largest achievement gap in the nation between rural and non-rural eighth graders, according to Denver-based Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning , a private education research and development corporation that has partnered with the University of Southern Mississippi to conduct the $1.9 million study.

The study will look at the effect of a supplemental program, Every Day Counts: Algebra Readiness, to prepare 7th graders for algebra. About 40 rural schools, primarily in southern Mississippi, will participate. In those schools, 60 teachers and their roughly 2,500 7th grade students will be included in the study, which began in March. Teachers will receive professional development from the program’s author, Andy Clark, as well as ongoing support from McREL’s mathematics content specialists.The schools in the sample include a mix of configurations, including 6-8, K-8, 7-12, and K-12 schools.

Not only will the study show whether this particular program helped students in the study, but it also will draw conclusions about “what precisely are the active ingredients that lead to greater algebra readiness,” said Andrea Beesley, McREL senior director and principal investigator on the study. The longitudinal data collected will show mathematics educators and other researchers what kind of pre-algebra instruction helps students succeed.

The EDC Algebra Readiness program is a widely used supplemental mathematics program that has not yet been rigorously evaluated, according to the IES. The program consists of an interactive bulletin board and provides teachers with visual models to assist in conducting whole-class activities for 10-15 minutes per day. Teachers use the visual models to help students improve their conceptual thinking about mathematics and to acquire critical algebra concepts and skills.

IES grant “Efficacy Study of a Pre-Algebra Supplemental Program in Rural Mississippi Schools”

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