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A Leak in the STEM Pipeline: Taking Algebra Early

Updated: Jul 24, 2022



A Leak in the STEM Pipeline: Taking Algebra Early NOV 2018 | U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION


Algebra is the foundation for students' future success in science, technology, engineering, and math. Do they have the opportunity to take it early? Using national data, we look at students' access to and enrollment in Algebra I in the 8th grade. In today’s era of technological innovation, students need to gain knowledge and skills in order to solve difficult problems, gather and evaluate evidence, make sense of information they study, and be prepared for the careers and challenges of the 21st century and beyond. Students can develop and strengthen these skills by studying science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects, including computer science (CS). [1] STEM education is embedded in the U.S. Department of Education’s (the Department) mission. Learn more about the focus on STEM education.

Mathematics has been called the “language” of STEM because students need a strong mathematics foundation to succeed in STEM fields and to make sense of STEM-related topics in their daily lives. [2] This story focuses on Algebra I within K-12 education because it is seen as a gatekeeper course: Students normally need to complete Algebra I in order to take higher level mathematics and science courses.[3] Taking the course earlier in their academic careers allows students sufficient time to take the more advanced courses that are often prerequisites for postsecondary STEM majors. However, we see in this data story that only 24 percent of all 8th graders are enrolled in Algebra I. See what the research says about why this matters.

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