Study finds 8th grade students struggling with algebra

February 18, 2011 8:26:22 PM PST
More and more 8th graders in California are being pushed to study Algebra 1 instead of waiting until high school. But one-third of those who took the Algebra 1 test in 8th grade scored at "below basic" or "far below basic" level, according to an 18-month study by EdSource, a non-profit that studies education issues.

"So what this report is saying is really not that kids shouldn't be taking Algebra in the 8th grade, but that really they need more preparation," California Watch reporter Louis Freedberg said. Freedberg is with ABC7's media partner California Watch, a non-profit project of the Center for Investigative Journalism.

For example, before tackling algebra, they should have mastered fractions and percentages.

"Those kids should not be pushed into the classes without more preparation or support while they are taking their 8th math class, but just to throw them into the deep end is setting them up for failure," Freedberg said.

Presidio Middle School is part of a pilot program using iPads and algebra applications designed by a Boston publishing company.

Three of Jeannetta Mitchell's classes study algebra using a text book, but her fourth class uses the iPads.

"Along with this iPad is not just the text book that is on there, there are videos there is a graphic calculator on it, there are math games on it," Mitchell said.

At the end of the year, they will see if the students with the iPads learned more algebra.

From the kids' perspective, traditional textbooks can be heavy and intimidating, where as the iPad is light and easy to read.

"When they are handed the iPad, which everyone has heard about, they are only looking at the page that they are dealing with they aren't looking at the thousand pages, so emotionally they think I can learn this," Mitchell said.

A few schools in Fresno, Riverside and Long Beach are also taking part in the program.

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