Online Algebra Can Broaden Access to Grade 8 Students

Student using calculator

The Institute of Education Sciences has published the Regional Educational Laboratory Northeast and Islands multiyear study “Access to Algebra I: The Effects of Online Mathematics for Grade 8 Students,” which found that offering an online Algebra I course to algebra-ready grade 8 students who had no access to formal Algebra I positively affects achievement and high school course-taking patterns.

In 2007, EDC researchers and their partners at American Institutes for Research set out to learn what would happen if algebra-ready grade 8 students without access to Algebra I were offered it through an online course. Would it affect students’ math achievement and the kinds of courses they take in high school? Algebra-ready grade 8 students in half of 68 mostly rural Maine and Vermont middle schools took the online course on laptops or a computer at the back of their regular math class. Those students scored higher on a year-end algebra assessment than their algebra-ready peers in the control schools and were twice as likely to take an advanced math course sequence in ninth and tenth grades.

The results of the randomized controlled trial respond to increasing public interest in deploying online courses for K–12 students and may inform the decisions of education policymakers across the country.

Last Updated: December 2011