Turning to online courses to expand access: a rigorous study of the impact of online Algebra I for eighth graders. (English)

Middleton, James A. (ed.) et al., Large-scale studies in mathematics education. Cham: Springer (ISBN 978-3-319-07715-4/hbk; 978-3-319-07716-1/ebook). Research in Mathematics Education, 95-132 (2015).

Summary: Research suggests that students who take and successfully complete Algebra I in middle school go on to have greater success in mathematics than students who do not take the course until high school. However, not all middle schools offer Algebra I to eighth graders and the opportunity to take Algebra I in middle school is particularly limited in rural schools. This chapter describes a study that examined the effects of using an online course to broaden eighth-graders’ access to Algebra I. The study was conducted in nearly 70 schools, across two northeastern states, which did not typically offer a formal Algebra I course. In schools randomly assigned to the treatment condition, the online course was offered to eighth graders who were considered academically ready for Algebra I. In control schools, eighth graders considered “algebra-ready" took the typical mathematics course available to them. The study examined whether using an online course to broaden access to Algebra I in eighth grade could improve students’ knowledge of algebra in the short term, open doors to more advanced course sequences in the longer term, or both. Findings showed that students who took online Algebra I had greater algebraic knowledge at the end of the eighth grade and were more likely to take an advanced mathematics course sequence in high school than their counterparts in control schools. The chapter also describes the mathematics content taught in treatment and control schools, as well as the implementation of the online course in treatment schools.