Most middle schools offer __eighth-grade algebra__ to high achievers, according to a new RAND survey, reports Kalyn Belsha on Chalkbeat. Only 20 percent of principals say any student can take algebra in eighth grade.

"Algebra is often considered a gateway class," she writes. "Eighth graders who take the course can more easily reach calculus by 12th grade — which can set students up for challenging math classes in college and career paths in science and engineering fields."

California, which once made eighth-grade algebra the norm, has adopted new math guidelines calling for schools to delay algebra until ninth grade to avoid tracking.

More than 40 percent of elementary teachers group students based on their math level, principals reported. Nearly 70 percent of middle schools place students in "honors" or basic math classes.

Many schools offer math tutoring or other supports, said Julia Kaufman, a senior policy researcher at RAND, and the lead author of the report. However, most middle-school principals say that few struggling students participate in tutoring or summer math programs. If tutoring is mostly offered to kids and parents who volunteer, she said, “then the tutoring is not going to reach the kids who need it the most.”

There is no reason to have taken calculus to learn applied statistics and data science. And statistics is needed to analyze experiments and demonstrations that are done in high school.

While judging high school science fairs, it is not uncommon for 10th graders to be discussing P-values and statistical tests.

My daughter took Chemistry (high school level) at the local community college over the summer. Most of the students were rising 9th graders from Asian immigrant families who were getting intro science classes out of the way during the summer, so they could take AP Chem, AP Bio and AP Physics in high school. They already were on track for AP Calculus.

In addition to increasing use of a phonics check in schools, there should be a math-fact check somewhere along the line. Or multiple ones: addition and subtraction, multiplication & division, long division, fractions. If you can't get through all of those by the end of 5th or 6th grade, you won't be ready for advanced math.

Ann in L.A.

The students on track for MIT are taking algebra in 7th grade and taking statistics in 9th grade. It helps with completing the hard math classes, allows tigers moms to have their children take more AP classes, and prepares students to tackle science fairs and talent competitions.

However, for students who take algebra in 9th grade, they can still get on the STEM pathway in college by just taking Calculus I instead of trying to jump and take Calculus II in their first semester.