Algebra for All: Implementing California’s New 8th Grade Algebra Requirement

Reading List: Algebra in the US – History and Background

** Loveless, T. (2008, September). The misplaced math student: Lost in eighth-grade algebra (Special Release: The 2008 Brown Center Report on American Education). Washington, DC: Brown Center on Education Policy at Brookings. Available at


In this policy report, Loveless raises concerns about the nationwide surge in eighth-grade algebra enrollment. Citing NAEP data, the author demonstrates that enrollment in advanced eighth-grade mathematics courses has increased substantially between 2000 and 2005 among low-achieving students and contends that these students are unlikely to benefit from a course for which they are sorely underprepared. Loveless recommends: 1) focus on students’ learning of algebra rather than required course-taking, 2) teach and assess in elementary school those skills necessary to prepare for algebra instruction, 3) intervene early with students who are struggling in mathematics, and 4) conduct research to determine the benefits of eighth-grade algebra enrollment.


Kilpatrick, J., & Izsak, A. (2008). A history of algebra in the school curriculum. In Greens, C.E., & Rubenstein, R. (Eds.),Algebra and algebraic thinking in school mathematics (pp. 3-18). Reston, VA: The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, Inc. Available for purchase at


In this paper, the authors explore the history of algebra in the mathematics curriculum and the varying roles this branch of mathematics has played with respect to content, purposes, and student enrollment. The authors illustrate how algebra, under the standards movement, passed from being an elective to an essential course. They conclude by highlighting three issues related to the teaching and learning of algebra: teacher knowledge and practice, insufficient attention to the “role that reasoning about fractional quantities” plays in learning algebraic equations, and the importance of symbol manipulation.


Chazan, D. (2008). The shifting landscape of school algebra in the United States. In Greens, C.E., & Rubenstein, R. (Eds.), Algebra and algebraic thinking in school mathematics (pp. 19-33). Reston, VA: The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, Inc. Available for purchase at


This paper describes changes in the role of algebra in the U.S. educational system, including changes in the responsibilities of mathematics teachers in middle school and parallel changes in the curriculum. The article identifies three sets of challenges and opportunities that are a consequence of the changes, including: (a) raising expectations to meet rising standards, (b) preparation for college and the world of work, and (c) whether to shift toward a vision of mathematics education based an integrated study model and how to best communicate that vision to the public.


**This document is considered a priority reading.