May 2007, Vol. 38, Issue 3

#
Mathematics Coursework Regulates Growth in Mathematics Achievement

Xin Ma, Jesse L.M. Wilkins

Using data from the Longitudinal Study of American Youth (LSAY), we examined the extent to which students mathematics coursework regulates (influences) the rate of growth in mathematics achievement during middle and high school. Graphical analysis showed that students who started middle school with higher achievement took individual mathematics courses earlier than those with lower achievement. Immediate improvement in mathematics achievement was observed right after taking particular mathematics courses (regular mathematics, prealgebra, algebra I, trigonometry, and calculus). Statistical analysis showed that all mathematics courses added significantly to growth in mathematics achievement, although this added growth varied significantly across students. Regular mathematics courses demonstrated the least regulating power, whereas advanced mathematics courses (trigonometry, precalculus, and calculus) demonstrated the greatest regulating power. Regular mathematics, prealgebra, algebra I, geometry, and trigonometry were important to growth in mathematics achievement even after adjusting for more advanced courses taken later in the sequence of students' mathematics coursework.