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Ask A REL Response

February 2017


What research has been conducted on summer interventions for pre-Algebra 1? For interventions to prepare students for pre-Algebra 1?


Following an established REL Southeast research protocol, we conducted a search for research reports as well as descriptive study articles on teacher professional development. We focused on identifying resources that specifically addressed the effects of professional development on teacher performance and student outcomes in K-12 education. The sources included ERIC and other federally funded databases and organizations, research institutions, academic research databases, and general Internet search engines (For details, please see the methods section at the end of this memo.)

We have not evaluated the quality of references and the resources provided in this response. We offer them only for your reference. Also, we searched the references in the response from the most commonly used resources of research, but they are not comprehensive and other relevant references and resources may exist.

Research References

  1. Boaler, J., & Sengupta-Irving, T. (2016). The many colors of algebra: The impact of equity focused teaching upon student learning and engagement. The Journal of Mathematical Behavior, 41, 179-190.
    From the abstract: "The number of students who leave U.S. schools mathematically underprepared has prompted widespread concern. Low achieving students, many of whom have been turned off mathematics, are often placed in low tracks and given remedial, skills-oriented work. This study examines a different approach wherein heterogeneous groups of students were given responsibility and agency and asked to engage in a range of mathematical practices collaboratively. The teaching intervention, which was introduced in the first paper, took place as part of a summer class on algebra, and it gave students the opportunity to participate with mathematics in changed ways. This paper will report evidence that the vast majority responded with increased engagement, achievement, and enjoyment. The students chose collaboration and agency as critical to their improved relationships with mathematics."
  2. Clark, T. F., Arens, S. A., & Stewart, J. (2015). Efficacy study of a pre-algebra supplemental program in rural Mississippi: Preliminary findings. Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness.
    From the abstract: "Mastering mathematics is important for all students, not only because such success increases college and career options and prospects for future income, but also because mathematics literacy helps citizens and policy leaders to make sound judgments (NMAP, 2008). Research suggests that the rural achievement gap can be addressed with modifiable school-based strategies that increase students' opportunity to learn. Therefore, even though rural students lag behind in mathematics, it is likely that their achievement can be increased by providing additional resources. Given this assumption, the authors sought to understand whether a low-cost supplemental program could result in increases in student learning. "Every Day Counts Algebra Readiness" ("EDC Algebra Readiness") is a resource developed to improve the mathematics proficiency of middle school students and help prepare them for success in high school algebra. The program is a supplemental curriculum for use in the first 10-15 minutes of class, focusing on the most important pre-algebra concepts. This experimental efficacy study examines the impact of "EDC Algebra Readiness" on the algebra readiness of 7th grade students in rural schools in Mississippi. The study also examines the program's impact on the Algebra I achievement of these students, as measured by results on the state's end-of-course test. Table 1 is appended."
  3. Snipes, J., Huang, C.-W., Jaquet, K., & Finkelstein, N. (2015). The effects of the Elevate Math summer program on math achievement and algebra readiness (REL 2015-096). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Regional Educational Laboratory West.
    From the abstract: "The Effects of the Elevate Math summer program on math achievement and algebra readiness: This randomized trial examined the effects of the Elevate Math summer program on math achievement and algebra readiness, as well as math interest and self-efficacy, among rising 8th grade students in California's Silicon Valley. The Elevate Math summer math program targets students who score in the range between "high basic" and "low proficient" on state math tests. It consists of 19 days of mathematics instruction, consisting of three hours per day in traditional classroom instruction and one hour per day using Khan Academy (a free online learning system). During summer 2014, students were randomly assigned to a treatment group that received access to the program at the beginning of the summer or to a control group that received access to the program later in the summer. End-of-program test scores and survey responses of students in the treatment group were compared with those of students in the control group prior to their exposure to the program. Treatment group students scored significantly higher than the control group (4 points or 0.7 standard deviation) on a test of algebra readiness. They were also significantly more likely (29 percent versus 12 percent) to reach achievement thresholds associated with success in algebra I. However, treatment and control groups did not show significant differences in terms of math interest or self-efficacy. The results show that the Elevate Math summer program can significantly improve student math achievement and algebra readiness; however, 70 percent of program participants were still not ready for algebra I content. This suggests that summer math programs such as Elevate Math's may be important tools for improving math achievement among rising eighth grade students, but most targeted students will need additional support in order to ensure success in algebra. The following are appended: (1) Data, outcomes, and methodology; and (2) Sensitivity analyses."
  4. What Works Clearinghouse. (2009). I CAN Learn pre-algebra and algebra (Intervention Report). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences.
    From the abstract: "The I CAN Learn[R] Education System is an interactive, self-paced, mastery-based software system that includes the I CAN Learn[R] Fundamentals of Math (5th-6th grade math) curriculum, the I CAN Learn[R] Pre-Algebra curriculum, and the I CAN Learn[R] Algebra curriculum. College algebra credit is also available to students in participating schools through the 121 lesson CLEP program, an open enrollment dual-credit program for middle and high school students. Studies included in this What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) review assess the effectiveness of the Pre-Algebra and Algebra components of the I CAN Learn[R] Education System. The WWC reviewed 27 studies on I CAN Learn[R] Pre-Algebra and Algebra. One of these studies meets WWC evidence standards; four studies meet WWC evidence standards with reservations; the remaining 22 studies do not meet either WWC evidence standards or eligibility screens. Based on the five studies, the WWC found positive effects in math achievement. The conclusions presented in this report may change as new research emerges. Six appendixes are included: (1) Study Characteristics; (2) Outcome Measures; (3) Summary of Study Findings; (4) Summary of Subgroup Findings; (5) Ratings; and (6) Extent of Evidence. (Contains 9 footnotes.)"


Keywords and Search Strings
The following keywords and search strings were used to search the reference databases and other sources:

  • Pre-Algebra
  • Summer intervention
  • Algebra readiness

Databases and Resources
We searched ERIC for relevant resources. ERIC is a free online library of over 1.6 million citations of education research sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences. Additionally, we searched Google Scholar and PsychInfo.

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

When we were searching and reviewing resources, we considered the following criteria:

  • Date of the publication: References and resources published for last 15 years, from 2001 to present, were include in the search and review.
  • Search Priorities of Reference Sources: Search priority is given to study reports, briefs, and other documents that are published and/or reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations, academic databases, including ERIC, EBSCO databases, JSTOR database, PsychInfo, PsychArticle, and Google Scholar.
  • Methodology: Following methodological priorities/considerations were given in the review and selection of the references: (a) study types - randomized control trials,, quasi experiments, surveys, descriptive data analyses, literature reviews, policy briefs, etc., generally in this order (b) target population, samples (representativeness of the target population, sample size, volunteered or randomly selected, etc.), study duration, etc. (c) limitations, generalizability of the findings and conclusions, etc.

This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by educational stakeholders in the Southeast Region (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, and South Carolina), which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory Southeast at Florida State University. This memorandum was prepared by REL Southeast under a contract with the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences (IES), Contract ED-IES-17-C-0011, administered by Florida State University. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.