Information Brief 2014-10

More High School Graduates Are Taking Advanced Math and Science Courses

Richard Buddin

Percent of ACT-Tested High School Students Taking Beginning Calculus, Chemistry, or Physics by Year

YearBeginning CalculusChemistryPhysics
200635.9%86.99%54.67%
200738.8%88.08%57.06%
200835.78%86.44%53.32%
200937.68%87.4%55.17%
201038.84%88.02%56.73%
201140.31%89.33%59.35%
201242.43%90.05%61.62%
201343.02%90.05%61.68%

Note: Data come from 12,066,671 high school graduates who took the ACT® college readiness assessment from 2006 to 2013.

In recent years, education policymakers have encouraged students to take more math and science coursework as preparation for college and their careers. Between 2006 and 2013, the minimum high school graduation requirement increased by at least 1 year in math in 27 states and in science in 19 states.1

ACT data show that recent graduates are more likely to take advanced math and science coursework than were graduates from previous years. About 36% of graduates in 2006 had completed beginning calculus compared to 43% of graduates in 2013. The percent of physics courses taken by high school graduates increased by 7 points between 2006 and 2013 (55% and 62%, respectively). Most graduates were already taking high school chemistry in 2006 (87%), but chemistry participation rose to 90% of 2013 graduates.


1 Richard Buddin and Michelle Croft, Do Stricter High School Graduation Requirements Improve College Readiness?, ACT Working Paper Series 2014-1 (Iowa City, IA: ACT, 2014).


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