Information Brief 2014-4
ACT National Curriculum Survey®: College Mathematics Instructors’ Ratings of Topics as Prerequisites for Their Courses
Ranking of the 20 Topics Rated Most Important as Prerequisites by Instructors of Credit-Bearing First-Year College Mathematics Courses
|Rank||Topic||Typically taught in|
|1||Evaluate algebraic expressions||Algebra I|
|2||Perform addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division on signed rational numbers||grade 7 or earlier|
|3||Solve linear equations in one variable||Algebra I|
|4||Solve multistep arithmetic problems||grade 7 or earlier|
|5||Locate points on the number line||grade 7 or earlier|
|6||Perform operations (add, subtract, multiply) on linear expressions||Algebra I|
|7||Find the slope of a line||Algebra I|
|8||Find equivalent fractions||grade 7 or earlier|
|9||Find and use multiples and factors||grade 7 or earlier|
|10||Perform operations (add, subtract, multiply) on polynomials||Algebra I|
|11||Locate points in the coordinate plane||grade 7 or earlier|
|12||Write expressions, equations, or inequalities to represent mathematical and real-world settings||Algebra I|
|13||Evaluate functions at a given value of x||Algebra I|
|14||Graph linear equations in two variables||Algebra I|
|15||Order rational numbers||grade 7 or earlier|
|16||Determine the absolute value of rational numbers||grade 7 or earlier|
|17||Manipulate equations and inequalities to highlight a specific unknown||Algebra I|
|18||Manipulate expressions containing rational exponents||Algebra II|
|19||Solve linear inequalities in one variable||Algebra I|
|20||Solve problems using ratios and proportions||grade 7 or earlier|
Note: These results are described in terms of a traditional math course sequence, but they apply equally well to an integrated math sequence.
The table shows the 20 topics rated most important as prerequisites by instructors of credit-bearing first-year college mathematics courses in the 2012 ACT National Curriculum Survey.1 Nine—or 45%—of the topics are typically covered in grade 7 or earlier, while 10 are topics from Algebra I. The one remaining topic is typically taught in Algebra II.
This finding suggests that an important contributor to students’ college and career readiness is the ability of teachers throughout K–12 to keep strengthening many of the topics students learn in earlier grades as well as to develop connections, deepen understanding, or increase fluency. It’s said that students don’t learn the skills from one mathematics course until they take the next. It’s not enough for students to stay at the same level.
1 ACT, Inc., ACT National Curriculum Survey 2012: Mathematics (Iowa City, IA: Author, 2013). http://www.act.org/research/policymakers/pdf/NCS-Mathematics.pdf.
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