By eighth grade, proficient math students show achievement across five content areas a) number properties and operations, b) measurement, c) geometry, d) statistics/probability, and e) algebra. Eighth graders should understand rational numbers, decimals, fractions and be familiar with square roots and pi. They should be able to calculate areas and angles, convert common measures, and understand properties of geometric shapes. Students should be able to convert algebraic functions into tables and graphs, and finally, they should be able to analyze statistical claims.
Tulsa and Oklahoma fall well behind the national average in eighth-grade math. Only 23% of the region’s students scored at the proficient level or higher in 2017—equal to the state. Twelve percent of students from low-income households and 17% of students of color achieved proficiency. Just 64 African American eighth graders in the region—or 7% of the total—scored proficient or advanced.
A 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) comparison shows Oklahoma trailing the nation on the eighth-grade math assessment, 23% scoring proficient or better—9% behind the national average.
WHY IT MATTERS
Students off track in math by eighth grade only have a 3% chance of reaching the ACT College Readiness Benchmarks in mathematics by grade 12.
ACTION TOWARD CHANGE
Tulsa has a lot of work to do to ensure students are college and career ready in math. Middle school math is an important indicator of success. Students who take algebra in eighth grade stay in the math pipeline longer and have more exposure to coursework that prepares them for postsecondary science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) courses.
Students make the choice to pursue a STEM career long before entering college. Interest in STEM fields can be heightened or diminished during pivotal middle school years. Positive experiences in STEM related activities inside and outside the classroom at this age influence a student’s long-term goals. Promoting STEM interest among middle school students includes four elements.
rigorous preparation in math and science before middle school
hands-on experiences that stimulate curiosity and enhance understanding
exposure to STEM-based careers
MAKING AN IMPACT
Parents, businesses, nonprofits, and community members can help by providing unique experiences inside and outside the classroom that connect math to careers and interests.
The Tulsa Regional STEM Alliance (TRSA) is building pathways for students to careers in STEM. Their Me & My Math Mentor program reaches 14 elementary schools. More than 100 mentors work with students in a fun, game-based setting to increase foundational basic math facts and set the stage for success in middle school. Third-grade students in the program showed a 14-point average improvement compared to a national improvement average of 13 points and a four point increase over local school peers.
TRSA is also leading professional development for educators to ensure they have the skills and materials needed to advance STEM. Developed in 2016, their STEM^3 program is a professional development series with year-long support for northeastern Oklahoma pre-K through postsecondary educators.
The model capitalizes on local talent and promotes Tulsa community leadership to ensure local sustainability. Sessions include national experts such as Next Generation Science Standards author, Brett Moulding, who demonstrated 3-D curriculum through phenomenon-based lesson plan development that aligns to Oklahoma Academic Standards for science.
TRSA goals for 2018 include reaching 130,000 students and providing professional development to 1,000 educators.