Chances are you use math a lot more than you think you do. Shopping, cooking, driving, and managing time and money all require a basic knowledge of numbers and math.

And critical thinking? Being able to think critically is essential to everyday living and it’s one of the most sought after skills by employers. And, believe it or not, it’s a skill that is strengthened by learning math.

Math best prepares and develops a child’s mind to accept, analyze and execute complex ideas. Success in math in 8th grade is a key milestone for students.

Math skills learned in elementary and middle school prepare them for more rigorous high school math and for success after school. Kids with strong math skills typically earn more money and are more likely to graduate from high school and college.

Today, only a small fraction of Arizona’s eighth graders have the math skills they need to be considered on track, and the gap is even more significant among minority and at-risk populations.

However, there is promising news. Data from the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) show Arizona’s results ticked up slightly while many other states saw scores decline. NAEP reading and math tests are administered every other year and results focus on trends in data over time, as opposed to a snapshot from any one year. Compared to 2013 scores, Arizona students improved in 8th grade math. A particular point of good news is that Arizona has essentially closed the difference with the rest of the country in 8th grade math, with only one point separating our students from the national average.

BREAKING DOWN THE EIGHTH GRADE MATH DATA

When the statewide results of the 2016 AzMERIT exam were published last fall, the eighth-grade math test pass rate was announced at 26 percent. Though this figure is true for the students who took the general eighth-grade math exam, it did not represent all eighth-grade students in Arizona, because many students take advanced math classes and therefore take a different exam.

In the chart below, the percentage of eighth graders who took a high school “end of course” exam, such as Algebra I, Geometry, or Algebra II instead of the general eighth-grade math test are reported.

PERCENTAGE OF EIGHTH GRADE STUDENTS TESTED BY TYPE OF MATH TEST

These data indicate that in 2016, almost one out of every five eighth grade students took a high school end of course math exam. The impact on state reporting is significant: nearly 20 percent of eighth graders’ test results were not accounted for in the reported 26 percent pass rate. Taking all math test results into consideration, the overall math pass rate for eighth graders is actually 36 percent. This represents a 10 percentage point increase from the publicly reported eight grade results and a 2 percent increase from 2015 when all eighth-grade students were required to take the eighth-grade math exam.

 

PERCENTAGE OF EIGHTH GRADE TESTERS PROFICIENT IN MATH