Collaborative Research: The Impact of Early Algebra on Students' Algebra-Readiness

The teaching and learning of algebra continues to be a focus of research and reform initiatives alike, especially given the role algebra plays as a gatekeeper to both further mathematics study and future employment opportunities. It is now widely accepted that students should experience a long-term, sustained algebra education beginning in the elementary grades. Yet, a critical unanswered question concerns the impact that a comprehensive, longitudinal early algebra experience would have on elementary students’ algebra understanding and their algebra readiness in middle school. The goal of this project was to use the instructional sequence and grade-level assessments developed in the PIs’ previous work to examine the effectiveness of early algebra. We conducted a longitudinal study to measure the impact of our comprehensive, sustained Grades 3-5 early algebra intervention on students' algebra understanding in elementary grades and their algebra readiness in middle school. The project used a quasi-experimental design to compare the performance of students who received our early algebra intervention to students who receive more traditional elementary grades instruction. We additionally conducted yearly interviews with a small subset of students to gain further insight into their algebraic thinking.


National Science Foundation Discovery Research K–12 Program

Project Website


Completed on September 30, 2017