Eighth-Grade Math Proficiency Factors

Learn4Life’s networks rely on research-based factors to find successful practices across our region. With guidance from the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics’ six principles for school mathematics, L4L identified twelve factors that affect proficiency in eighth grade mathematics. Through factor analysis activities, the network chose to focus on the first three–Teacher Effectiveness, School Culture, and Interventions–in order to identify bright spots.

  1. Teacher Effectiveness

Teacher effectiveness—including teacher content knowledge, teaching conceptually rather than just procedurally, and instructional strategies—significantly impacts student outcomes.

  1. School Culture

A school’s safety, discipline policies, extra-curricular opportunities, and academic priorities affect math outcomes.

  1. Interventions for Struggling Learners

Eighth grade students who are lacking basic skills such as number sense, or cognitive skills, such as working memory, require early, targeted, and intensive math interventions in order to be successful on grade-level tests.

  1. Racial Expectations

Our local data aligns with national findings—that achievement gaps persist between racial groups, in part due to teacher, school district, and societal expectations. Additionally, attending a racially segregated school is correlated with lower achievement levels for minority students.

  1. Academic Preparation

Math skills build upon prior learned skills. Concepts tested in eighth grade have foundations in earlier grades, so that success is dependent upon a chain of teachers and curricula.

  1. Access to Rigorous Courses

Students need access to rigorous math courses throughout middle school, including algebra I in 8th grade.

  1. Language and Literacy Skills

Students’ literacy levels and English-language learner status affects their ability to score well on math exams.

  1. Relevant Curriculum

Application-based, integrated math curriculum raises proficiency levels.

  1. Math Anxiety

Students’ self-conceptions about their ability to learn math, as co-constructed with teachers and parents, affects their achievement.

  1. Gender Expectations

Teachers’ and parents’ expectations for boys’ and girls’ math performance affects outcomes.

  1. Access to Appropriate Technology

When implemented according to research, technology such as supplemental online learning programs can raise student math achievement.

  1. Use of Assessment Data

Formative assessments that are aligned to year-end tests provide data that should inform instructional adjustments in order to increase proficiency.