Taking 12th grade math increases chances of college enrollment, UCLA study finds
The Mathematical Sciences Building is pictured. The Los Angeles Education Research Institute at UCLA recently released a report that found that students who took math in 12th grade may have a higher chance of continuing with higher education. (Daily Bruin file photo)
A recent study from the Los Angeles Education Research Institute at UCLA found that students who take math in 12th grade have an increased likelihood of enrolling in and continuing with higher education.
LAERI conducted the report in collaboration with the LA Unified School District, the second-largest school district in the United States, which serves more than 500,000 students. Carrie Miller, the associate director of LAERI and co-author of the report, said the ongoing debate around California math requirements sparked LAUSD’s interest in the research question.
In one example, in 2019, California State University proposed revising admission requirements to include an additional quantitative reasoning course recommended for 12th graders to ensure students’ readiness in pursuing majors that require math, according to the report. Similar to CSU, UCLA also recommends an additional year of math, but it has yet to announce any changes to its math admission requirements.
“Because there was so much discussion in the state and they were launching so many 12th grade math initiatives, the district became interested in learning about the impact of students taking 12th grade math,” Miller said.
Researchers at LAERI tracked the educational journeys of nearly 27,000 11th graders into their second year of college, finding that students who took a full year of of math in 12th grade enrolled in and stayed at four-year colleges at higher rates than academically similar peers who did not take a fourth year of math, according to the report.
Leonard Wainstein, a visiting assistant statistics professor at Reed College and co-author of the report, said the findings can help inform students and parents in deciding whether to take 12th grade math.
“We just hope that people now have more information, (and) they can make a more informed decision,” said Wainstein.
Miller said the report shows it is critical that high schools provide access to meet students’ needs and that parents and counselors encourage students to take math courses in their senior year.
However, Kyo Yamashiro, an assistant professor at Loyola Marymount University and co-author of the report, said there is a difference between providing more access and encouraging students to take math versus requiring students to take an extra year of math to graduate or be eligible for college admission.
“Requiring students to take it in order to graduate … or to be college eligible is a different pathway that could have a lot of unintended consequences by adding to students’ already full schedules,” Yamashiro said. “It’s a tricky situation to push towards requirements.”
Furthermore, Yamashiro said the relationship between taking a fourth year of math and higher education could change if colleges decided on new admission policies.
“College admissions policies and practices play a really big role in whether or not students get into college,” Yamashiro said. “There’s strict guidelines, and that drives a lot of what students decide that they’re going to take in high school, whether or not it’s positioning them in some cases for getting into the college they want to.”