The New SAT and Algebra: What Every Parent Needs to Know

April 9, 2014

The College Board unveiled the new SAT at the SXSWedu conference last month. Optional essay, “real world” contexts, and no more esoteric vocabulary words — the changes are many. Test takers beginning in 2016 also will see a new math section that places a high priority on algebraic thinking and logic.

The exam will focus on three area of mathematics:  Problem Solving and Data Analysis, the Heart of Algebra, and Passport to Advanced Math. The Heart of Algebra “focuses on the mastery of linear equations and systems, which helps students develop key powers of abstraction,” while Passport to Advanced Math emphasizes “familiarity with more complex equations and the manipulation they require,” according to the College Board.

Why the emphasis on problem solving and algebraic thinking? Those skillls are the most important building blocks for future success. From the College Board’s report:

Current research shows that these areas most contribute to readiness for college and career training. They’re used disproportionately in a wide range of majors and careers. The SAT will sample from additional topics in math, but keep a strong focus on these three.

Mastering the material in the Algebra I course, long considered a gateway to college, is now even more important for students. But middle school is too late to introduce this mode of thinking. Students can begin acquiring algebra skills as early as elementary school.

Researchers have identified six key indicators of algebra readiness:

  1. Integers – Students must understand how to work with positive and negative numbers.
  2. Fractions and proportional reasoning – Students must understand what a fraction is and the relationship between the two parts of a fraction.
  3. Computation – Students must master basic computation, such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, exponents, and order of operations.
  4. Understanding of equations and equality – Students must understand that both sides of an equation are equivalent and that the “=” symbol means equality.
  5. Symbolism – Students must understand that a variable represents a real quantity or object (e.g. x = the number of flowers in a flower shop).
  6. Generalization of patterns – Students must understand how to generalize mathematical patterns.

The SAT dialogue continues on April 16 when the practice tests and sample problems are released. Keep us bookmarked to hear more about how to prepare your student! You can keep track of our social media for more math updates; follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and check out our Pinterest boards.

Interested in our algebra readiness programs? Check out our individual use pages to enroll your student.


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