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Advanced mathematics and science courses

Question:
What are the recent trends in advanced mathematics and science coursetaking among U.S. high school students?

Response:
The percentages of high school graduates who had completed mathematics courses in algebra I, geometry, algebra II/trigonometry, analysis/precalculus, statistics/ probability, and calculus increased between 1990 and 2009. For example, the percentage of graduates who had completed calculus increased from 7 percent to 16 percent between 1990 and 2009. Similarly, the percentage of graduates who had completed algebra II/trigonometry increased from 54 percent to 76 percent.

The percentages of high school graduates who had taken science courses in chemistry and physics also increased between 1990 and 2009. The percentage of graduates who had taken chemistry increased from 49 to 70 percent, and the percentage of graduates who had completed physics courses increased from 21 to 36 percent. The percentage of graduates who earned at least one credit in biology, chemistry, and physics increased from 19 percent in 1990 to 30 percent in 2009.



Percentage of high school graduates who completed selected mathematics and science courses in high school: 1990 and 2009

The data in this figure is described in the surrounding text.

1Percentages are for students who earned at least one Carnegie credit.

2 Percentages are for students who earned at least one-half of a Carnegie credit.

3 Percentages are for students who earned at least one Carnegie credit each in biology and chemistry.

4 Percentages are for students who earned at least one Carnegie credit each in biology, chemistry, and physics.

NOTE: For a transcript to be included in the analyses, the graduate had to receive either a standard or honors diploma.


In 2009, higher average scale scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) 12th-grade mathematics assessment were associated with higher levels of high school mathematics coursetaking. For example, graduates who had taken only algebra I or below had an average scale score of 114 (on a scale of 0-300), whereas graduates who had taken calculus had an average scale score of 193. In addition, among those students who had completed specific mathematics courses, there were differences across demographic subgroups. For graduates who had taken calculus, the average scale score was higher for males than for females (197 vs. 190). Average scale scores were also higher for students who had taken calculus who were Asian/Pacific Islander (203) and White (194) than for their Hispanic (179) and Black (170) peers. Among students who had taken calculus, the average scale score for those who had attended low-poverty schools (schools in which 0 to 25 percent of students receive, or are eligible to receive, free or reduced-price lunch under the National School Lunch Program) was 199, compared with a score of 163 for their peers at high-poverty schools (schools in which 75 to 100 percent of students receive, or are eligible to receive, free or reduced-price lunch).

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2013). The Condition of Education 2013 (NCES 2013-037), High School Coursetaking.

Related Tables and Figures:  (Listed by Release Date)

Other Resources:  (Listed by Release Date)


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National Center for Education Statistics - http://nces.ed.gov
U.S. Department of Education