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Understanding the Relationship Between Mathematics and Science Coursework Patterns


by Xin Ma — 2009

Background/Context: There has been little research on the relationship between mathematics and science coursework in secondary school.

Purpose of Study: The present analysis explored the patterns of science course-taking in relation to the patterns of mathematics course-taking among high school graduates.

Research Design: Using data from the 2000 High School Transcript Study (N = 20,368), secondary analysis was performed in the form of multilevel models with students nested within schools to document a strong relationship between mathematics and science coursework patterns.

Findings/Results: Results highlighted that (1) taking more courses in advanced mathematics was related to taking more courses in advanced science (this relationship remained strong even after adjustment for student-level and school-level variables); (2) the more courses that students took in advanced mathematics, the more likely it was that student and school characteristics would join in to select students into taking more courses in advanced science; (3) many high school graduates complied with graduation requirements by taking limited nonadvanced mathematics and science coursework during high school; and (4) mathematics coursework was necessary but insufficient to promote advanced science coursework.

Conclusions/Recommendations: State governments are encouraged to prescribe not only the number but also the content of mathematics and science courses required for high school graduation. School personnel such as career counselors are encouraged to help promote better coursework of students in mathematics and science.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 111 Number 9, 2009, p. 2101-2126
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 15382, Date Accessed: 10/31/2014 2:35:58 PM

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About the Author
  • Xin Ma
    University of Kentucky
    E-mail Author
    XIN MA is professor of mathematics education at the University of Kentucky. He is a fellow of the National Academy of Education and a recipient of the Early Career Contribution Award from the American Educational Research Association. His main research interests include mathematics education, school effectiveness, policy analysis, and quantitative methods. Recently, he developed the concept of added growth of mathematics coursework to mathematics achievement, which was published in the Journal for Research in Mathematics Education in the summer of 2007.
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