# Fractions Are the Key to Success in Algebra

Aug 30, 2021 | Paramus

This is an easy to read extract by a high school student on the importance of understanding Fractions. It's based on research by Carnegie Mellon University and corroborated over several years by leading universities.

by Sara Jovanovskya

September 14, 2017

Fractions and division are widely used within all areas of mathematics, which means that you are likely to face them at some point in the coming academic year. Whether it’s your first time trying to understand fractions, or you are in a college class and still have trouble with them, it is never too late (or too soon, as one study demonstrates) to learn and revisit the fundamental concepts of mathematics that are the foundation to most complex theories and operations.

## Fractions Are a Long-Term Predictor of Achievement

Understanding fractions has been shown to be a good predictor of long-term success in algebra and mathematics. A 2012 study led by Robert S. Siegler from the Department of Psychology at Carnegie Mellon University examined long-term predictors of high school students’ knowledge of algebra and overall mathematics achievement. Using data from the United States and the United Kingdom, the study found that elementary school students’ knowledge of fractions and division predicted their knowledge of algebra and overall mathematics achievement in high school. The same results were achieved even when considering other possible factors that could influence mathematical competence, like other mathematical knowledge, general intellectual ability, working memory and family income and education.

The study reasoned that, among other possible explanations, being able to do whole-number division is a unique predictor of future success in mathematics because it is required to solve and understand many algebra problems. What’s more, the differences in mathematical competence between students appear early on and prove to be stable over time, with those who start behind generally staying behind and vice versa. This continuity of skill is more prominent in mathematics than it is in other areas, such as reading.

Far from using this a reason to dissuade those who do fall behind from continuing to study mathematics, the study points out that the information can contribute to improving mathematics education greatly, both in and outside of the classroom, as both parents and teachers understand the importance of fractions and division and identify them as points of special interest. As Sigler himself says: “We need to improve instruction in long division and fractions, which will require helping teachers to gain a deeper understanding of the concepts that underlie these mathematical operations. At present, many teachers lack this understanding. Because mastery of fractions, ratios and proportions is necessary in a high percentage of contemporary occupations, we need to start making these improvements now.”