The algebra problem: How middle school math became a national flashpoint

From suburbs in the Northeast to major cities on the West Coast, a surprising subject is prompting ballot measures, lawsuits and bitter fights among parents: algebra.

Students have been required for decades to learn to solve for the variable x, and to find the slope of a line. Most complete the course in their first year of high school. But top-achievers are sometimes allowed to enroll earlier, typically in eighth grade.

The dual pathways inspire some of the most fiery debates over equity and academic opportunity in American education.

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