The Learner Tracking Study (2010-2013) investigated changes in learner performance in algebra and function. We tracked 250 learners in 9 project schools from Grade 9 to Grade 11. In October each year we administered a diagnostic algebra test to these learners. The test was based on the original Concepts in Secondary Mathematics and Science (CSMS) Study of the late 1970s and on its follow-on, the Increasing Competence and Confidence in Algebra and Multiplicative Structures (ICCAMS) Study of the early 2000s.

The CSMS algebra items are diagnostic and include items which are not directly linked to the curriculum. The test items were piloted in 2010 and were shown to be appropriate for project schools. The overall findings of the study indicated that learners demonstrated low algebraic proficiency in Grade 9 which improved gradually in Grades 10 and 11. While the trends are similar to the UK findings, there were substantially more SA learners who did not achieve minimum levels of algebraic proficiency and the range of learner errors was wider than in the UK.

Further error analyses showed a wide variety of errors even on simple algebra items. Typical errors included conjoining (e.g. ), difficulties with negatives and brackets, and inappropriate application of exponential laws and the distributive law. Although such errors dissipated in the higher grades, this happened later than expected. Further details of this study can be found below.

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