Jennifer Medina:

*Hunching over her notebook at Borough of Manhattan Community College, Sharasha Croslen struggled to figure out what to do with the algebra problem in front of her: x2 + 2x – 8 = 0.*

It was a question every ninth grader is expected to be able to answer. (For those who have erased the ninth grade from memory, the answer is at the end of the article.) But even though Ms. Croslen managed to complete three years of math and graduate from high school, she did not know how to solve for x.

“It’s incredibly frustrating,” she said during a break from her remedial math course, where she has spent the last several weeks reviewing arithmetic and algebra. “I know this is stuff I should know, but either I didn’t learn it or I forgot it all already.”