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Points of Interest

Hurdles Along the Math Pathway

This Points of Interest shows that at many institutions, math pathways courses have college-level prerequisites, creating a barrier to completing math requirements.
August 19, 2020
Susan Bickerstaff
Tags: Alignment, 5. Align courses with programs of study., Differential Capacity of Institutions

In six states that were embarking on a project to implement math pathways at scale, public institutions were surveyed on their math course offerings. The overwhelming majority of two- and four-year institutions were already offering multiple college-level mathematics courses that could align to the mathematics pathways model, including quantitative reasoning, college algebra, and introductory statistics. However, the figure above shows that in many cases, these courses had a college-level prerequisite, which presents a barrier to student progression through mathematics requirements.

Approximately half of institutions required students to take a credit-bearing college-level math course prior to enrolling in introductory statistics; most commonly that prerequisite course was college algebra. Between one-fifth and one-third of institutions (depending on the sector) reported a college-level prerequisite to college algebra, most commonly intermediate algebra. This suggests that reformers working to implement mathematics pathways must attend not only to the range of college-level mathematics courses offered and their integration to programs of study, but also to opportunities to streamline requirements to create accelerated pathways to program-relevant credit-bearing mathematics courses. This Points of Interest shows that at many institutions, math pathways courses have college-level prerequisites, creating a barrier to completing math requirements.