Core Principle 5


Align courses with programs of study.

Every student is provided access to multiple pathways, such as statistics and data science, that integrate rigorous math appropriate to different disciplines and to the well-paying careers of today and tomorrow.


There is growing consensus among professional associations of mathematicians that intermediate algebra and college algebra should not be the default requirement for programs that do not depend on their content. Students pursuing a program that does not require calculus would be better served by taking a rigorous mathematics course aligned with their intended major. High-quality gateway courses in statistics or mathematical modeling, rather than college algebra, may be more appropriate for the large percentage of students who are not in a STEM program. To determine the appropriate math courses for a given program of study, it is important to consider the competencies needed for successful employment in a field of study, as well as, to map backward from the competencies needed to perform well in a major’s advanced courses.

Significant focus should also be placed on ensuring that faculty receive the necessary professional development to teach alternative math courses. Currently, most math faculty only receive training in calculus-based pathways; with no prior training in statistics, many are reluctant to teach these courses. Faculty within and across two-year and four-year institutions must also be supported in outlining program-level outcomes and in aligning math courses with broad fields of study or meta majors. Ensuring the integration of pathways with gateway courses is crucial. In addition to the intentional and ongoing support of faculty, advisors also require professional development and training to provide effective, tailored advising that results in students taking the right math coursework for their educational and career goals.

Finally, the most effective institutions know that math pathways must not simply be created and set in stone, lest they become barriers to student success in the future. Care should be taken to ensure that pathways are continually modernized and aligned to provide real access to high-remuneration careers in an evolving world of work.

Next Principle


Advancing Mathematics Pathways for Student Success. “About Mathematics Pathways.”

Boatman, A. (2019). Differential impacts of developmental math by level of academic need. Presented at the Workshop on Increasing Student Success in Developmental Mathematics, Washington, DC.

Burdman, P. (2013). “Changing Equations: How Community Colleges are Re-Thinking College Readiness in Math.” Oakland, CA: LearningWorks.

Burdman, P. (2015). “Degrees of Freedom: Diversifying Math Requirements for College Readiness and Graduation.” Oakland, CA: LearningWorks.

Burdman, P. (2015). “Degrees of Freedom: Probing Math Placement Policies at California Colleges and Universities.” Oakland, CA: LearningWorks.

Burdman, P. (2015). “Degrees of Freedom: Varying Routes to Math Readiness and the Challenge of Intersegmental Alignment.” Oakland, CA: LearningWorks.

Burdman, P. (2018). The mathematics of opportunity: Rethinking the role of mathematics in educational equity.

California Acceleration Project. (2015). “Acceleration Strategies That Produce Powerful Results: A Planning Resource for Community Colleges.”

Charles A. Dana Center. (2018). A call to action—mathematics pathways: Scaling and sustaining. Available:

Charles A. Dana Center. (2019). What is rigor in mathematics really?

Couturier, L., and Cullinane, J. (2015). “A Call to Action to Improve Math Placement Policies and Processes.” Achieving the Dream; Jobs for the Future; The Charles A. Dana Center.

Clyburn, G.M. (September/October 2013). “Improving on the American Dream: Mathematics Pathways to Student Success.” Change, 15–23.

Getz, A. (2019). Dana Center Mathematics Pathways: Prepare, enable, empower. Presented at the Workshop on Increasing Student Success in Developmental Mathematics, Washington, DC.

Jenkins, D., and Fink, J. (2015). “What We Know About Transfer.” New York, NY: Columbia University, Teachers College, Community College Research Center.

Kazis, R., and Cullinane, J. (2015). “Modernizing Mathematics Pathways at Texas Universities: Insights from the New Mathways Project Transfer Champions.” Austin, TX: The Charles A. Dana Center at The University of Texas at Austin.

Klipple, K. (2019). Carnegie Math Pathways, WestEd. Presented at the Workshop on Increasing Student Success in Developmental Mathematics, Washington, DC.

Liston, C., and Getz, A. (2019). The case for mathematics pathways.

Logue, A.W., and Watanabe-Rose, M. (2014). “Mainstreaming Remedial Mathematics Students in Introductory Statistics: Results Using a Randomized Controlled Trial.” Paper presented at the Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness.

Logue, A.W., Watanabe-Rose, M., Douglas, D. (2016). “Should Students Assessed as Needing Remedial Mathematics Take College-Level Quantitative Courses Instead? A Randomized Controlled Trial.” Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, (38)3, 578–598.

Mathematics Association of America (2014). “CUPM Curriculum Guide 2014.”

Monaghan, D.B., and Attewell, P. (2014). “The Community College Route to the Bachelor’s Degree.” Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 1–22.

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (2019). “Increasing Student Success in Developmental Mathematics: Proceedings of a Workshop.” Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

Schudde, L. (2019, March). Who gets access to reformed dev-ed math? Evidence from Dana Center Mathematics Pathways. Presented at the Workshop on Increasing Student Success in Developmental Mathematics, Washington, DC.

Transforming Post-Secondary Education in Mathematics. “Forum – Lower-Division Pathways.”

Yamada, H. (2014). “Community College Pathways’ Program Success: Assessing the First Two Years’ Effectiveness of Statway.” Stanford, CA: Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

Zachry-Rutschow, E., and Diamond, J. (2015). “Laying the Foundations: Early Findings from the New Mathways Project.” New York, NY: MDRC.

Zachry Rutschow, E. (2019). Developmental mathematics reforms. Paper commissioned for the Workshop on Increasing Student Success in Developmental Mathematics, Washington, DC.


Implementation Guides

American Association of Community Colleges Pathways Project. Guided Pathways: Planning, Implementation, Evaluation.

Charles A. Dana Center. Mathematics Pathways. Guide to Aligning Mathematics Pathways to Programs of Study.

Charles A. Dana Center. Mathematics Pathways. Implementation Guide.

Community College Research Center. Implementing Guided Pathways: Early Insights From the AACC Pathways Colleges.