Thursday, March 2, 2017
Math Pathways Work Reaches Major Milestone

State higher education and math faculty leaders from six trailblazing states came together in Denver this week to share early results from Complete College America and Charles Dana Center’s Building Math Pathways into Programs of Study (BMPPS) Initiative, funded by the Lumina Foundation. Representatives from Colorado, Indiana, Missouri, Montana, Nevada and Ohio showcased statewide efforts to end the practice of referring most students, regardless of their chosen programs of study, into College Algebra courses that are designed primarily to support students pursuing college programs that require Calculus, such as those in STEM fields.

At far too many colleges across the country, students who have no intention of entering programs that require Calculus are either placed into College Algebra or remedial course sequences intended to prepare students for College Algebra. Too few of these students complete the courses, which in turn negatively impacts their prospects for completing a degree.

The six states involved in the BMPPS initiative have designed new gateway math pathways that enable students pursuing non-STEM programs to enroll in rigorous and transferable math courses with instruction and content that is more relevant to their chosen program of study. Several institutions have begun to create pathways and expect to see significant improvements in their gateway math completion rates.

In addition, states are designing advising systems to assist students in better aligning their choice of a gateway math course with their chosen program of study, revising program requirements to align to the new pathways, and implementing Corequisite Remediation to enable students in need of additional academic support to receive it while enrolled in college-level gateway math courses.

All of the state initiatives are the result of a groundswell of support from math faculty leaders who have grown increasingly dissatisfied with the low success rates of students in gateway math courses and the negative impact it has had on students attitudes about and understanding of mathematics, not to mention their college success rates. In all cases, math faculty leaders from across these states came together to develop a set of recommendations on the role of mathematics in undergraduate education and the design of new math pathways that will ensure all college graduates have the quantitative skills needed to be productive workers and citizens.

All six states have or are in the process of developing learning outcomes and fully transferable courses in their new math pathways.

Some of the other major accomplishments in states include:

  • Nevada institutions have implemented plans and benchmarks for dramatically increasing the number and percent of new entering students who enroll in and complete gateway math courses in their first academic year. Early results are showing significant increases in enrollments in math courses at all of the state’s colleges and universities.
  • Ohio has designed a new Quantitative Reasoning pathway that will result in new quantitative reasoning courses for students in non-STEM majors. They are now providing intensive professional development for faculty on these courses.
  • Montana and Missouri are designing corequisite models for their new math pathway courses. Montana is fully committed to scaling corequisite support in both College Algebra and their newly-aligned Quantitative Reasoning course beginning in Fall 2018.
  • Colorado has created “Degrees of Designation” for high-enrollment programs in the social sciences and humanities where the math requirements for those programs are the same for virtually all institutions offering those programs in the state.
  • Indiana has created a new, transferable quantitative reasoning course and included it in their state transfer library. In addition, Indiana has designed new meta-majors that will be critical to guiding students into appropriate math courses based on their chosen program of study.


Next steps for the initiative will be to collect data on student outcomes as each states begins to scale their pathways. Preliminary findings from a handful of early adopting institutions will be available this summer. In addition, CCA will continue to work with states to fully support implementation at scale.

posted by Bruce Vandal


Monday, June 9, 2014
Betting on U of Nevada-Reno’s Gateway Math Strategy

Typically when someone visits Reno the odds they are concerned about have little to do with college success. But when I attended a meeting on remedial math reform hosted by the Nevada System of Higher Education and saw a presentation from Chris Herald, the Core Mathematics the Director from the University of Nevada Reno’s (UNR) math department, I was convinced that UNR’s math redesign is a sure bet for improving gateway course success.

UNR students who complete a gateway math course in their first academic year are about two times more likely to graduate or still be enrolled six years later than students who do not complete gateway math. 69% of students who complete gateway math in their first year graduate or remain enrolled six years later.   The results are remarkably similar for students who place into remedial math with 67% of students graduating or still enrolled six years later after completing gateway math their first year.

Those data are impressive, but not as impressive as recent data showing that about 80% of all students at UNR complete gateway math in one academic year. The one year success rate in gateway math at UNR is a full 35 percentage points higher than the Nevada college with the next highest success rate in gateway math courses.

What is UNR’s secret?  A wholesale commitment to getting all students enrolled in math as soon as they walk on campus.  95% of students at UNR take at least one math class (college-level or remedial) during their first year, compared to about 80% at other Nevada four-year institutions. Over 96% of students assessed below college ready in math enroll in math their first year.   There is no avoiding math during your first year at UNR.

Next, UNR places upwards of 36% of students who test below college ready into college-level or corequisite college-level courses. In addition, all other students below college ready only need to take one remedial course before enrolling in gateway courses.  This strategy has resulted in 62% of all students assessed below college ready completing college level math in one academic year.

A key to their success is that they have removed the Intermediate Algebra bottleneck, which causes high student failure rates.  At UNR there are two gateway math courses, College Algebra and Math and Stats for Liberal Arts. Traditionally students have been expected to pass out of or complete intermediate algebra before being allowed to enroll in either gateway, college-level course. Unfortunately only about 56% of students who enroll in intermediate algebra pass.  One of the reasons for the high failure rates is that only one-third of the content in Intermediate Algebra is relevant to the Math to Stats course. Most of the content in Intermediate Algebra is only relevant for students who intend to enroll in College Algebra.  With this new information in hand, UNR created two corequisite courses – one for Math and Stats for Liberal Arts that incorporates the necessary content from Intermediate Algebra into the gateway course and one for College Algebra that embeds intermediate algebra content within it.   As a result, the college has eliminated stand alone intermediate algebra.

The results have been nothing short of astounding.  94% of the students enrolled in corequisite Math and Stats for Liberal Arts and 90% of the students enrolled in corequisite College Algebra pass their course.

Nevada is one of 22 states that have made a commitment to dramatically increase the percent of students placed into remedial education who complete gateway courses in one academic year. It is no surprise that many in the state hope that UNR’s reforms will be the centerpiece of Nevada’s reform strategy.

Check out Chris Herald’s impressive powerpoint below.

posted by Bruce Vandal


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