November 21, 2017
Colorado Math Pathways: A Case Study
Colorado’s efforts to build guaranteed transfer pathways, dramatically reform remedial education and fully leverage dual enrollment as a completion strategy converged with math faculty efforts to create clearer math pathways, came together in a task force of math faculty leaders that was convened by the Colorado Department of Higher Education. The result is a set of recommendations by math leaders for creating three clear pathways, state wide reforms in math requirements for many high enrollment academic programs, improved advising strategies, a blueprint for improved professional development and a commitment to improved communication among institutions on the implementation of math pathways. Already, many programs have realigned their math requirements to align with the new math pathways.
Dean Allison, Math Department Chair at the University of Northern Colorado and Ian Macgillivray from the Colorado Department of Higher Education provided critical leadership. They engaged math leaders and other key stakeholders from virtually all of the higher education institutions in the state and leveraged the Guaranteed Transfer pathways structure to enact important policy decisions that ensure the effective implementation of the math pathways at both community colleges and four-year institutions.
The Colorado math task force created three distinct paths: CalcPath, StatPath and a QuantThinking Path. The CalcPath is designed for majors that require Calculus. Ideally colleges should design the path so that students complete Calculus in their first academic year. While College Algebra can be included in the CalcPath, the task force recommends that students on this path, who are not ready for Calculus, start in a Pre-Calculus course and offer College Algebra as a corequisite. The StatPath are for majors that require Statistics or statistical thinking. The task force did not support having a college-level prerequisite to Statistics for students on this path. Further, they did not believe that students required intensive algebra skills to enter the StatPath, meaning that students should be able to enter college-level Stats without remedial algebra. The QuantThinking Path would provide a college-level math experience for majors that don’t require Statistics or Calculus. An algebra-based modeling course or a quantitative reasoning course would be courses that are consistent with the QuantThinking path.
Colorado has taken immediate action to fully support their math pathways by revising math requirements for fifteen high enrollment programs. Five programs – Psychology BA, Criminal Justice, Anthropology, Sociology and Geography – away from either a College Algebra or any college math to Introduction for Statistics. Another ten – Art, History, Communication, English, French, History, Music, Philosophy, Spanish, Studio Art and Theater – now specifically recommend Math for Liberal Arts from the QuantThinking Path.