November 21, 2017
Nevada Math Pathways: A Case Study
With data showing low gateway math completion rates at public institutions and even lower graduation rates for students who didn’t complete gateway math in their first year, the Nevada System of Higher Education convened math faculty leaders to develop a strategy for increasing the percentage of students who complete their gateway math courses in their first year. The result was a set of recommendations that included a policy recommendation to ensure that the vast majority of students in need of academic support would have the opportunity to complete gateway math courses within their first academic year. The Nevada System of Higher Education adopted the policy recommendation, enlisting all postsecondary institutions to develop strategies to increase enrollment in and completion of gateway math courses.
Crystal Abba, Vice-Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs partnered with Nevada math faculty after data analysis revealed the low completion in college-level mathematics. By creating an urgency for action and spirit of collaboration, Crystal and math faculty developed a long term vision for how to combine reforms to remedial education with existing math pathways to create a blueprint for action at the campus level. Many of the reforms implemented in Nevada were modeled after reforms lead by Chris Herald, math faculty member at University of Nevada Reno. Through Chris’ leadership, UNR fully leveraged their math pathways by implementing corequisite reforms that ensured that students received the support they needed to succeed in their gateway math course, which translated into improved gateway math success rates and college completion rates.
Nevada has implemented dual math pathways for most students. College Algebra or Pre-Calculus 1, depending on the institution, serves students who have a program of study that requires College Algebra or higher level math. Fundamentals of College Mathematics, which focuses on statistics and quantitative reasoning is available for other programs. The prerequisite for both courses has been Intermediate Algebra. However, the use of corequisite courses has enabled colleges to design the academic support in the college-level courses to address the essential algebra skills needed to succeed in either College Algebra/Pre-Calculus 1 or Fundametnals of College Math. Math faculty intend to review the Fundamentals course with the hope of encouraging more academic programs to accept it as fulfilling their program requirement for math.
All Nevada campuses are implementing plans for implementing math pathway reforms. Each plan includes performance benchmarks for improving the percent of students who enter and complete gateway math courses in their first academic year. Each plan must ensure that new entering students continuously enroll in math courses until they complete their gateway math courses. The vast majority of students will enroll in course sequences that either include corequisites or no more than a single semester of remediation to enable students to pass gateway math courses in their first academic year.