Why Math Pathways

For more than a decade, Washington higher education institutions, especially the community and technical colleges, have been focused on clearly defining and working to address the systemic challenges related to student math achievement and success. At its most basic level, the problem can be characterized as having two key components: not enough math and not the “right” math.

Not enough math

Too few students are completing the college-level math coursework required for their degree, and there is a persistent achievement gap for students of color.   A growing body of evidence nationally shows that not enough students are completing college with a degree or credential and points to math completion as a central issue.  The length and nature of many developmental (aka “remedial”) math sequences in college is one element of the problem, with a “one size fits all” approach that doesn’t serve students who come with a wide diversity of preparation, skill levels, and goals.  It is also not uncommon for students to delay enrolling in math when they arrive at college; then if they don’t persist in college, they may not take math at all, making the “remediation” challenge worse if they ever do return. 

Not the “right” math

The default option for all students—in high school, developmental math sequences, and the traditional college entry-level math course—has been an algebra-intensive sequence leading toward calculus, despite clear evidence that few students will ever take or need calculus for their academic programs. The lack of alignment across educational sectors (K-12, community and technical colleges, baccalaureate institutions) makes transfer issues critical and underscores the need to design math pathways around what students will need moving forward in their programs and careers rather than by looking backward to replicate high school preparation.

Colleges in Washington continue to address these problems by designing and clarifying “math pathways” available to students that are most relevant to their programs of study and future goals,  improving placement and advising, and offering the support students need to both make informed choices and to be successful as they move into college and through relevant gateway math courses to complete meaningful degrees or credentials.

This website provides a forum and space to describe the wide range of innovative work underway in Washington higher education to improve student math success.  Much of the ground level work was supported and enhanced through the Math Pathways to Completion (MPC) project which began in 2016.  While the project officially ended in 2018, the innovation continues, and the goal for this site is to continue to be a place for sharing information and ideas about this important work.

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