Over the past decade or more, Washington higher education institutions, especially the community and technical colleges, have 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 characterized as having two key components: not enough math and not the “right” math.
1) Not enough math
Too few students are completing their “gateway” required college-level math course, and there’s a persistent achievement gap for students of color. There’s a growing body of evidence nationally that not enough students are completing college with degrees or credentials and that math is a central element in that problem. As students enter college, they often delay taking their math requirements; if they don’t persist in college then the students may not take math at all, making the “remediation” challenge worse if they ever do return to college. The length and nature of most existing developmental (aka “remedial”) math programs in college is another element of the problem, with a “one size fits all” approach that doesn’t math well with the wide diversity of preparation and skill levels of the students entering those programs.
2) Not the “right” math
Currently the default option for all students—in high school, developmental math sequences, and the traditional college entry-level math course—is an algebra-intensive sequence leading to calculus, despite clear evidence that few students will ever take or need calculus for their academic programs. There’s also a lack of alignment across educational sectors (K-12, community and technical colleges, baccalaureate institutions) so transfer issues become critical, as does the need to design math pathways around what students will need moving forward in their programs and careers rather than looking backward to replicate high school preparation.
Both of these problem areas can be addressed by clarifying the “math pathways” available to students that are most relevant to their programs of study and future goals, along with improved advising and support students need to make informed choices and be successful as they move from high school 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 through improving their math pathways. Much of the work has been supported and enhanced through the Math Pathways to Completion (MPC) project which began in 2016; while the project officially ends at the end of 2018, the Washington math pathways work will continue; the goal is for this site to continue to be a place for sharing information and ideas about this important work.