More than 60 percent of all students entering higher education in the United States are required to complete remedial or developmental courses as a first step towards earning associate’s or bachelor’s degrees. A staggering 70 percent of these students never complete the required mathematics courses, blocking their advancement in higher education and entry into a wide array of technical and occupational careers. Recognizing the grave consequences around these alarming statistics, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching engaged with a network of faculty members, researchers, and designers to create and put into the field two new mathematics Pathways: Statway and Quantway.
Statway is an academic year-long course that allows students to simultaneously complete their developmental mathematics requirements and receive college mathematics credit in statistics. Quantway is designed as a two-term course: Quantway 1 is the first semester of this program and fulfills the requirements for students’ entire developmental mathematics sequence; Quantway 2 is the subsequent single semester college-level course.
Both Pathways are built upon ambitious learning goals that set rigorous standards for deep conceptual learning and procedural fluency. These goals were established by a group of college and university faculty, including representatives of all the major mathematics, statistics, and quantitative reasoning professional societies. The learning goals are enlivened through a research-based pedagogy that facilitates specific learning opportunities. These enable students to struggle productively within complex authentic contexts, to make explicit connections between mathematical concepts within lessons and across the course, and to engage in deliberate problem-solving scenarios that both reinforce and extend their learning.
Both Pathways focus on mathematics that matter for work, for personal living in an increasingly quantitative age, and for critically examining issues of public life, and that are embedded in complex authentic contexts. This creates reading and writing challenges that are unique for a mathematics course. For that reason, the program has interwoven language and literacy supports into the instructional materials and classroom activities so that language isn’t a barrier to learning mathematics. Another distinguishing feature is the work in student motivation, tenacity, and college success skills—that is, productive persistence—and the resulting evidence-based package of practical student activities and faculty actions that is integrated into the instructional system.
In addition, both Pathways use real-time data analytics to provide faculty with information about their classroom ecology and about the performance of individual students. Because the Pathways represent a multi-faceted reform that is significantly different from traditional mathematics education practices, it includes a comprehensive professional development program for faculty. This program provides a cohort learning experience for new faculty that occurs both online and in person and that includes supports for examining instructional practices through interactive videos. It also includes a suite of online resources and a mentorship program that assigns an experienced faculty mentor to each new faculty member.
The Pathways are now in their third year of implementation. Statway launched in fall 2011; Quantway 1 launched in spring 2012; and a pilot of Quantway 2 launched in spring 2013. Thus, we now have student performance and characteristic data for students enrolled in 2011–12 and 2012–13. The Pathways are highly successful:
- Among the Statway colleges, only 9 percent of students complete developmental math and one semester of college-level math in a single year, and only 16 percent complete it within two years. By comparison, for two years in a row, over 50 percent of the students who were enrolled in Statway earned college credit in a single year.
- Among Quantway colleges, only 20 percent of students complete their developmental math sequence in a single year. By comparison, for three semesters in a row, over 50 percent of Quantway 1 students have completed their developmental math requirements in a single semester. Quantway 2, the single semester, college-level course, achieved a 70-percent success rate in its first semester.
The extraordinary success rates have created a strong interest across the nation, from both community colleges and educational researchers. The network has grown to 48 institutions which have, to date, enrolled roughly 7,000 students.
The Pathways approach has demonstrated remarkable results for students at participating institutions. But perhaps equally important, it has advanced the national conversation on mathematics reform and led to the spread of proven instructional practices beyond the Pathways classrooms. Mathematics professional societies now uniformly support a Pathways approach to mathematics education that challenges traditional notions of intermediate algebra as a prerequisite for college-level math. Faculty and staff in the Pathways are now applying what is known about effective pedagogy and productive persistence to their other classes. The benefits of the Pathways are spreading to many more students.
For More Information
Contact: Bernadine Chuck Fong, Senior Partner, Community College Pathways
Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching