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Modularization in Developmental Mathematics in Two States: Implementation and Early Outcomes

By: Susan Bickerstaff, Maggie P. Fay & Madeline Joy Trimble


Drawing on data from a mixed-method study of modularized developmental mathematics reforms in North Carolina and Virginia, this paper describes how the reforms have been implemented, with attention to the choices colleges must make when designing course offerings and instructional delivery. Student outcomes—including placement patterns, module pass rates, and progression through the developmental math sequence—are presented for two distinct course structures. Analysis of qualitative data provides insights into how the modularized curricula and course structures present opportunities and challenges for student progression and learning.

Two overarching themes emerged from this analysis. First, “modularization,” as a reform to developmental mathematics, cannot be disentangled from the implementation choices colleges make. Second, the theorized benefits of modularization, which include student-centered and personalized learning as well as enhanced mastery of content, appear to be in tension with the effort to accelerate student progress through developmental math. The paper provides examples of how colleges have balanced these tensions and found solutions to drawbacks inherent to each course structure. The final section includes recommendations for colleges.