Algebra has traditionally been the default math requirement for most college degrees. However, algebra is designed to prepare students for calculus rather than for the type of math many students need in their majors, jobs, and lives. With high failure rates in both college-level and developmental math, algebra often ends up functioning as a gatekeeper to higher education for students not majoring in a math-heavy field.
Moreover, the more developmental math courses students must take, the less likely they are to complete their math requirements. An increasingly popular alternative called math pathways accelerates students’ path through developmental math and enables them to take different paths through the math curriculum depending on their course of study. Math pathways typically include statistics, quantitative reasoning, and algebra alternatives at both the developmental and college levels.
Evidence is building that math pathways can help give students the math foundation they need to move ahead in college. This brief describes three math pathways models, lays out the evidence for their effectiveness, and gives recommendations for the effective implementation of math pathways. It is the second in a series about developmental education through a partnership between CAPR and the Education Commission of the States. The first installment is Developmental Education: An Introduction for Policymakers.