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January 14, 2016

Missouri one of five states selected to work on new math options for some college degrees
Math Pathways project will develop alternatives to college algebra

Missouri is one of five states recently selected to participate in a national project to develop appropriate alternatives to college algebra. The Missouri Department of Higher Education and more than two dozen Missouri colleges and universities are involved in the three-year initiative.

Higher education officials say courses such as statistics or quantitative reasoning are more relevant than algebra for a number of degrees, such as business, English and history.

“College algebra is not always the ‘right’ math course for every student,” said Rusty Monhollon, the department’s assistant commissioner for academic affairs. “Students working toward a degree in a science, technology, engineering or math field need a strong foundation in algebra, but other options are more appropriate for a number of students, depending on their academic and vocational pursuits.”

Eliminating the algebra requirement for certain degrees is expected to help improve college completion rates. Some students attempt college algebra several times before passing the course, spending extra time and money on a class that may not benefit them as much as another type of mathematics.

Missouri’s state team will consist of officials from Moberly Area Community College, Northwest Missouri State University, the University of Missouri and MDHE when the New Math Pathways project begins Feb. 1-3. The project is an initiative of the highly respected Charles A. Dana Center at the University of Texas at Austin. Other states chosen to participate in the project include Michigan, Oklahoma, Washington and Arkansas.

 “This initiative is based on the work of practicing mathematicians and their desire to improve the quality of mathematics education in the state and the nation,” Monhollon said. “We’re not looking to make math courses easier. We want them to be more relevant to each student’s field of study and more appropriate for the 21st century economy.”

Monhollon said even though some colleges and universities in Missouri offer other courses that fulfill the math requirement for certain degrees, many students continue to take algebra. The students are concerned that alternative math courses won’t meet the math requirement at other colleges, should they decide to transfer to a different school.

In June 2015, Missouri’s Coordinating Board for Higher Education approved a new report calling for the development of alternative math courses at Missouri’s colleges and universities. The report also directs the department to create a process for collecting information to determine the success of the alternative courses and establish statewide agreements to ensure the transfer of math courses from one higher education institution in the state to another.

The department hosted Mathematics Summits in 2014 and 2015 to begin work on developing new math courses for Missouri students. The events were attended by several hundred administrators and math faculty from colleges and universities across the state.

For more information about the Missouri Math Pathways project, visit http://dhe.mo.gov/AAU-Initiatives-MathPathways.php.