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June 14, 2017

Many college students can choose new 'math pathway' this fall
Missouri is a leader in developing math course options for degree programs

When classes begin this fall, many Missouri college students will have more options for earning the math credit they need to complete their degree.

For decades, college algebra has been the required math course for most degree programs.  A majority of public colleges and universities in Missouri are set to roll out new “math pathways” for degrees such as English, business, and history.

“Thousands of Missouri students will benefit from mathematics courses, such as statistics and quantitative reasoning, that are more aligned with their specific field of study,” said Dr. Rusty Monhollon, assistant commissioner for academic affairs at the Missouri Department of Higher Education.

Missouri was recently selected by the Dana Center at the University of Texas, an organization working to improve math and science education across the country, to advise colleges and universities in other states on creating new math options for their students.

The development of new math pathways is supported by a growing number of educators nationwide who believe college algebra is not the best math course for many students, depending on the type of degree they are seeking.

Missouri’s Math Pathways Task Force developed recommendations for math courses based on students’ academic major. Those recommendations include statistical reasoning for students whose field of study will require knowledge about collecting, analyzing and interpreting data. Mathematical reasoning and modeling is suggested for students studying the humanities. A series of math courses that focuses on the number system, foundations of algebra, basic geometry, and probability and statistics is recommended for elementary education majors.

Degrees in the STEM fields – science, technology, engineering, and math – will continue to require college algebra.

Higher education officials believe more math options will help increase college completion rates. For many students, college algebra has been a “bottle neck course” – one that is required for graduation but has high withdrawal and failure rates, preventing students from completing a degree, Monhollon said.

Over the past several years, an increasing number of Missouri colleges and universities has expanded the type of math courses students could take to meet degree requirements.

Missouri began work on its math pathways initiative in 2014 and was one of five states chosen by the Dana Center in 2016 to participate in a national project focused on developing alternatives to college algebra for specific degree programs. More than two dozen Missouri colleges and universities are now participating in the three-year initiative.

More information about the math pathways initiative can be found at dhe.mo.gov/AAU-Initiatives-MathPathways.php.