University Business October 2017 - 18

Beyond the News
STUDENT SUCCESS

New math mandates
in the Golden State
The 23-campus California State
University system has eliminated two
of the largest barriers facing incoming
freshmen pursuing non-STEM majors:
intermediate algebra requirements and
noncredit remedial math.
Students can instead take personal
finance, game theory, statistics and
computer science to better align with
their degree, says Jeff Gold, assistant vice
chancellor of student success initiatives,
research and innovation for the system.
Alternative math requirements are
a hot topic nationwide, with six states,
including New York, offering them
and 11 others convening task forces to
consider changes.
"California has been a real leader on
how to reform math at the state level to
provide students the kind of math and
quantitative literacy they need," says
President Gail O. Mellow of LaGuardia
Community College in New York.
Cal State's actions were detailed in
two executive orders released by the
system in August. By fall 2018, CSU
will have added alternative math options
for non-STEM students and eliminated
both an entry-level math exam and a
requirement involving taking up to
three remedial courses if proficiency
isn't shown.
Instead, incoming freshmen can enroll in for-credit summer programs. Students can also take corequisites during
the same semester, or stretch formats,
which extend a course beyond one academic term. Supplemental instruction
is another option. "Rather than sending
freshmen the message they are not quite
ready to be at CSU, we are telling them
they are," says Gold.
The system simplified articulation
policies between CSU campuses and
from community colleges to Cal State's
four-year schools, as well.
"Intermediate algebra shouldn't be
18 | October 2017

How other states are approaching math requirements

*

Colorado: Produced a set
of recommendations by math
leaders, including the creation of
three clear math alternatives for
graduation.

*

Indiana: Offers two pathways
provided by its statewide community college system. State flagship
Indiana University Bloomington
does not accept the alternative
pathway.

*

Nevada: Accepted a policy
that gives majority of students the
opportunity to complete gateway
math courses within initial academic year.

the only way to demonstrate higher ed
mastery in math," says Chris Thorn,
director of knowledge management
at the Carnegie Foundation for the
Advancement of Teaching, which offers
alternatives to intermediate algebra. For
example, he adds, "students don't need
to know how to factor a polynomial unless they're going into advanced mathematics."
Cal State officials hope the percentage of freshmen who earn a degree in
four years will double by 2025 as a result
of these changes.
CSU, Dominguez Hills already
provides corequisite support for math,

*

Ohio: Overturned a policy that
required intermediate algebra as a
prerequisite for all gateway math
courses.

*

Tennessee: Implemented math
pathways at community colleges and
four-year public institutions.

*

Virginia: Has policies that allow
multiple math pathways and doesn't
require intermediate algebra.

and 21 of CSU's 23 universities offer
similar programs in English. "Sometimes
campus faculty partner with student
affairs to offer extra help outside of class,"
says Gold. "But in many cases, teacher
assistants and graduate students provide
hands-on support for struggling freshmen, so that by day one, they can receive
credit and be on their way toward getting
their degree." -Steven Wyman-Blackburn
MORE ONLINE
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How CSU math mandates affect
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