Multiple Paths Forward: Diversifying Mathematics as a Strategy for College Success (2018)

As students transition from high school to college, math placement is key to starting students on the path to college success. Yet traditional approaches to math placement and preparation have created significant barriers for students in California and across the country. Research shows that one-time placement tests underestimate student readiness for college-level math, and general education standards that favor algebra do not align with the quantitative skills needed for many fields of study. These policies and practices make it difficult for many students—especially Latino, African American, and other students underrepresented in higher education—to meet their educational goals.

California’s leaders have taken steps to improve placement and instruction to improve the rate of college success. Assembly Bill 705, passed in the fall of 2017, requires the state’s community colleges to use multiple measures, including high school records, to place students in courses and to redesign remedial course sequences to prepare students to complete transfer-level material within one year.

According to this report from Just Equations and WestEd, creating additional math pathways in statistics and quantitative reasoning can help colleges meet the goals of AB 705 by providing students courses aligned with a variety of majors and careers. The report highlights the potential and promise of implementing multiple pathways in California:

  • The vast majority of remedial courses in the state are algebra-based, which may not align with the quantitative skills needed for the math requirement in students’ chosen programs of study.
  • A quarter of California’s community college students already take transferable non-algebra courses like statistics.
  • The California State University now accepts a variety of math courses to meet general education requirements in quantitative reasoning.
  • Diversified math pathways can help tens of thousands more California students complete a college degree.

Read the full report for more detail on math pathways in California’s community colleges and lessons from multiple pathways initiatives across the country in improving student outcomes and closing equity gaps.


Download Multiple Math Pathways: Diversifying Mathematics as a Strategy for College Success