Carnegie Hopes to Dismantle Math Barrier to College Readiness

Success in mathematics is essential for a college degree. While this is certainly true of STEM-related fields such as engineering and computer science, it is no less true for students majoring in history or anthropology, with many colleges requiring some mathematics. In addition, students majoring in the social sciences must utilize quantitative techniques to analyze data in their fields.

Unfortunately, many college students arrive on campus lacking the mathematical skills needed to complete college-level mathematics courses. Even in community colleges, students must successfully complete at least one college-level math course for a degree. The result is that many students must enroll in remedial or developmental courses that consume time and financial aid dollars, but do not bear course credit. Some studies indicate that more than half of high school graduates must take remedial math courses in college. Time spent in these non-credit bearing courses prolong students' time in college and are often sources of stress and frustration, sometimes resulting in students dropping out.

To make matters worse, developmental courses have not shown themselves to be effective in improving student quantitative skills. To address this problem, Carnegie's Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching partnered with the Dana Center at the University of Texas in Austin to develop the Statway and Quantway programs. (See IP's profile of this funder.) These computerized courses teach math, algebra, and statistics to students who have been placed in developmental courses. The programs were designed for non-STEM majors who nevertheless must have sufficient mathematics skills for success in their fields of study, such as the humanities and the social sciences.

More recently, Carnegie renewed its support for this program, awarding $1.5 million to the University of Texas' Dana Center to develop a complementary initiative through its New Mathways Project. New Mathways is all about accelerating student progress in postsecondary math from developmental into credit-bearing courses at a more rapid pace than traditional developmental education allows. With this new grant from Carnegie, the Dana Center hopes to increase the adoption of math pathways in state community college systems, with the goal of creating a significant program that can be scaled and implemented in community colleges nationwide.

The award to UT's Dana Center is characteristic of Carnegie's grant-making activities in higher education and college readiness. The center has been a past recipient of funding from Carnegie, which appears to prefer working with established organizations that it has funded previously.

One thing's for sure: This funder remains committed to supporting initiatives and projects that are designed to break down the barriers to postsecondary success, whether they involve accessing college in the first place or achieving academic success once enrolled.