CSU to Drop Algebra Requirement for Non-Science, Math Majors in 2018 If you’re one of those students who dreads math – especially algebra – you’ll soon get a bit of a break at the California State University system. For years, intermediate algebra had been a prerequisite for the system’s general math classes, meaning even students who weren’t majoring in math or science related fields had to complete the course before they could complete their math requirement. Beginning in the fall of 2018, students whose majors aren’t math or science heavy will be able to fulfill their math requirements without slogging through intermediate algebra first – part of a larger effort to increase graduation rates. “What that means for students is they have more choices,” said Christine Mallon, CSU’s associate vice chancellor for academic programs and faculty development. Removing the intermediate algebra prerequisite also could ultimately help more students earn a degree, proponents of the idea argue. Some students had been struggling to complete the intermediate algebra they needed to enroll in a general math class, faculty said, even though they were not pursuing math-related fields. For instance, a student majoring in English and trying to satisfy her general education math requirement might want to take the philosophy course “mathematics and logic,” which focuses on logic and probability. But currently, students who want to sign up must first pass intermediate algebra even if they won’t need it to succeed in the class. By 2025, CSU wants 40 percent of its freshmen to earn a degree in four years, almost double the current figure. One of the holdups is remedial math education. Right now, nearly 40 percent of freshmen admitted to a CSU campus have to take remedial math or English classes that are time-consuming and expensive but don’t actually count toward a degree. “This is an incredibly promising direction,” said Katie Hern, an English teacher at Hayward’s Chabot College who co-founded the California Acceleration Project, which works with schools to rethink remedial education. The chancellor of the state’s community colleges agrees. Eloy Oakley told the Los Angeles Times several weeks ago he doesn’t think intermediate algebra should be required to earn an associate’s degree, either, unless the student is pursuing a math-heavy degree. “College-level algebra is probably the greatest barrier for students – particularly first-generation students, students of color – obtaining a credential,” he told the Times. “If we know we’re disadvantaging large swaths of students who we need in the workforce, we have to question why. And is algebra really the only means we have to determine whether a student is going to be successful in their life?” Reading this on your iPhone or iPad? Check out our new Apple News app channel here and click the + at the top of the page to save to your Apple News favorites. CSU will outline the specifics in an executive order to be published later this month. Mark Van Selst, a psychology professor at San Jose State University and a representative to CSU’s statewide academic senate, is open to the idea of re-evaluating the system’s math requirements. But he has questions about how any changes will be implemented. He wants to make sure that students who are capable of successfully completing advanced math courses aren’t deterred from pursuing such paths. In other words, he said, “Are you locking people out of their future capabilities?” In recent months, CSU has looked at a number of ways to get more students directly into college-level work, including scrapping its math and English placement tests in favor of looking at high school grades and standardized test scores instead. In May, CSU sent a draft executive order to campuses and is expected to release the final order imminently. The order would direct campuses to offer “stretch” courses that would give students college credit right off the bat but also add more support and time with instructors to help them succeed. The goal with rethinking the math prerequisites is not to make college easier, Mallon said, but to make sure the time students spend in school is spent preparing them for their majors and, ultimately, careers of their choice. “It’s preparing students in a way that’s appropriate for their degrees,” she said. The change, said Alison Wrynn, associate dean for academic programs for CSU, will let the campuses offer a broader slate of courses for students to choose from to satisfy their general education requirements. It will also let the community colleges, which have bristled at the intermediate algebra prerequisite, expand the ways they help students satisfy the CSU admission requirements. Other states, including Georgia and Tennessee, have already moved this direction with positive results. The idea, Hern said, isn’t “crazy.”
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