September 2022

Calculus Acts as a Gatekeeper

Inside Higher Ed
Calculus Acts as a Gatekeeper

In this piece for Inside Higher Ed, Calculating the Odds co-authors Veronica Anderson and Pamela Burdman outline the steps that admissions offices can take to update math guidelines in admissions.

It’s no secret that there are gatekeepers and inequities to college admission. Important initiatives to end legacy admissions, revolutionize the way students apply to college, and nix use of the SAT are just some recent efforts to address the long-standing barriers to higher education that face Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and low-income students. But a major source of stratification in college admission that has received far less attention is the practice of weighing applicants’ transcripts using vague guidelines about “rigor.”

Such guidelines are especially problematic when they reinforce outdated and exclusionary stereotypes of academic ability. And nowhere is this problem more prevalent than when it comes to high school math coursetaking, where some students attend schools that don’t offer advanced math courses such as calculus, and others have the opportunity to race through the math curriculum, taking multiple flavors of calculus and beyond.

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