The emerging movement is toward differentiated “math pathways” with distinct trajectories tied to students’ goals.
This widely-cited report, the first in a three-part series, highlights groundbreaking efforts to diversify college math requirements to align with students’ college majors and the challenges and opportunities associated with those changes. Since the mid-20th century, the standard U.S. high school and college math curriculum has been based on two years of algebra and a year of geometry, preparing students to take classes in pre-calculus followed by calculus. Students’ math pursuits have been differentiated primarily by how far or how rapidly they proceed along a clearly defined trajectory that has changed little since then.
But evolutions in various disciplines and in learning sciences are calling into question the relevance and utility of this trajectory as a requirement for all students. The emerging movement is toward differentiated “math pathways” with distinct trajectories tied to students’ goals. Alternatives emphasizing statistics, modeling, computer science, and quantitative reasoning that are cropping up in high schools and colleges are beginning to challenge the dominance of the familiar math sequence. Besides the advent of novel applications of math in various academic disciplines, the change is also motivated by efforts to make math instruction more effective and supportive of student success.