Math is the place where higher education aspirations go to die. Math is the single biggest hurdle to college completion in Utah (and in the entire Nation). My idea: get high school students to complete Math 1050 while still in high school. For many students, that will satisfy all the college math they will need for their degree. Viola! That’s it—my big idea, in all its simplicity.
Utah high schools only require 3 years of math. In order to be prepared, though, college-bound students should take 4 years of math in high school.
Utah high schools are increasingly teaching Math 1010 (“college math”), instead of Math 3. But, Math 1010 is remedial and does not count toward any degree. And Math 3 is better.
A majority of Utah college freshman coming straight out of high school require remedial math. (And, I’m not even talking about Math 1010. I’m talking about 900-level courses).
A college student who takes a single remedial course only has a 25% likelihood of completing college.
The 6-year completion rate for Utah colleges is in the low-40s.
The change in missionary age for the LDS church will likely increase the need for remediation (and further decrease the completion rate). Math is a language. Time away from math adversely affects performance.
Why I’m excited about this idea:
Math 1050 is the degree killer. Let’s conquer it in high school through concurrent enrollment.
Utah does an awesome job at providing high school students with the opportunity to take courses that also carry college credit. But, we don’t focus those efforts very well. We treat math the same as any other subject, despite our desperate need for better math performance.
Let’s put a bounty on Math 1050. What incentives does the State need to put in place for high school students to take Math 1050? Currently, 10% of our high school students complete Math 1050. If we bump that number up to 15%, 20%, or 30%, we will see the results in our college completion rates. The State needs to treat Math 1050 concurrent enrollment as more important than any other concurrent enrollment course. Maybe we provide a mini-scholarship as an incentive for completion. Perhaps Utah colleges would be willing to match the dollar amount. (How much of a scholarship would move behavior–maybe $100 from the State plus $100 from a Utah college?).
We need to reward behaviors that are likely to produce success. A small amount of money targeting our biggest obstacle might be money well spent. What do you think?