My last post proposed that we add incentives for high school students to take college math (Math 1050) in high school. Now, let me throw you a curveball by suggesting that Utah stop providing money for teaching Math 1010 concurrent enrollment in high school.

Here’s the reason. Math 1010 isn’t college math. It is college remedial math. The point of Math 1010 is to remediate math deficiencies before a student can take a math class that actually counts toward a major (e.g., Math 1030, 1040, or 1050). Yes, a student can get college credit for Math 1010 (unlike the 900-level remedial courses which carry no credit), but that credit is an elective and does not satisfy the math requirement for any degree.*

So, why spend extra money to teach remedial math in high school? The answer is that high schools, students, teachers, etc. are excited to teach “college math” in high school. But, again, it is remedial math. Math 3 (the normal high school math class) works fine. Math 1010 is not better.

I propose we stop spending money to teach Math 1010 concurrent enrollment. We’re not a rich state. We need to focus our resources. Any money currently being spent on Math 1010 concurrent enrollment would be better spent elsewhere–like on incentives for high school students to take Math 1050, which actually does count toward degrees.

*Math 1010 does count toward the math requirements for an Associates of Applied Sciences (AAS). It would be a WONDERFUL thing if more high school students worked on applied technology education degrees their junior/senior years of high school (even to the extend, I would argue, that they focus on a combination of certificate/GED). They could graduate high school (or get their GED) with a certificated skill that would bring down a nice salary, AND they could articulate that certificate experience for a year’s college credit toward an AAS degree–meaning that they are actually ahead of other high school students who took the normal route. To encourage such a pathway–and to focus Math 1010 concurrent enrollment where it actually make sense–it would make sense to preserve Math 1010 concurrent enrollment as a part of a program where a high school student is pursuing a certificate through an Applied Technology College, but ONLY as a part of such programs. To my knowledge, such a program currently only exists at Davis Applied Technology.

I agree, MATH 1010 should not be taught as concurrent enrollment because it is a high school-level class, but if a high school student has the choice to take Math 3 in high school or MATH 1010 as concurrent enrollment, I would recommend the latter. It’s true that students who have successfully completed Math 3 in high school should not need to take MATH 1010 in college and should be able to place directly into a GE MATH course. But that is not the case for many students. If the content and/or rigor of Math 3 prepared all students to enroll in college GE MATH courses, there would be no reason to teach MATH 1010 concurrently.

A college placement score equivalent to 23 in the Math ACT or MATH 1010 (Grade C or higher) is required to enroll in General Education MATH courses (MATH 1030, 1040, or 1050). Put simply, many students who take Math 3 — and earn passing or even good or very good grades — do not achieve scores equivalent to MATH 1010 (or now, MATH 1000) on the required placement exams. Whether this is due to a lack of rigor in Math 3, disparities between the content in Math 3 and national college placement tests (ACT, SAT, and Accuplacer), or problems individual students may have taking those standardized tests, I don’t know, but it’s likely a combination. Many students who take Math 3 in high school and pass it, often earning pretty good grades, can’t demonstrate proficiency or mastery of the content in an accepted objective test. Therefore, it currently behooves students to take MATH 1010 INSTEAD of Math 3 because they can bypass the college placement test score requirement by fulling a course prerequisite while earning high school Math credit.

In order not to teach MATH 1010 as concurrent enrollment — and decrease the number of students who enter college directly from high school and need to take MATH 1010 — the content and rigor of Math 3 must be improved and aligned with national college placement exams, and students need to receive better instruction on how to succeed in those exams. In fact, we could eliminate at least 80% of college developmental courses if Utah high school students graduated with the Math, English, and reading skills required for college, and if those high schools taught students how to demonstrate that knowledge on national tests. A number of re-entry students might still need developmental courses, but the demand would be greatly reduced.

In order to maintain high school graduation rates while improving the outcomes for college-bound students, we might look at a two-tier high school diploma system, with one tier being college-prep (e.g. the Regents diploma in New York state) which would require students to achieve college-level (not developmental) placement scores in order to graduate and the other being non-college prep which would not include that requirement. Too many students in Utah high school don’t actually know what is needed to succeed in college, and our high schools aren’t requiring that level of achievement from self-declared college-bound students. Offering a discount on college tuition to students who accomplish the diploma that included college placement scores might be a motivation since the current New Century Scholarships that reward such performance don’t seem to be providing an appropriate incentive to many college-bound students and their parents.

P.S. MATH is actually not a requirement in many college “majors”. Rather, it is a mandated (R470) part of all USHE General Education requirements. That policy states that students may satisfy the requirement by taking a course that required high school algebra (Math 3) as a prerequisite, which means MATH 1030, 1040, or “at least one institutionally approved mathematics course at the level of college algebra [MATH 1050] or which requires college algebra as a prerequisite [Calculus].” Also, MATH 1010 fulfills the MATH requirement in only a few limited AAS degrees; most require college-level MATH (1030, 1040, or 1050).

I wanted to add that another solution might be to look at requiring 4-years of high school Math from all students. Research has shown that taking time off from Math study at or below the level of college algebra greatly decreases students’ understanding and retention of Math concepts and skills. Many high school students choose to “skip” Math in their senior year, putting some of them at an automatic disadvantage when they take the required placement exams.

Martha T,

Thanks! That is great input.

Your comment about requiring 4 years of high school math is spot on. Math is a language. When our students turn off their math brains for a year (now, for many, maybe 3 or 4 years with the change in missionary age), they lose a lot. They pay for this math vacation by taking remedial math classes–which greatly reduce their likelihood of graduating.

But . . . in 2003, I was the House sponsor of the bill that required the 3rd year of high school math. I have scars to prove it. Though you and I believe that students should leave high school with at least a mastery of algebra, Utah won’t require a 4th year of math. Trust me.

So, I’m looking for incentives to encourage students to take “college math” concurrent enrollment (Math 1030, 1040, 1050, AP, IB. But NOT 1010, unless part of an applied technology certificate program). And, yes, Amen to your comments about the necessary rigor of Math 3. I think, though, that those comments also could apply equally to the rigor of the concurrent enrollment classes we teach (including Math 1010). College instructors have told me on several occasions that–based on the level of readiness they see–students who receive concurrent enrollment credit for pre-requisite classes reflect what must be a broad range of quality, from poor to excellent. This means that we need to make sure our colleges are actively policing the delivery of their courses in the high schools.

You are correct that there are problems with rigor (and content and pacing) with many concurrent enrollment classes. I agree with the premise that colleges and universities are responsible for those issues. However, since those institutions have been politically forced to offer concurrent enrollment classes for virtually nothing, how can they provide adequate oversight? Even if the funding existed, school districts won’t allow appropriate rigor. Once the Regents removed the restriction that prohibited USHE institutions from “poaching” concurrent enrollment outside their designated service areas, districts simply say “do it our way, or we’ll get the course from XYZ university.” My answer would be “fine,” but that is a politically dangerous attitude for a university to take.

Sorry about the scars you earned fighting for four years of Math. Wear them proudly. I feel your pain, especially after seeing two students this week who are “graduating early” from local high schools … and going directly into developmental Math class at DSU in January, which is a much more expensive option and potentially detrimental to those individual students. Keep up the good fight on this one, Steve. Offering MATH 1050 and not 1010 (or 1000) as concurrent enrollment is a good idea that has the potential to help ease a very real problem in higher ed across the country – retention and persistence to graduation.

In time, I may agree with you. I want to remind you we just implemented the new math core in our schools. I believe we are heading in the right direction, however; we need time to allow students to become familiar and comfortable with the math before pushing them into a more rigorous pathway. Copper Hills is a high impact, low socio- economic, and high minority school. It is our goal to prepare and push all students toward college and career readiness. So you may ask, why not push all students to a more rigorous pathway? The answer is the self-confidence of our student body who were not prepared for the new core and were thrown into the river mid-stream. Give us some time to get all of our students on the cruise liner because right now many of them feel as though they are on a log floating down the river.

Math 1010 is the perfect opportunity to review math skills and prepare for the more rigorous 1050. Not providing students the opportunity to have success in 1010 lowers the self esteem of our potential college bound students. This creates an environment in which they will not make the attempt to enroll in college. We can sit in our ivory tower and blame secondary education for not preparing students, but give us a chance to adapt with the students who are in the system. I am not afraid of criticism and discussion where we are failing to meet the standards of college and career readiness. But give us a chance to go through the process to plan and prepare to meet the 21st century challenge.

If we are going to raise the standards, then lets require all students who graduate from college/university to have calculus regardless of their career ambitions. Hopefully, post-secondary institutions can have the 85% graduation rate that secondary schools are currently experiencing. Perhaps if we were to evaluate the linear progression toward graduation, we might see that 1010 is a stepping stone to greater success.