When a good portion of the students are failing the course, something’s not adding up. In Kansas universities, college algebra is a requirement. If this continues to be a necessary component to graduate, there might be an empty graduation ceremony since one in three college students fails the course.
The Kansas Board of Regents is looking into ways to solve this problem so they don’t have students being held back by the challenging curriculum.
For those individuals whose brains start spinning in circles at the sight of overwhelming numbers, the statistics don’t look. Approximately one in three Kansas students fails college algebra on the first attempt. Some students persist and keep trying until they get the scores, while others pack their bags and drop out.
“We’re sending the majority of students down the college algebra road, which is really not necessary,” said Daniel Archer, vice president of academic affairs for the Kansas Board of Regents. “It’s not practical. It’s not really needed. And it’s not relevant for their fields.”
College algebra is a freshman-level math requirement at most major universities and it’s intended to prepare students for calculus. However, only about 20 percent of majors require higher-level math.
To rectify this problem, Archer recommended to the board that they consider a system where math requirements would align with a student’s major. “You’re trying to base (course requirements) on the skills that are needed in that… professional career,” Archer said. “If you’re going to major in political science, you’d be far better suited to take a stats class.”
The Kansas Board of Regents plans to put together an advisory group to explore different pathways and new requirements that are easier to meet.
However, it’s not a quick path to get there. Doug Girod, chancellor of the University of Kansas, said it could be difficult to transform math requirements quickly. “We just keep layering on project after project, and these are not one-and-dones,” Girod said. “As it stands today, we do not have the bandwidth to do everything.”