Two-Year College Mathematics and Student Progression in STEM Programs of Study

This resource introduces the history of and research in the the field of pre-college and early college mathematics practices.

Debra D. Bragg
Author(s) Organizational Affiliation
Office of Community College Research and Leadership, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Publication Year
Resource Type
Informational Material
Number of Pages
Product Type

In spite of the strident pursuit of standards-based reform of two-year college mathematics, implementation ofreform has been slow and uneven. National studies show more students are enrolling in two-year college mathematics, but a substantial portion of themare at the pre-college level, and many of these students never reach college-level mathematics courses. A host of issues need to be addressed to improve two-year college mathematics and prepare more students for STEM-related careers.

Specific recommendations to support this important goal are:

  • Take a P-20 approach to reforming the entire mathematics curriculum. Without a strategic, collaborative endeavor, it will continue to be difficult for two-year colleges that are caught between K-12 education and higher education to implement and sustain meaningful change.
  • More research is needed on the teaching and learning of two-year college mathematics. Finding ways to support two-year college faculty to engage in professional development that reinforces innovative pedagogiesis important. Included in this list is contextualized teaching and learning, technologies, and college placement and related assessments that need to be linked closely to classroom instruction.
  • More research is needed on the students who enroll in two-year college mathematics. More information is needed about how diverse learners, especially women and minorities, experience their initial mathematics courses(pre-college and college level) and how these experiences influence their subsequent enrollment, completion and career decisions.
  • More and better data are needed to support practitioner engagement in active research on mathematics education. Many two-year faculty would appreciate and benefit from opportunities to engage in active research that helps them to understand how mathematics education impacts the learning of diverse students, and then employ these pedagogical strategies in their classrooms.
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What the experts say

The resource provides an efficient summary of the history of two-year college mathematics, the challenges for students, including transitioning adult education students, and suggestions for improvements in the system. It is a good introduction to research in the the field of pre-college and early college mathematics practices.

I believe this resource may be too narrowly focused for inclusion in an adult education collection. This resource would be interesting and useful to policymakers who have a hand in mathematics education across the pipeline, and for community college  administrators and faculty, but it is tangentially related to adult education and educators.

This resource may seem to only fit two-year colleges but it has great implications for Adult Education programs. For you see, unlike colleges, Adult Education programs have the flexibility to change the way we instruct our learners so that they have a deeper, richer understanding of mathematical topics. In fact, they may even begin to like math; that would be ground-breaking since the highest paid and most in-demand jobs usually fall in the STEM realm and rely on a solid understanding of mathematical concepts and principles.

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