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Solve for ‘X’ or not: Missouri replaces algebra requirement at state colleges, universities

Washington University's Institute for School Partnership's Math314 program is training teachers to take a more conversational approach to math instruction.
Elliot Haney | via Flickr
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Missouri's public colleges and universities are replacing the blanket requirement students pass algebra with math courses more aligned with their degree program.

College freshmen who loathe math, rejoice: Algebra may not be a factor when it comes to earning a degree from Missouri public colleges and universities.

Under the guidance of the Missouri Department of Higher Education, all but one school (Truman State) have divided mathematics requirements into different “Math Pathways” that align with students’ majors. Beginning in the fall semester, science or engineering students will still need to take algebra, but a liberal arts student will take statistics or a mathematical reasoning course.

Having more options for earning math credits will help break up the “bottleneck” of students getting held up on the college algebra requirement, higher education department officials say.

“Some people eventually get through, spending a lot of money and spending a lot of time. And others will just fail and give up," said V.A. Samaranayake, a math professor at Missouri University of Science and Technology, in Rolla.

"So the idea is to replace that with something, for their pathway, (that is) more useful,” said Samaranayake, who helped design the new course requirements.

Fewer than half of incoming freshman in Missouri scored high enough on their ACT exam to indicate they would earn better than a C in algebra, higher education officials said.

“This is not dumbing down the curriculum,” said Rusty Monhollon, assistant commissioner of higher education. Instead, he said, the goal is to “align” the type of math a student will actually need for their career path.

Missouri worked with higher education institutions in four other states to create the new math options.

Chris Zuver, a 29-year-old senior at the University of Missouri-St. Louis said it took him three tries to complete algebra while earning an associate's degree at St. Charles Community College.

“That was the final thing, that was the last brick that was holding me back,” said Zuver, a journalism major. “I still to this day don’t see someone in my field ever really needing that.”

Follow Ryan on Twitter: @rpatrickdelaney

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