The University of Wisconsin System has been reforming their requirement of remedial math classes for freshmen that performed poorly on college placement tests.
The idea of remedial math classes is to prepare freshmen for college courses and to ensure they have an equal starting level as other students. While not all students receive the same quality of high school education, the concept of required remedial math classes puts these students at an even greater disadvantage.
Nineteen percent of UW college students were required to take remedial math classes in the fall of 2017. They are paying thousands of dollars to take college classes, yet the remedial classes don’t count towards graduation. This puts students at a financial disadvantage because they are paying for classes that don’t count towards a degree in order to be able to take classes that do. If remedial courses continue to be a requirement, they should be free for students to avoid wasting their money and time.
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The University of Wisconsin System Math Initiative has changed to “use multiple measures for math placement,” instead of just focusing on college placement tests. A single placement test can not determine what mathematics level a student is on. While the test score should be taken into consideration, the main focus should be on what high school classes were taken and how well the student performed. Many students who are poor test-takers have a successful grade point average because they work hard to succeed in their classes.
The UW System Math Initiative also aims to reduce the number of students that are placed into developmental math courses.
These classes make students, who already feel like they are at a disadvantage by not placing into high-level math courses, feel even worse. They may believe that they are wasting time relearning math they took in high school instead of taking courses they are interested in. These classes could also hurt their grade point average if they perform poorly in them.
UW is making the right decision by reforming its entry-level math courses. Not only do remedial classes not make sense financially, but the purpose of them is also pointless. In order for college students to get into college in the first place, they must meet certain requirements. If they got into the school, they should already be prepared to do well in a college-level course.
Studies have suggested that only a third of students that took remedial math courses actually passed college-level math courses. The requirement didn’t even accomplish what its main purpose was, since the majority of students were unable to pass the college courses.
This reformation moves away from the one size fits all approach. Not all students are interested in studying the same topics or come from the same backgrounds. It is a waste for a student interested in literature to be required to take remedial math courses that are not required for their major.
UW-Milwaukee has been placing more students in quantitative reasoning classes instead of the default of college algebra. These alternative math courses cater to students interested in a range of majors and students have been more successful in them. While this is a great start, 93% of students who have declared majors still take algebra.
The idea of alternative math courses is more practical because it teaches students statistical and data analysis and mathematical reasoning skills, which are much more likely to be beneficial in job prospects and real-world situations than algebraic knowledge.
This is not a move away from math because students have been taking math courses since elementary school. If they are not interested in math by college, they have had enough time and experience to know so. It is unfair to push mathematics courses onto them solely because they performed poorly on one test.
Universities should offer online classes over the summer for students who feel that they may need extra support in mathematics before taking college courses. These should be free of charge to students who want extra help before starting their first college-level class.
Lauren Hando ([email protected]) is intending to major in journalism.