A growing number of colleges have begun piloting alternatives to the traditional 3-4 semester developmental Math sequence. The new courses focus not on a review of Algebra concepts and skills, but instead on preparing students for college-level Statistics.
Pre-Statistics courses emerged from a widespread recognition that the traditional developmental Algebra sequence is not well-aligned with the study of Statistics. If a student is pursuing a major that includes Statistics rather than Calculus (e.g. fields outside of Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, and Business), the majority of what is covered in elementary and intermediate Algebra courses never comes into play in their college-level Math course. The content is not, in fact, pre-requisite knowledge for the study of Statistics.
This misalignment is especially problematic given how many students are lost in long remedial math pipelines. A nationwide study by the Community College Research Center found that among students who begin 3 or more levels below college Math, 90% disappear before ever completing the college-level course.
Los Medanos College was the first in the nation to pilot this kind of course with Path2Stats, a one-semester pathway to college Statistics with no minimum placement score. Rather than proceeding step-by-step though all the topics in the traditional math sequence, Path2Stats students engage in statistical analysis from day one. Basic skills remediation occurs in a “just-in-time” fashion, with students reviewing relevant arithmetic and algebraic skills — e.g. calculating percentages, converting ounces to grams — as they are needed for the statistical tasks at hand. Path2Stats students complete college Math at dramatically higher rates that students with comparable starting placements in the traditional sequence.
In 2011-12, 7 community colleges are working with the California Acceleration Project to offer redesigned pre-Statistics Courses. They include Diablo Valley College, Cuyamaca College, City College of San Francisco, College of the Canyons, Riverside City College, Moreno Valley College, and Berkeley City College (See video footage of CCSF students talking about their experience.) Some of these courses are open-access; others have arithmetic/pre-Algebra prerequisites.
Nationwide, an additional 19 community colleges and 3 state universities are part of the Statway initiative, led by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching: “a one-year pathway that culminates in college-level statistics…with requisite arithmetic and algebraic concepts taught and applied in the context of statistics.”
Classroom video: Los Medanos Developmental Math Students Discover an Error in a National Statistics Exam
Students from City College of San Francisco Rave about New Pre-Statistics Class
College of the Canyons Math Instructor Matt Teachout on the Misalignment between Algebra and Statistics
“As a System, What Are We Offering? We Need to Think of Mathematics in a Different Way”
Diablo Valley College Math Instructor Jenny Freidenreich discusses the motivation behind redesigning developmental mathematics focused on preparation for the study of statistics.
College of the Canyons Math Instructor Kathy Kubo Talks about Pedagogy for Accelerated Pre-Statistics Courses