If you’re one of those students who dreads math — especially algebra — you’ll soon get a bit of a break at the California State University system.
For years, intermediate algebra had been a prerequisite for the system’s general math classes, meaning even students who weren’t majoring in math or science related fields had to complete the course before they could complete their math requirement. Beginning in the fall of 2018, students whose majors aren’t math or science heavy will be able to fulfill their math requirements without slogging through intermediate algebra first — part of a larger effort to increase graduation rates.
“What that means for students is they have more choices,” said Christine Mallon, CSU’s associate vice chancellor for academic programs and faculty development.
Removing the intermediate algebra prerequisite also could ultimately help more students earn a degree, proponents of the idea argue. Some students had been struggling to complete the intermediate algebra they needed to enroll in a general math class, faculty said, even though they were not pursuing math-related fields. For instance, a student majoring in English and trying to satisfy her general education math requirement might want to take the philosophy course “mathematics and logic,” which focuses on logic and probability. But currently, students who want to sign up must first pass intermediate algebra even if they won’t need it to succeed in the class.
By 2025, CSU wants 40 percent of its freshmen to earn a degree in four years, almost double the current figure. One of the holdups is remedial math education. Right now, nearly 40 percent of freshmen admitted to a CSU campus have to take remedial math or English classes that are time-consuming and expensive but don’t actually count toward a degree.
“This is an incredibly promising direction,” said Katie Hern, an English teacher at Hayward’s Chabot College who co-founded the California Acceleration Project, which works with schools to rethink remedial education.
The chancellor of the state’s community colleges agrees. Eloy Oakley told the Los Angeles Times several weeks ago he doesn’t think intermediate algebra should be required to earn an associate’s degree, either, unless the student is pursuing a math-heavy degree.
“College-level algebra is probably the greatest barrier for students — particularly first-generation students, students of color — obtaining a…