University exploring new mathematics pathways for students

March 9, 2018
University exploring new mathematics pathways for students


Mathematics tutoring

Fitchburg State University is launching an initiative this fall to transform how mathematics is delivered to first-year students, continuing its commitment to help students stay on track and achieve their academic goals.

National data shows many students struggle with readiness for university-level math, meaning they often need to take remedial courses. Such courses can delay the attainment of degree-specific math requirements, and keep students from completing their degrees on time.

A new Performance Incentive Fund grant from the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education will help Fitchburg State develop new mathematics pathways for all students, including (but not limited to) those needing remediation. Activities will include expanding co-requisite education, which provides students additional support in their “gateway” mathematics pathway course to help them stay on track.

In addition, the University will develop an opportunity for students to complete remedial mathematics in one semester and create a mathematics lab that will provide supplemental support for students.

“Our goal is to give students the support they need to help them succeed in university-level mathematics courses,” said Professor Mary Ann Barbato, chair of the University’s Mathematics Department. “We’re going to provide students with pathways that will apply to specific majors, including a new quantitative reasoning option.”  

“The mathematics department has been at the forefront of student success initiatives at the University, and this latest work is very important,” added Assistant to the Provost for Student Success Sean Goodlett. “There is plentiful research showing that when students are in the appropriate pathway, they are retained and graduate at higher rates.”

Most students can be placed into their first university-level math course based on their high school GPA instead of relying on placement tests. Data from across the commonwealth shows that high school GPA is often as good an indicator of math readiness as placement exams. The University has conducted some pilots by placing first-year students based on high school GPA, and the preliminary data indicates that these students are more successful in returning for their sophomore year at the University.

The hope is that by incorporating multiple ways for first-year students to meet the University’s mathematics readiness requirement, every student will have a clear start to success in mathematical and/or quantitative reasoning.

“All students at the University deserve an equal opportunity to succeed when they arrive,” said Dean of Health and Natural Sciences John C. Schaumloffel. “The innovative and creative work of the mathematics faculty at the University, which continues in part with this project, is part of making that happen for these students.”