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Purpose: This paper presents findings from an RCT study of Mathematics Pathways, a multiple math pathways model developed by an academic center. The paper analyzes the implementation of the new curriculum structure at the institution and classroom levels at four colleges in south state, its contrast with standard math classes, impacts on student outcomes, and the costs of the intervention in comparison to standard course pathways.

Problem: Developmental and college-level math courses have traditionally focused on algebra, a requirement for many majors. However, only 5% of careers use the algebra skills taught in these courses while many require basic quantitative literacy skills, such as the ability to read statistical charts or work with fractions (Handel, 2010). Additionally, developmental math instruction often relies heavily on the memorization and procedural application of math facts rather than developing students’ conceptual understanding (Stigler, Givvin & Thompson, 2010). Many colleges have begun to implement multiple math pathway models that diversify the math students learn based on their intended career (Education Commission of the States, 2018). The few rigorous studies of multiple math pathways interventions also suggest that they are effective at helping students’ complete their developmental and college-level math classes and accumulate college credits (Logue, Watanabe, and Rose-Douglas, 2016; Yamada and Bryk, 2016); Yamada, Bohannon, and Grunow, 2016)). This study contributes to this literature while also examining the effects of revised pedagogical models on students’ perspectives of math.

Methods: The study employs an RCT design and uses a generalized linear model (GLM) to examine five academic outcomes: completion of developmental math, completion of college-level math, math credits accumulated, total credits accumulated, and receipt of a degree or transfer to a four-year college. Qualitative interviews, focus groups, and classroom observations were conducted using semi-structured protocols, and a survey of students was conducted during their first semester after random assignment. Cost analyses estimate start-up and net costs for the intervention in comparison to standard classes.

Data: The sample includes 1,411 students enrolled in four cohorts (fall 2015 through spring 2017) from four community colleges. Data include college transcript data and records from the National Student Clearinghouse. The implementation and cost studies use data collected from field research, student survey data, and a cost collection tool completed by college administrators.

Results: The study found that the colleges were able to successfully implement the Math Pathways model at both the institution- and classroom-levels, and that strong contrast existed between Math Pathways and standard courses. Students in the Math Pathways had dramatically different experiences learning math, which impacted their perspectives of the subject. After three semesters, Math Pathways positively impacted students’ completion of developmental and college-level math classes and the number of math credits earned. Both start-up costs and net ongoing direct costs to the college are low.

Significance: This study suggests that revisions to math course content and instruction can result in important changes to students’ perspectives of math and their success in courses, which has important implications for improving the U.S. low math numeracy.