Failure rates in College Algebra courses are high across the country and present significant barriers to earning STEM degrees because mathematical sciences courses in the first two years of college function as pathways for many different science and engineering majors. According to a report, “Common Vision” from the Mathematical Association of America (MAA), 50 percent of students earn a grade lower than C every year in the United States. This sort of poor performance in gateway or general introduction courses such as college algebra not only has a hugely detrimental effect on students’ performance in their first two years of college, but also has lasting negative repercussions beyond college, since failure to obtain a degree in science or engineering prevents graduates from getting higher paying jobs.

Finding the status quo unacceptable, universities and colleges are pushing forward with large-scale implementation of modern instructional and delivery methods. Modernized pedagogy in mathematics departments currently involves using innovative instructional technology that enhances learning in ways not supported by the traditional classroom. And for good reason. The same MAA report finds that “failure rates under traditional lecture are 55 percent higher than the rates observed under more active approaches to learning.”

Through the use of active learning strategies and adaptive courseware—a personalized learning tool that students can use to review, practice and develop the requisite mathematical skills for a particular course—mathematics instructors at Oregon State University have achieved promising initial success in helping OSU students pass College Algebra.

Learn More about how Oregon State University transformed their College Algebra Course.