Ask a math teacher about the New Mathways Project and you are likely to get an earful. Some believe it holds great potential to address the low level of freshman college readiness in mathematics. Others worry that it dilutes standards by allowing students to avoid rigorous courses.
Those with long memories may recollect a debate over what was then called Rain Forest algebra for kids. Lisa Simpson was once enrolled, much to her disappointment and outrage (in "Girls Just Want to Have Sums").
By way of background on the New Mathways Project, please have a look at this overview. While it's unlikely that teachers in the discipline have not heard plenty about the initiative, those who teach in other fields may want to have a look. Individuals trained in statistical analysis (such as in the social and behavioral sciences) may find it particularly interesting.
Some educators have suggested that algebra is the "new Latin" in terms of its contemporary utility. They believe algebra should be at least partly replaced with a more statistics-oriented curriculum, which can be every bit as rigorous. A move in this direction for some students is included in the project, along with "Quantitative Literacy."
Jody Serrano in the Texas Tribune writes of present efforts to improve college readiness. Included is the following passage on community colleges and the New Mathways Project:
In some cases, outreach at the high school level isn’t enough. At community colleges, for example, many students have been out of high school for years before they first step foot on campus.
Steve Johnson, spokesman for the Texas Association of Community Colleges, estimated that about 60 percent of students are not college ready when they first arrive on community college campuses. He noted that math is one of the biggest struggling points.
This year, nine community college districts will try out the New Mathways Project, a more than $4 million pilot program that aligns math classes to a student's desired field of study, allowing them to complete the courses faster. The program, which receives state funding, was developed by the Dana Center at UT-Austin. Fifty community colleges are scheduled to roll out the program over the next five years.
Margaret Wade, the dean of math and science at Midland College, a community college in West Texas, said it is too early to tell whether the New Mathways Project will be successful. But she agreed that college readiness must be a priority; college-level classes cannot be slowed down because some students do not understand the material, she said.
"The ideal would be that they all come to us college ready, or if they don't come to us college ready, we get them to that point as soon as possible," Wade said.