- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 21, 2015

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - A Missouri Department of Education committee is recommending that two- and four-year public colleges that require algebra for graduation instead give students the option of taking statistics or other math subjects more relevant to their fields.

Roughly half the students who take college algebra in Missouri fail it at least once, with many of them just giving up and dropping out, math professors say. By replacing the algebra requirement with other math choices, state education officials are hoping to speed graduation for many students, The Kansas City Star (https://bit.ly/1LqGhmP ) reported.

“Ultimately we are not able to tell any institution that they have to do this or that,” said Rusty Monhollon, the Missouri department’s assistant commissioner for academic affairs. “But I do think there is a great deal of support for improving the quality of math education in the state.”

The Education Department doesn’t have a complete list of schools still requiring algebra, but they include some community colleges in Kansas City, along with the University of Missouri and Truman State University.

The change would add Missouri to a growing list of states that are nudging aside algebra requirements. In Kansas - where the pass rate for college algebra in 2014 was 76 percent - all six state universities governed by the Kansas Board of Regents allow students to take alternative math courses to satisfy graduation requirements.

Missouri educators have pledged that by 2025, 60 percent of working-age Missourians will have a higher education credential. Freeing students from the algebra requirement could help them graduate sooner, save money and move the state closer to meet that goal.

“Right now we equate mathematics thinking with algebraic thinking, and mathematics is broader than that,” said Northwest Missouri State math professor Mary Shepherd, a member of the statewide committee reviewing math requirements. “Students have been told, ‘You don’t think mathematically,’ because they struggle with algebra, but algebra is just one small aspect of mathematics.”

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Information from: The Kansas City Star, https://www.kcstar.com

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