Posted on Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Math Pathways Project a Key to Student Success

The Complete 2021 strategic plan to triple the number of credentials earned by VCCS students is centered on completion to increase economic mobility and individual prosperity across the commonwealth. According to the State Council for Higher Education in Virginia, only 38% of first-time, degree-seeking students completed a community college credential or transferred to a senior institution. This low percentage equates to only 31,000 students a year walking across the finish line with a credential in hand. This number has not moved in the last four years.

Using the Loss Momentum Framework as a model, VCCS has evaluated loss points to understand what the barriers to student success are and how the colleges can better support students. One of the Chancellor’s first recommendations was to examine math pathways in Virginia.

“This is an incredible opportunity for all of us to be a part of a transformational faculty-driven project focused on removing barriers to student success,” said Patricia Parker, Math Pathways project manager and Germanna’s developmental math department chair. “It is truly powerful to have hundreds of math faculty from all 23 colleges join together as one team focused on one mission.”  


The goal of the Math Pathways Project is to improve student success in developmental mathematics and gateway math courses by reducing the time to completion with equal or greater success, and equal or greater levels of rigor. That will be accomplished by:

  • Clearly defining math pathways that prepare students earning workforce credentials or transferring to a four-year college or university. These high quality, system-wide pathways will be well-defined, provide practical applications in support of career and technical, and health science programs and/or be highly transferable to senior institutions.
  • Increasing collaboration and opportunity for focused conversations between K-12, community college and four-year math faculty.
  • Developing co-requisite opportunities for students that give them the option of enrolling in an on-level gateway math course in their first semester with the appropriate support and just-in-time remediation leading to successful completion.
  • Developing collaborative “senior year capstone” models with high-school mathematics departments to provide students the opportunity to use their senior year in high school to be on-level as entering college freshmen.
  • Developing consistent practices statewide regarding calculator use on placement instruments and in developmental courses, as well as understanding the use of calculators and technologies in the four-year colleges to provide appropriate preparation.
  • Evaluating current placement practices to eliminate barriers for college-ready students and better place students for success in mathematics courses.


Like many other states, Virginia faces a high percentage of students who need developmental mathematics; however, few of those students successfully complete a credit-level mathematics course. In addition, Virginia’s Community Colleges transfer its students to 15 independently run public colleges and universities in Virginia, as well as a large number of private colleges across the Commonwealth.

The changing needs of our students and university transfer requirements, over the last 50 years, left us with a collection of mathematics courses that were insufficient, inconsistent and confusing to both students and teachers. Moving forward, this effort gives VCCS mathematics departments the opportunity to develop courses that are less reactive and more effective.

The Math Pathways Project is a strong step forward to support Complete 2021 to prepare students for the future workforce or transfer institution. The mathematics faculty has worked hard to identify barriers and recommend changes to support all students. This exciting work could well yield a national model for all states to follow.


From its beginning, the Math Pathways Project was intended to be a grassroots effort dependent on faculty commitment across the commonwealth. More than 200 VCCS faculty, and many more at the college level, answered the call and have dedicated tremendous time and energy to this comprehensive and collaborative effort. Additional collaboration has occurred with Virginia’s four-year colleges and the Virginia Department of Education.


After 15 months of hard work and collaboration, the project is currently in the implementation phase which includes:

  • Collaboration with Virginia four-year public and private schools, the Virginia Department of Education, and the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV).
  • Creation of 14 transfer level pathway courses and 5 co-requisite or support courses.
  • Creation of Master Course File Crosswalk.
  • Creation of state models for co-requisite and senior capstone delivery platforms.
  • Continued work in the Career and Technical Education and Health Sciences areas to develop pathway courses to support all of the programs.
  • Continued work on the remaining nine credit courses to identify need and develop curriculum in collaboration with the four-year colleges.
  • Continued work with the developmental and credit instructors to define what happens between the completion of MTE 5 (Beginning Algebra) and entry into PreCalculus.
  • Recommendations developed for multiple measures placement and the Virginia Placement Test.
  • Virginia Math Summit bringing together public and private, two-year and four-year colleges and VDOE for mathematics conversation.
  • Professional development for VCCS instructors who will be early adopters and/or campus leads in the teaching of the pathway courses: QR, SR, and PreCalc. Training will focus on ways to increase student engagement in the learning process.

Fourteen of the 23 colleges will implement some portion of the Math Pathways project in the fall 2017 semester with the rest following suit by fall 2018. 

For more information, please contact Patricia Parker at or visit the shared google doc at'

Laura Osberger


  1. ?

    Joan L. Ehrlich

    I would like to see the final, definitive policy regarding calculator use for students with disabilities in developmental math classes, that states when and under what conditions calculators will be permitted, which kind(s)of calculators, and where that policy will be posted so that we can show it to students.

    • ?

      Craig Butterworth

      Hi Joan –

      Might I suggest that you contact Dr. Van Wilson in Academic Services for guidance? He can be reached at or (804)819-4697, whichever is your pleasure.

      Thank you for your inquiry.



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