DENTON, Texas (UNT) – The University of North Texas is among seven Texas universities identified as leaders in the New Mathways Project, an initiative ensuring students take math courses aligned appropriately with their future career plans, according to a newly released report, "Clearing pathways through modern mathematics."
What it is
The New Mathways Project is a collaboration of all 50 Texas community college districts and a growing list of Texas public universities; it was started by the University of Texas at Austin Charles A. Dana Center and the Texas Association of Community Colleges.
Depending on the chosen degree plan, undergraduates at these schools take math classes that prepare them for their fields of study. Under the NMP's Transfer Champions Initiative, UNT was recognized for implementing a similar approach to mathematics pathways and collaborating with community colleges to create smoother transfers for students who are following the NMP.
"Community college leaders are very interested in scaling the New Mathways Project," said Jenna Cullinane, higher education policy and strategy lead. "However, they are concerned this could cause problems if their students transfer to an institution that does not align mathematics requirements with the skills needed for majors as the NMP principles suggest."
She added that the initiative highlights schools using pathways on their own that are consistent with programs community colleges are committed to using.
UNT was among the first Texas universities to move toward this approach in Fall 2008 when it became evident that matching different math courses for specific degrees needed to be reflected in the required core curriculum. The UNT version includes the three NMP tracks, with two extra paths for business and interdisciplinary studies majors:
- Statistics would be taken by social science majors and students planning health careers.
- Quantitative reasoning would be taken by liberal arts and fine arts majors.
- Calculus-preparation courses would be taken by science, technology, engineering or mathematics majors.
- Business-preparation math courses would be taken by business majors.
- Interdisciplinary studies math courses would be taken by prospective elementary or middle school teachers seeking certification under the College of Education.
"Different math courses support the different career paths of undergraduate students," said Celia Williamson, UNT vice provost for transfer and articulation. "Whether they're analyzing statistical information in a newspaper article, teaching 21st-century skills, creating computer games or modeling the stress on airplane wings, students will find that their UNT classes will be attuned to the mathematics they will need for subsequent courses and for their careers."
Why it helps
In the past, students had little choice but to take a calculus-preparation course, like algebra, even if calculus was not needed for their major. If the student also needed to take a statistics course as a foundation for their particular career field, that meant an additional math course in their degree plan. The new plan allows students to jump right to the applicable math. In this way, the NMP helps students
- Graduate with an understanding of the specific mathematics skills needed for their particular career;
- Feel engaged in the classroom because they can see the relevance of the content; and
- Save time and money because students are less likely to have to repeat traditional, one-size-fits-all math coursework.
"The most expensive course a student takes is the one they do not need," said Williamson, who noted that with stronger connections between community colleges and four-year universities, everyone – students, schools and communities – benefits.