Program overview

  • Improving postsecondary mathematics achievement: The Dana Center Mathematics Pathways (DCMP) is a developmental mathematics framework for postsecondary institutions. The DCMP model aims to improve mathematics achievement among college students who need support to succeed in college-level mathematics courses.

  • Creating pathways by area of study: As part of the DCMP model, postsecondary institutions define three “pathways” that meet the needs of students in various programs of study. These include a statistics pathway for students in social and health sciences majors, a calculus pathway for STEM majors, and a quantitative reasoning pathway for humanities students.

  • Preparing students for college-level coursework: The DCMP model uses a “corequisite” approach, in which all students begin the college-level mathematics coursework associated with their pathway regardless of their developmental needs. Students who need additional support to succeed in college-level mathematics courses receive concurrent developmental supports outside of class. (Note: DCMP previously offered an accelerated developmental mathematics course instead of corequisite supports. The evaluation included below took place when the accelerated course was still in use.)

  • Offering an evidence-based curriculum: Implementing DCMP requires institutions to adopt an evidence-based curriculum designed to support student success. Key elements include setting internal standards for instructional practice, establishing a culture of continuous improvement among staff, providing educators with professional learning opportunities, and incorporating practices that enable students to actively engage with mathematical problems (e.g., real world applications).

  • Supporting students: As part of the DCMP model, faculty and student support staff work together to create student support strategies that are consistent across a student’s educational journey at the institution. The focus of these strategies is on helping students develop the skills, attitudes, and beliefs necessary to successfully and independently progress through their mathematics coursework. Examples of these supports include in-person tours of libraries and student learning centers, explicit instruction on study skills, career advising to assist students in setting vocational goals, among others.

One study with a rigorous design provides some evidence for the Dana Center Mathematics Pathways intervention as a strategy to improve mathematics achievement among college students.

  • A 2023 randomized controlled trial found that, over a five year period, students who were offered DCMP services were 5.6 percentage points more likely to have completed their first college-level math course than students who were not invited to participate.
  • Utilize available resources and professional development opportunities: The Dana Center offers extensive resources and support for faculty and administrators who are adopting the DCMP approach. These resources provide recommended processes and key considerations when introducing the DCMP model to a new institution, including a guide to aligning math pathways to existing majors and degree programs.

  • Minimize attrition between terms: When students take developmental mathematics courses, they are more likely to drop out of college when transitioning between courses, than they are to fail any individual course. As such, DCMP creates clear course sequences and combines developmental math supports with credit-bearing coursework in a corequisite model, reducing the risks associated with transitioning between courses. Implementing institutions can further address this risk by adopting other strategies to minimize student attrition, such as encouraging enrollment in successive semesters of mathematics courses.

  • Track progress and performance on key outcome metrics: Schools implementing DCMP should track both short- and long-term outcomes related to program goals in order to assess where the model is working and where there may be room for improvement. Metrics could include completion rates for individual math courses and entire pathways, total math credits earned, the rate at which students receive a degree, among others.

  • Align new math courses and requirements with four-year colleges: For two-year institutions that are implementing DCMP, it is important to communicate with four-year colleges and universities to ensure that the credits students earn will transfer and will meet prerequisite requirements. This may involve establishing partnerships with local four-year institutions or developing clear communication materials to explain the DCMP model to decision-makers across other institutions.