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The traditional algebra-to-calculus mathematics pathway required by most colleges "doesn't reflect changes in the types of quantitative skills that students need in their lives and careers," according to a new report from WestEd, a nonprofit research organization. In addition, with most incoming community college students placing into remedial math courses that emphasize algebra, the report said this traditional pathway often is a barrier to graduation.

With a focus on California's community colleges, the WestEd report looks at the highest-level math courses taken by 900,000 students between 2009 and 2016. It found 11 categories of math that are alternatives to traditional algebra-based sequences, and that transferable alternatives to algebra-based courses accounted for 25 percent of the highest level of math courses completed. Statistics was the most developed of the alternatives.

However, almost half of students "only got as far as remedial math," the report found.

"Those students who stopped at remedial math accounted for two-thirds of students who dropped out of college, more than half of students who earned a certificate, and 20 percent of students who transferred without an award," the researchers wrote.

Pamela Burdman, the report's primary author and a senior project director of Just Equations, a project of the Opportunity Institute, published a blog item on the report and its findings.