New Book Celebrates USM Leadership as Innovator in Reforming Developmental Mathematics

Case Studies from USM Academic Affairs Show How State Partners are Improving Retention and Degree Completion

Baltimore, MD (March 5, 2020) – The University System of Maryland (USM) and its Academic Affairs division celebrates the release of Reforming Mathematics in Maryland: Stories from the Journey, a book offering case studies of how the USM reversed a trend of failure rates that once exceeded 50 percent for community college students required to take developmental (also called remedial) math courses.

The book takes readers on a path through the USM’s solution to a policy challenge: Too many students dropped out of community college before they could not complete remedial math courses—classes that many students are required to take but which don’t provide credit toward a degree.

Failures were expensive. Developmental math courses cost the state of Maryland $7,000 per student at community colleges and $9,000 per student at public universities. More importantly, these setbacks squashed students’ hopes and dreams, delaying and even derailing graduation and career goals.

A statewide task force in 2014 (led by then-USM Chancellor Brit Kirwan) created the USM’s Maryland Mathematics Reform Initiative (MMRI) to find ways to reduce students’ time in non-credit math courses and speed their progress toward a degree.

The USM received a four-year, $2.98 million U.S. Department of Education First in the World (FITW) grant in 2015 to put toward implementation of MMRI, by introducing new mathematics pathways for students in the social sciences and humanities. The coursework is as rigorous as the traditional algebra/calculus curriculum sequence required to graduate, but much more relevant to what these students need for their majors.

USM academic leaders increased the scope of the project during the past five years, by inviting all two-year and four-year, public and private higher education institutions in Maryland to learn from their experiences and implement reforms of their own.

Reforming Mathematics in Maryland: Stories from the Journey is a collection of essays from eight USM partner institutions and one affiliate institution. In each chapter, an institution recounts its experiences in reforming its developmental math programs as part of MMRI. Most institutions describe creating or redesigning their statistics courses for non-STEM majors to be better aligned with students’ academic programs and future careers.

“This book, and the initiative it celebrates, couldn’t be more timely," said USM Chancellor Jay Perman. “We know that policy and higher education leaders in Maryland have been focused on retention and degree completion. Remediation efforts like the MMRI go a long way toward helping our effort. I was pleased to share with legislators recently the numerous strategies USM has in place to decrease remediation.”

Institutions have reported enthusiasm from faculty, advisors, and students for the new statistics pathway, as higher pass rates in the new pathway help propel students through their programs and on towards their desired academic and career goals.

Data analysis is ongoing, but it is already clear that the reform is helping students. Preliminary data from all 12 participating institutions confirm that students who are not intending to major in STEM disciplines and who enroll in the new statistics pathway are significantly more successful in completing their college mathematics requirements than students who progressed through the traditional college algebra pathway. The biggest beneficiaries of the reform are traditionally underserved minority students, who often come to college with the greatest economic and academic challenges. In Maryland, 42 percent of all African American students and 41 percent of all Hispanic students entering four-year and two-year colleges require developmental math support, compared to 31 percent of all white students. The final results of the program evaluation will be available in September 2020.

The book can be downloaded and read for free at the following link:

The editors of Reforming Mathematics in Maryland are leaders in the Office of Academic and Student Affairs. Dewayne Morgan is the USM’s Director of P-20 Partnerships, where he develops and monitors policies, practices, and initiatives related to the USM’s extensive school-university-business partnership agenda. Most recently, he has led the creation of the state’s new Maryland Center for Computing Education (MCCE) at USM.

Nancy Shapiro is Associate Vice Chancellor for Education and Outreach and Special Assistant to the Chancellor for P-20 Education. As the principal investigator on major federal grants totaling over $30 million dollars from and the National Science Foundation (MSP) and the U.S. Department of Education (TQE), she has worked to build sustainable partnerships between colleges, universities and public schools which support high quality professional development in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) content areas and prepare future teachers for urban schools. Karen Feagin is currently a graduate assistant in the P-20 Office and is working on her Ph.D. at the University of Maryland, College Park in the Applied Linguistics and Language Education program in the College of Education. Her research focuses on K-12 educational language policy and its impact on English learners in the classroom.


Contact: Mike Lurie
Phone: 301.445.2719