by Thurston Banks
To satisfy the National Collegiate Athletic Association's (NCAA) core course mathematics requirement, a student needs to have received credit for two mathematics courses at the level of first-year algebra or higher. Such courses as remedial mathematics, business mathematics, and prealgebra do not meet this requirement.
Depending on the course content, such other courses as "integrated mathematics" may meet the requirement. In determining whether a mathematics course meets the core course requirements, integrated mathematics courses have been problematic for NCAA in the past. As the name implies, they consist of a mixture of mathematics topics that may include components of prealgebra, other topics that are below the level of first-year algebra, or topics that may duplicate material from other courses. Obviously, permitting a student to take two mathematics courses with different names that were both first-year algebra in nature and allowing graduation credit for both those courses would be fruitless. This outcome is the basis of the duplicative argument.
The duplicative nature of course material is even more complex when one considers students who transferred from one high school to another. The first high school may follow a more traditional format in teaching mathematics, and the second may follow an integrated mathematics format that teaches first- and second-year algebra and geometry using a three-year integrated mathematics program. Parts of first-year algebra taken at the first school then appear in the second year of integrated mathematics at the second school and to that extent are duplicative.
Analyses of these courses by clearinghouse personnel, NCAA staff members, or members of the NCAA Mathematics Core Course Subcommittee have been difficult and time-consuming. These analyses have included such factors as inquiring about the specific textbook used for the course, reviewing the table of contents of the textbook, and reviewing the course syllabus or course outline. At times, all materials used in the course were reviewed.
During the period when the NCAA's 75 percent content rule was in effect, this rule was a primary discriminator in the review of these mathematics core courses. The 75 percent content rule stated that for a course to meet the NCAA's mathematics core course requirement, at least 75 percent of the instructional content of the course had to consist of mathematical concepts that were acceptable for the course. This requirement was later dropped, and high schools were asked to assume primary responsibility for core course analysis. In their evaluation of courses as core courses, high schools were asked to focus on such criteria as courses that are college preparatory in nature, that are taught by a qualified instructor, and that are awarded high school graduation credit. The NCAA membership also agreed to reduce the complexity of the mathematics core course analysis by eliminating the Level II mathematics requirement. The Level II requirement stipulated that at least one course must be above the first-year algebra level of content. These changes have no doubt been to the benefit of everyone involved; however, questions still arise when dealing with integrated mathematics courses.
It behooves the high schools and the NCAA membership to strive toward a core-course evaluation system that maintains a rigorous high school mathematics program for all college-bound students, since many students who are entering college must take developmental or remedial mathematics courses before beginning their normal college mathematics coursework.
|Thurston Banks is a member of the chemistry faculty at Tennessee Technological University, where he serves as the faculty athletics representative. He is also currently a member of the NCAA Core Course Review Committee and serves as chairperson of the Mathematics Subcommittee.