Examining the Links Between Grade 12 Mathematics Coursework and Mathematics Remediation in Nevada Public Colleges and Universities

Primary Researchers: Anthony Fong, Aditi Goel, Min Huang

Publication Date: July 2008

This study responds to concerns within the Nevada System of Higher Education about the number of Nevada high school graduates who seek a college education but may be unprepared for the rigors of beginning college-level courses.

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The study develops a more detailed picture of remediation rates in Nevada by examining student subpopulations and exploring the relationship between students' grade 12 coursework and their enrollment in remedial courses in college.

WestEd researchers examined grade 12 and college freshman year transcripts. The study population of 4,653 students consisted of all students who graduated from a Nevada high school in 2006 and enrolled in at least one mathematics course in a Nevada public college or university in the 2006/07 school year. This study examines the links between Nevada's grade 12 mathematics courses and remedial mathematics courses in the state's public colleges and universities. It analyzes remediation rates by students' highest grade 12 mathematics course level and mathematics grade point average and by various student and school characteristics.

Research Questions

  • Which mathematics courses did Nevada students complete in grade 12, and how well did they do?
  • What were the remediation rates for each level of mathematics courses that students completed in grade 12, and how did the rates differ by student performance in these courses?
  • How did the remediation rates differ by other student characteristics — race/ethnicity, gender, and type of public college attended (two-year, four-year, or combination)?
  • How did the remediation rates differ by type of high school attended in grade 12, as measured by locale and by whether the school made adequate yearly progress that year under the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001?


Researchers performed a descriptive analysis to determine the highest level of mathematics that students completed in grade 12 and their grade point average (GPA) for all mathematics courses in grade 12. Based on the criteria of Burkam and Lee (2003), students' mathematics coursework was classified into eight categories — from no mathematics to Advanced III (such as calculus). Remediation rates were then calculated and compared with student characteristics (highest level of mathematics completed in grade 12, grade 12 mathematics GPA, gender, race/ethnicity, and whether the student enrolled in a two- or four-year institution) and school characteristics (locale and whether the school made adequate yearly progress in 2006).

In addition to the descriptive analysis, researchers conducted a multivariate analysis to investigate the correlation between mathematics remediation status and coursework completed in grade 12, while controlling for other student characteristics.

Key Findings

Among students who completed a Middle II course (such as algebra II), 63% enrolled in a remedial mathematics course during their first year of college. Among those who completed the next higher level of Advanced I (such as algebra/trigonometry), the rate was about half that, at 32%. The remediation rate was halved again for the students who had completed the next higher level of mathematics (an Advanced II course such as pre-calculus), at 15%, and it dropped to 3% for the students who had completed the most advanced mathematics level (an Advanced III course such as calculus).

The information provided in this study may be helpful to parents, students, and educators in better understanding the likelihood that students who complete particular mathematics courses in grade 12 will enroll in remedial mathematics. This information can also serve as a starting point for discussions between K-12 and college administrators about what should be considered adequate high school preparation.

Implications for Research and Practice

This research highlights the importance of linking secondary school data with postsecondary school data. By longitudinally linking high school and college transcripts, one can examine the relationship between performance in high school courses and preparedness/access to college. This study illustrates the importance of coursework completed in grade 12 and a student's performance in that coursework. This study can serve as a starting point for discussions between K-12 and college administrators about what would be sufficient high school mathematics preparation for college-bound students.

Study Limitations

This study did not analyze coursework in grades 9-11. Due to this data limitation, conclusions can only be made regarding grade 12 coursework. In addition, one third of the students in the sample did not complete a mathematics course in grade 12, so there is no information on the highest mathematics course that these students completed. This group of students may be high achieving in that they have already completed all of their mathematics courses up through calculus by the end of grade 11. Alternatively, this group of students may be low achieving in that they may have decided simply to not enroll in mathematics in grade 12.

  • Published: July 2008
  • Research Type: Issues & Answers
  • Methodologies: Descriptive
  • Contact info:
    Tony Fong 415.615.3289

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