The University of Montana
Department of Mathematical Sciences

Technical report #17/2011

High School Mathematics Curricula, University Mathematics Placement Recommendations, and Student University Mathematics Performance

Ke Wu Norman
University of Montana

Amanuel Medhanie, Michael Harwell, Edward Anderson, Thomas Post
University of Minnesota


Recent “math wars” have drawn attention to how well various high school mathematics curricula prepare students for college level mathematics. The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship between the high school mathematics curriculum and students’ post-secondary mathematics placement recommendation. Specifically how students responded to the mathematics placement recommendations and their performance in the first college mathematics class.

The results showed no relationship between student participation in a particular high school mathematics curriculum and mathematics placement recommendation, nor between student high school mathematics curriculum and student’s response to a university mathematics placement recommendation. However, students who took a more (less) difficult class than what was recommended achieved significantly lower (higher) grades than those who followed the recommendation. The findings have implications for high school mathematics curriculum selection, post-secondary student placement, and for future research in this area.

Keywords: : High school mathematics curriculum, mathematics placement, post-secondary mathematics achievement

AMS Subject Classification: 97

Paper was accepted and will appear in PRIMUS