Research in Higher Education

, Volume 60, Issue 4, pp 485–520 | Cite as

Fractions in College: How Basic Math Remediation Impacts Community College Students

  • Federick NgoEmail author


This study investigates the link between basic math skills, remediation, and the educational opportunity and outcomes of community college students. Capitalizing on a unique placement policy in one community college that assigns students to remedial coursework based on multiple math skill cutoffs, I first identify the skills that most commonly inhibit student access to higher-level math courses; these are procedural fluency with fractions and the ability to solve word problems. I then estimate the impact of “just missing” these skill cutoffs using multiple rating-score regression discontinuity design. Missing just one fractions question on the placement diagnostic, and therefore starting college in a lower-level math course, had negative effects on college persistence and attainment. Missing other skill cutoffs did not have the same impacts. The findings suggest the need to reconsider the specific math expectations that regulate access to college math coursework.


Community colleges Math education Developmental education Regression discontinuity 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Nevada Las VegasLas VegasUSA

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