Research in College Algebra Basic Skills

Here's something that I'm finding frustrating: for all the mountain of ink spilled on the issue of remedial math in colleges (including enormous numbers taking them, the fact that it's the critical determination of whether people get a college degree or not, dim prospects of existing placement tests, etc., etc., etc.), when I search for papers where someone has tried to correlate specific math skills of incoming students to success in college remedial algebra -- I come up totally empty.

Weirdly, I can find studies that correlate specific diagnostic test questions in basic math skills to other classes. Here's one relating specific math skills to success in college statistics classes. Here's another. Here's a study relating basic math skills to success in economics classes.

But predicting success in basic algebra classes? I'm coming up totally empty. I'm truly bewildered at this -- part of me can't possibly believe that no one has published results like that, but part of me is stewing from returning to this futile search many days over and over again.

Does anyone know of such research linking specific skill questions to success in college remedial algebra? Or any college algebra classes?


  1. Do the research yourself. :)
    Seriously, take the methodology of those studies, apply it to your uni, publish results so others don't get frustrated.

    1. Ah, so it's come to this now.

      Seriously, I think you're probably right, and thanks for the vote of confidence. :-)

  2. Does your institution have an office or department of research? They may be able to provide the statistics you need. Mine does and we can ask them pretty much anything in aggregate about our students. We need those stats to justify new courses and show that our department is meeting expectations.

    "Give me a breakdown, by gender and GPA, of students who took college algebra and English composition and then went on to pass the introduction to programming course."

    1. Great suggestion, and it's funny you should bring this up today. Having been made full-time teaching staff this fall, I've also been put in charge of assessment for our math degree program; and coincidentally I'm meeting with our college's head of assessment and planning tomorrow. Thanks for the reminder, I'll try to bring this up with him when I get the chance. Beautiful timing.