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More Math is Good!

Freshmen entering The University of Iowa are required to have completed two years of high school algebra and a year of geometry.  While this is a minimum requirement for admission, it is most beneficial for students to take as much math as possible in high school.  Studies have shown that increasing the amount of higher level math in high school increases the likelihood for graduation from college.  The chart below shows the percentage of high school students who complete a BA degree according to the number of years of math taken in high school.

Highest Course Completed in HS

Percentage of Students Earning a BA



Pre Calculus


Algebra II




Algebra I


Sources: James Rosenbaum (2001) Beyond College for All; Clifford Adelman (1999) Answers in the Toolbox

Is a college degree important?  The U.S. Census Bureau has released data illustrating the value of a college degree.  Students earning bachelors degrees earn an average of $51,206 a year, while those who have a high school degree earn on average $27,915.  Earning an advanced degree increases the average yearly income to $74,602.

Many majors at The University of Iowa require calculus, so that completion of precalculus in high school provides for a smoother transition to college math.  Taking no math during the senior year of high school allows math skills to weaken and can result in the need for remediation in college, including repetition of courses previously taken, some for no credit.

Remember that “prerequisite” means that mastery of skills is assumed.  So, for example, if algebra 2 is a prerequisite course for a subsequent class, then it will be assumed that the material studied in algebra 2 has been mastered and will be recalled as needed in the next class.  Simply completing or passing a class in high school does not guarantee not having to repeat that class in college.  An example of an assumed skill from algebra 2 might be the recall and correct application of the quadratic formula.

Math is not just a set of skills.  It is a way of thinking and reasoning and problem solving that permeates other disciplines.  Consequently, the best math preparation for college is four years of rigorous high school math.