An advanced math curriculum in high school is essential for preparing California students for science and technology majors in college, University of California, Berkeley experts wrote in a recent EdSource op-ed.

The authors credited a recent report from a UC Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools (BOARS) workgroup that recommends “only courses that require knowledge of advanced algebra should validate the Algebra II/ Math III course” for UC admission. The report recommendations were subsequently shared in a message to high school counselors and advisers by the UC Office of the President, explaining steps the system is taking to implement the BOARS recommendations for the 2025-26 academic year.

Discussion among math and education experts in K-12 and higher education has centered in recent years around how to make math more accessible to high school students while preparing students for success in higher education and their subsequent careers. Offering data science courses that do not include advanced algebraic math, or Algebra II, has been one of the most hotly debated related proposals.

“This is a noteworthy example of the California educational system working well and listening to expert feedback in order to best serve its students,” wrote Jennifer Chayes, dean of Berkeley’s College of Computing, Data Science, and Society, and Jelani Nelson, professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences, in the op-ed published March 5. “While introductory data science courses may whet high school students’ appetites, if they are taken at the exclusion of Algebra II, students will not be adequately prepared for science and technology majors in college.” 

“We must make sure that the prerequisites for admission to our colleges and universities adequately prepare students to pursue careers in these fields,” they wrote.

Hundreds of university professors in the state and beyond had previously come out against the rapid adoption of high school data science classes that were being offered as a proposed substitute for advanced algebraic math, or Algebra II. 

“We know from years of study and practice that learning math is cumulative,” wrote Chayes and Nelson. “We applaud UC and California decision-makers for their recognition that Algebra II is necessary student preparation for the successful completion of college degrees that require a strong grounding in math, including data and computer science."

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