Case study

Innovating High School Math through K–12 and Higher Education Partnerships

Sherrie Reed Bennett
University of California, Davis
Kathy Reeves Bracco
Angora Ridge Partners
Michal Kurlaender
University of California, Davis
Cassandra Merritt
University of California, Davis


Despite clear evidence of the benefits of taking advanced math courses in high school, access to and success in these courses are not experienced equally. Only about half of California high school seniors enroll in an advanced math course, and nearly one-quarter of seniors do not take any math. To increase equitable access to advanced math, six partnerships between university faculty and high school math specialists have developed advanced innovative math (AIM) courses as viable alternatives to traditional 12th-grade math courses. This report highlights the ways in which these partnerships demonstrate and benefit from the common features of successful intersegmental partnerships; accompanying case studies describing each of these partnerships appear at right under the main report.

  • Investment of state resources: Five partnerships were awarded grants through the California Mathematics Readiness Challenge Initiative; six received financial support from private foundations.
  • Shared Purpose: Driving the work is a shared belief that many students are not well served by existing math courses. AIM courses, although varying in content, use a common student-centered pedagogy with the goal of increasing students’ confidence in quantitative reasoning.
  • Commitment to equity: The shared purpose is grounded in commitment to equity, with courses targeting students who might not otherwise enroll in math during their senior year. This commitment to equity is evidenced by course enrollment that is representative of the racial and socioeconomic diversity in participating districts."=
  • Community building: The partnerships create community across institutions through ongoing professional development and professional learning communities. Teachers value the support, collaboration, iteration, and camaraderie.
  • Capacity development: Teachers gain skills and confidence in novel instructional strategies and report using some of these strategies in their other courses.
  • Improved educational outcomes: Quantitative analysis indicates that enrollment in an AIM course increases the likelihood that students will complete course requirements for California State University or University of California eligibility by 3–10 percentage points, and, in some cases, improves high school math grades. Enrollment in an AIM course also increases the likelihood of attending college.

Although evidence clearly indicates success for these intersegmental partnership efforts, truly innovating and diversifying advanced math pathways for high school students requires continued investments of political will and financial resources as well as ongoing coordination among segments of the education system.

There is a related PACE infographic on high school math course-taking in California as well as a related report about teacher perceptions from the Education Insights Center.

Suggested citationReed, S., Bracco, K. R., Kurlaender, M., & Merritt, C. (2023, February). Innovating high school math courses through K–12 and higher education partnerships [Report]. Policy Analysis for California Education.