Restructured course improves student success

two students with textbook and laptopThanks to the hard work of several faculty members, Math 100, Basic Mathematics, has seen a dramatic increase in student achievement. Instructors Emily Sablan and Justin Eld, together with Associate Professor Sandy Cooper, have spent the last several years changing and refining the course to identify and address the fundamental mathematical knowledge and concepts that students lack. As a result, the course has evolved each semester to better meet student needs and prepare them for success in future math courses.

In its latest form, the course is individually-based and students are often working on different modules at different times, pursuant to their progress in the course. This is a pass/fail course, where students complete 10 modules ranging in topics that include whole numbers, exponents, radicals, and solving equations. Students meet twice a week in a computer lab where an instructor, grader, and tutor are all available to give them individualized attention.

For each module, students complete an Assessment and Learning in Knowledge Spaces (ALEKS) component, turn in written exercises, and take a module test. This is an online-based, adaptive learning tool that assesses a student’s understanding of a topic and gives appropriate questions based on the student’s mastery of the material. The written exercises are similar to a homework assignment in a traditional math class. The exercises are returned to students with feedback but no grade. Students must then correct any mistakes and turn in the exercises again. Once the exercises are 100% correct, the student is ready to take a module test. Students can take this during class or during an instructor’s office hours. The test is graded and students must receive an 85% or higher to be allowed to begin the next module. If they don’t pass, they work on extra practice problems and have the opportunity to retest twice.

During class, instructors are working individually with students to assist them with homework, review exams, and providing feedback or clarification of the material. A grader and tutor are also available during class time to grade homework and assist students. In addition, many students attend office hours or go to the Math Learning Center in Cleveland Hall on a regular basis to receive additional help, work on homework, or take tests.

Students who pass the course have a better understanding and grasp of fundamental mathematics and have learned new study skills and habits. This individualized approach has increased the pass rate from 60% to 90% over a period of four years. At the same time, corresponding fall semester enrollment has increased from approximately 200 to about 500 students.

Top image: Two students study in the Math Learning Center.

From the Department of Mathematics and Statistics newsletter.