M.A.T.H. Tips: Vol. 7

Sanity Savers for April

Spring semester means spring break and distracted students. Whether you are post or pre-spring break here are a few tips and tricks designed to re-ignite the spark in your semester and recapture your student’s attention.

  1. STEM_rulers_blueprintsFind the math in your major. Students often have a hard time recognizing the usefulness of the math they are learning. Group students by MAJOR in non-STEM math classes.  Have students work with each other to identify 5 ways they use or reference math or mathematical ideas in their major.  Have each major share their results with the class.
  2. Try the 10-5-5 method of teaching. Lecture no more than 10 minutes before stopping, have students work in groups on a problem for 5 minutes and then discuss the problem as a class for 5 minutes. This method breaks up the lecture and keeps students engaged with the material.
  3. Stop, break, concept check! Concept check breaks can help students synthesize ideas. Before moving on to the next topic have students explain the concept just covered to their neighbor, or alternatively spare a few moments at the end of class to have students to review main ideas with each other.
  4. Chalkboard_problems_SolutionsLet the students create the problems.  To help students understand how word problems are put together, have them craft their own word problems in class. Provide an outline of the elements of a word problem, and a topic. Let students work in groups. Once done collect the word problems and redistribute among the groups. Tell the students not only to try to solve the problem but to identify where the problem could potentially be improved.
  5. Teach the WHY not just the HOW – When a course needs to cover a lot of material sometimes the WHY we do math gets lost. Try to take 5 minutes once a month to explain the why of a concept. Multilayered learning helps student engage with and relate to the course material. (Tips n Tricks videos and articles are a great resource for ideas!)


Corequisite Remediation: Case Study & Resources

Andrea_Co_Req_ConferenceCorequisite course options are popping up around the country with the goal to ultimately save time and move students through their entry level, credit-bearing math course with better understanding of the course material at hand.  First, let’s define: What is a corequisite course?

In a general sense, a corequisite course refers to a course that a student is required to simultaneously take in order to enroll in another course. A corequisite represents a set of skills or a body of knowledge that a student must acquire through concurrent enrollment in another course and without which the student is highly unlikely to succeed. In regards to developmental education, Complete College America’s article “Transform Remediation: The Co-Requisite Course Model”  defines a corequisite as the process of enrolling students in remedial and college-level math courses at the same time. Students receive targeted support to help boost their understanding and learning of the college-level course material. Remediation, in this model, is a corequisite rather than a prerequisite to a college-level math course.

Andrea Hendricks shares her journey through implementation of a Co-Req Model.

In Fall 2015, Georgia State University Perimeter College implemented co-requisite remediation, following a University System of Georgia mandate, to decrease the time spent in developmental coursework and thereby time to a college degree. Approximately two-thirds of students who would have originally placed at the developmental math level are now permitted to enroll in their gateway course along with a co-requisite support course.  Based on their major, students choose a STEM pathway (which also includes Business) or a non-STEM pathway. The gateway course is College Algebra for STEM students and Quantitative Reasoning for non-STEM students.

Students are placed at one of three levels: Foundations courses, Co-requisite courses, or Gateway courses. Students who place at the foundations level are required to take the support course when they enroll in the gateway course for their chosen pathway.

corequisite courses_graphic

Students required to take a support course must enroll in both the gateway course and the support course in the same semester. The co-requisite courses are aligned with the content of the gateway courses and provide just-in time remediation for any prerequisite skills. The main goal of the co-requisite support course is to help students pass their gateway course.

The college offered both College Algebra and Quantitative Reasoning for many years. Though the Quantitative Reasoning course was the recommended course for non-STEM majors, students overwhelmingly enrolled in College Algebra. This was due in large part to the fact that College Algebra was the known entity for both students and advisors. Thus, the College Algebra pass rate was less than stellar hovering between 44% and 48%. Now that students are required to choose a pathway, their gateway course is more obvious leading to an increase in the enrollment of Quantitative Reasoning.

Maneuvering the challenges of the co-requisite model has been a daunting task. The reality is that students sitting in the gateway courses are developmental students. They are most likely in their first semester of college and have limited time to get acclimated to what it means to be a successful college student. There is often not sufficient time for students to acquire the prerequisite knowledge for them to be successful in the gateway course; this is especially true of the STEM pathway. Students tend to show a lack of commitment to the support course and, therefore, do not regularly attend. For the support courses to be successful, the gateway instructors must follow a preset pacing of topics. Unfortunately, some instructors stray from this calendar resulting in the support course not providing the just-in time remediation their students need. My college administration believes that it is important for support students to be mainstreamed. Therefore, students may have different instructors for the gateway course and their support course. This has led to its own set of issues with registration and such.

MH_ALEKS_logoThe Support for College Algebra (Math 0999) is a two-credit hour course that is taught as a traditional course in both face-to-face and online settings. The course materials include a set of worksheets created in-house along with an access code to ALEKS. Each worksheet corresponds to a section covered in College Algebra and reviews the prerequisite skills required to successfully complete the College Algebra content. The worksheets guide instructors on topics to cover during class time and are also used for students to work in groups to complete problems reviewing these topics. Students use ALEKS outside of class to fill in their knowledge gaps, to take weekly quizzes, and to complete a post-test. The ALEKS pie is subdivided into 10 modules that correspond to the prerequisite skills for the sections taught in College Algebra each week. A quiz over these prerequisite skills is required each week. Finally, students take a post-test in ALEKS at the end of the semester to provide accountability for learning the material. The grading is based on the following: Participation (25%), Completion of ALEKS Modules (25%), ALEKS quizzes (25%), and ALEKS post-test (25%).

Designing a support course for our College Algebra students has provided an opportunity for my colleagues and me to rethink the traditional way of doing things. While the jury is still out on whether this is the most effective strategy, students who near the border of being college-level and are willing to invest the time to complete five hours of math credit are being successful in getting their gateway math credit in one semester. Perimeter College continues to explore the effectiveness of our strategies, to train instructors, and to inform students on how best to navigate the requirements put before them.

Additional Resources:

Andrea_Hendricks_ProfilePicSubmitted by Andrea Hendricks, Associate Professor at Perimeter College.  She currently serves as the Associate Department Chair for the Online Mathematics Department of Perimeter College at GSU.



The NFL + Ph.D. = Frank Ryan

We recently spotlighted the story of math wiz and football star John Urschel of the NFL Baltimore Ravens; however, John isn’t the only NFL veteran who has a Ph.D. in mathematics.  Many thanks to Stephen Gilmore at Johnson C. Smith University in NC for sharing the story of Frank Ryan.

Frank_Ryan_sportscardFrank Ryan was the quarterback who led the Cleveland Browns to their last NFL title in 1964. Frank Ryan obtained a bachelor’s degree in physics from Rice University before being drafted by the Los Angeles Rams.  He earned his Ph.D. from Rice University taking classes in the off-season.  The title of his doctoral thesis was “Characterization of the Set of Asymptotic Values of a Function Holomorphic in the Unit Disc.” Makes perfect sense…right? In addition to playing for the Browns, he finished up at the Washington Redskins.

According to wikipedia, Frank is now retired and living on a farmhouse in Vermont.  He “runs a sophisticated self-designed program that helps micro-analyze statistical behavior of the up-and-down pricing movement that underlies the pricing behavior of the futures market. He is also doing work on Oppermann’s conjecture about the distribution of prime numbers.[2]

Frank_Ryan_NFLOnce again, Frank’s story proves that hard word and success in math can take you down many paths you might now expect! Check out this article: the 10 Most Educated Players in the NFL.  There are several more interesting stories of professional athletes and their success in the classroom and on the NFL field!



Origami: The Intersection of Art & Mathematics

A former NASA physicist, Robert Lang is one of the world’s leading origami masters and theorists.  Not only has he written several books on origami, but he has applied origami principles to solving engineering problems ranging from the best way to fold an airbag, to folding paper thin solar cells for satellites. In this video, watch as Lang discusses how mathematics inspire his visions.

modular-origami-make-truncated-icosahedron-pentakis-dodecahedron-more.w1456Inspired to make your own?  Visit Math Craft and learn how to make a truncated Icosahedron, Pentakis Dodecahedron and More.

Math Toys for All Ages!

It is never too early to spread your love of math.

Looking for an age appropriate science gift or just some cool math and science items? Geekwrapped has math and science toys for kids of all ages. Even some you might want yourself!

Explore Geekwrapped: