California community college students in occupationally focused and “contextualized” math classes, such as “Business Math” or “Technical Math for Airframe Mechanics,” have a good chance to master the college-level skills needed for an occupational certificate, concludes a study by Charles Wisely reported in College Puzzle.
These integrated courses often focus on the mathematics required in specific occupations, starting with basic arithmetic or pre-algebra and progressing into intermediate algebra topics, and have significantly higher success rates than traditional math courses.
Yet, starting in 2006, the state’s community colleges eliminated many of these classes in favor of traditional remedial math classes in hopes of qualifying more students for an associate degree. However, very few will go on to take a college-level math class, much less complete a credential.
. . . the low success rates that are common in remedial math courses in the academic model mean that few students will be able to acquire the occupational skills necessary to complete an advanced occupational course, certificate, or degree.
In a Community College Research Center literature review, Dolores Perin concludes that contextualized and integrated instruction “seems to be a promising direction for accelerating the progress of academically underprepared college students.”
In addition, CCRC researcher Nikki Edgecombe looks at the evidence that accelerating remediation improves success rates.