Community colleges must redesign remedial math education, write Anthony Bryk, president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, and Thomas Toch, who directs the foundation’s Washington office, in an Inside Higher Ed commentary. Carnegie is working with 27 community colleges to teach statistics and quantitative reasoning to students who’ve done poorly in math in their K-12 years.
There are units on “Seven Billion and Counting,” “The Credit Crunch” and “Has the Minimum Wage Kept Up?” Students learn math through themes such as citizenship and personal finance. It’s rigorous stuff, but relevant and engaging, requiring students to use the tools of algebra, statistics, data visualizations and analysis to solve meaningful, real-world problems as a way of thinking mathematically.
Instructors in the network have replaced traditional homework with “problem- and scenario-based exercises,” Bryk and Toch write.
Faculty collaborate across different campuses to “build common instructional systems and improve the program.”
Students earn college credit for completing the new “pathways,” speeding their way to a certificate or degree.
So far, students who complete the new courses test nearly as well as students who complete college-level statistics, Bryk and Toch write. Compared to colleges’ typical remedial students, pathway students earning C’s or better in the first semester are much more likely to move on to the second semester. In surveys, they express less math anxiety and are more confidence in their ability to learn math, if they work at it.