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Subject:

Re: Math intervention(s) and an active reading anecdote.

From:

Susan Jones <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Open Forum for Learning Assistance Professionals <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Tue, 27 Jun 2006 15:32:45 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (169 lines)

The obvious question is:  how successful are students with that six-week course? Can you survey students and find out? 

We do have, to a point, that "it's only hard here" problem. To a point, they are right. I had some students who took a math course online from another school, and transferred the credits back here.  At no point were they actually held accountable for a proctored exam where they had to demonstrate skills.  (If there were such a beast, it didn't count enough of the grade to keep them from passing.)  They did have to complete assignments and show their work, but they simply did not have to master the skill. 

Our teachers are perceived as reasonable for the most part, even if Math is a demon in and of itself, and the school requirements are considered onerous and unfair.  The school looks for faculty who will work well with developmental students. However, yea, we have "the math problem."  The country has "the math problem."  I've got a book by Marilyn Burns about "the nationwide math phobia." Innumeracy is a serious problem. 

ON a brighter side, a student saw a book I was reading and asked to borrow it, and then asked me if he could possibly have the book to keep.  I mulled it over (parting with a book :-)) ... and a little curious - why wasn't borrowing enough?  said "yea," and he said "Now I can write in it!"  Duh!  I'm amazed that the thought just didn't occur to me... 

Susan Jones
Academic Development Specialist
Academic Development Center
Parkland College
Champaign, IL  61821
[log in to unmask]
Webmastress,
http://www.resourceroom.net

>>> [log in to unmask] 06/27/06 12:18 PM >>>
Susan, Ted, et al: 
<snip>
We have had a huge problem on our campus regarding math.  A few loud malcontents have stirred up an ugly PR problem.  The math departments have been under attack.  An entreprenurial organization puts flyers in every edition of the student paper advertising: "Skip all lower level pre-requisite courses.  Finish College Algebra in just six weeks."  (They've been so successful at our school they've expanded to two other schools in the state.)  The student paper has perpetuated the negative attitudes with front page stories about "the math problem."

What is most frustrating is the perception that math is hard only at UVSC.  Students say we are being unreasonable in our requirements. I would love to hear from others about the depth of the issues they are facing on their campuses regarding math success and what is being done to resolve them.

Another issue we face, that I'd like to hear from others on, is that of calculator use.  Our math department was so appalled by the lack of basic numeracy skills in the college algebra students that they banned the use of any calculators on tests (other than for things like logrithms, etc).  This has caused quite a stir, of course.  I'm curious if other schools have similar policies or have seen a similar decline in basic math skills of students.

We have created a math task force to thoroughly analyze "the math problem" and seek multiple solutions to it.  There is hope that next year will show marked improvement in this PR nightmare.

Thanks,
Kathy




Kathryn Van Wagoner
Director, Math Advantage Programs
Utah Valley State College
801-863-8411

ad-van-tage   n.  A factor conducive to success.

>>> [log in to unmask] 6/27/2006 10:23 AM >>>
Hmmm.... you're right... I was doing exactly what I was accusing Ted of... being disdainful and contemptuous of somebody trying to figure out a solution.   I confess there was a "well, how would *you* feel if you were treated that way?" rumbling in my gut... but even if reading Eats, Shoots, and LEaves had me primed for righteous spelling correction, p'raps your angle of correcting is the better one.  (I'm not entirely sure, though.)  

Susan Jones
Academic Development Specialist
Academic Development Center
Parkland College
Champaign, IL  61821
[log in to unmask] 
Webmastress,
http://www.resourceroom.net 

>>> [log in to unmask] 06/26/06 2:19 PM >>>
Wow! Susan your response to Ted's post was scathing.

I am not Ted's apologist or defender. In fact, I agree with your comments.
This is what I want to suggest:

If we desire to change the erroneous and detrimental perceptions and
attitudes of some instructors and others who are responsible for helping
developmental learners -- we should avoid engaging in fault finding, making
condemning accusations, and asserting euphemistic put-downs. Those
particular actions do not encourage the patience, empathy, compassion,
understanding, tolerance, and faith that is needed to assist and support
developmental learners.

I just wanted to encourage you to offer insight rather that incite.

Enjoy your day and do good work.

On 6/26/06, Susan Jones <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>
> <<Why then the low completion rate?  We could spend a whole day
> comtemplating this question ( and perhaps we should) but basically the
> success of each individual student is just that. It depends entirely on
> their personal motivation and not upon our herculean interventions. You
> cannot make a student learn if they do not wish to. You cannot threaten
> them, cajole them, humor them, or go to their houses and turn off their
> tv's. They must want to learn, and then we can help them.>>
>
> That's a wonderful way to feel better and I'd agree if the word "entirely"
> were left out.  In my experience it's more complicated than that.
>
> Helping them is still a pretty major challenge. What is the success rate
> for people who use the services you have available?  And do you see a
> connection between these lower and lower level math courses and student
> motivation?
>
> I work with students who *are* motivated and their success rate is only
> somewhat higher.
>
> <<    And the saga continues two more times. We have added an arithmatic
> course that we euphamistically call prealgebra and believe it or not we have
> added a course before this one called fundamental math. >>
>
> Are you basically trying to say here that  the school is stooping lower
> and lower, but the students aren't reaching up to take the hand - and that
> it simply must be their attitude that makes them so unskilled?
> (Misspelling arithmetic and euphemistically adds a certain irony to the
> paragraph.)
>
> In my experience, one of the most common major frustrations for students -
> and, very possibly, a contributing factor to that lousy success rate -  is
> that the teachers really do find it hard to believe that they don't already
> understand certain basic stuff.  It's more than the daily bruising of the
> ego - the instruction is permeated with incomprehensible gaps.  No matter
> how low you go, if the course is only euphemistically basic, it's not going
> to reach the students, no matter how motivated they are.
>
> I have often pondered why people seem so much more psychologically
> vulnerable when it comes to mathematics.  Perhaps it's partly that constant
> message that "I can't believe I have to *teach* you this," - and usually
> it's not taught, it's simply mentioned, because the teacher doesn't *really*
> believe the student doesn't know it, and so s/he gives it a cursory
> explanation (perhaps dependent on other information the student doesn't
> have) and then quickly moves onward and proceeds as if that explanation had
> been internalized, digested, and applied to previous schema.  So, once
> again, the student gets the message that s/he's an ignorant, uncivilized
> outsider looking in, decides to go watch tv, and the teacher thinks "How
> *did* you get to college? It can't be my job to make up for that... must be
> your attitude..."
>
> Susan Jones
> Academic Development Specialist
> Academic Development Center
> Parkland College
> Champaign, IL  61821
> [log in to unmask] 
> Webmastress,
> http://www.resourceroom.net 
>
>
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