I teach math (both developmental and college level courses) at a community 
college and I see the same problems mentioned here - poor attendance, not 
doing the homework, not asking questions or taking advantage of tutoring or 
instructor's office hours, etc.

At my school we are considering a different approach for some students and I 
would appreciate your input.  For example, in my Algebra II classes I have 
found that students who fail (score <70) on the first quarterly exam (which 
covers mainly arithmetic and some very basic algebra) have only a 4% chance 
of completing the course successfully (the rest drop out or end up with a 
failing grade).  Students who pass the first exam have better chances of 
completing the course successfully.

Given the data, it seems unproductive (for the student and the instructor) 
for students who failed the first exam to continue in the traditional 
course.  One idea is to drop these students from the course and redirect 
them into a structured but self-paced computer aided curriculum which will 
help them master basic skills.  After they successfully complete this 
curriculum they would reenroll in the traditional course from the beginning 
at the start of the next semester, and hopefully fare better.  If they did 
not fare better, they would be redirected a second time into the self-paced 

I have 2 questions ...
1. Has anyone ever tried this sort of approach before and, if so, how has it 
2. Do any of you have recommendations for computer based instruction that 
would not only drill students on procedures (e.g., steps for solving 
equations) but would also help them learn the concepts (e.g., what is a 
variable, what does it mean to solve an equation).  I believe that students 
who do not understand the concepts behind the procedures are not going to 
succeed in the long run (or even the short run).  I saw some discussion here 
a few weeks ago about Modumath - I haven't taken a look at it yet, but I 
wonder if that would fit the bill.

By the way - another problem I see at the community college is that many 
students do indeed have complicated lives, e.g., family issues, work issues, 
financial issues, etc., that I never had when I was at a 4-year university, 
living on campus.  Many of our students are the first members of their 
family to go to college, and while other family members may be "supportive" 
they many not understand what it takes to succeed in college, which adds to 
pressures on the student.  Different solutions are probably needed to 
address these sorts of issues.

Thanks again for any input.
Geoff Krader
Mathematics Instructor
Morton College
Cicero, Illinois

>From: Ray Sanchez <[log in to unmask]>
>Reply-To: Open Forum for Learning Assistance Professionals              
><[log in to unmask]>
>To: [log in to unmask]
>Subject: Re: math is too hard
>Date: Thu, 23 Mar 2006 08:59:51 -0800
>Do you agree that some students should pursue avenues other than
>college? Of course retaining students is more cost effective than
>recruiting new students, and we are all employed to promote student
>But, shouldn't we accept and anticipate that some students are not
>suited for academic work and need apprenticeship training, trade
>extension classes, or???
>Wouldn't we improve our institution (through improved graduation rates,
>etc.) and prevent lost revenue (lowering drop-out rates) if we became
>the vocal advocates for vocational or career and technical education
>prior to college enrollment?
>Is this a can of worms?
>Kathy: For thoughts and insights about "solving the problem," Google
>anything by Vincent Tinto, e.g.,
>Ray M. Sanchez
>Fresno City College
>-----Original Message-----
>From: Open Forum for Learning Assistance Professionals
>[mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Kathryn VanWagoner
>Sent: Thursday, March 23, 2006 8:18 AM
>To: [log in to unmask]
>Subject: Re: funding for tutoring
>I think we are going to get a lot of agreement that students are
>underprepared and aren't taking responsibility.  I am specifically
>interested in the problem as it relates to mathematics.  Our students
>are throwing fits because "math is too hard"  "my teacher can't teach"
>etc, but upon further inquiry, most of these students are missing class
>and don't take notes and don't come to the math lab, etc.
>This is my question:  What are colleges and universities doing about it?
>Does anyone have a comprehensive, campus-wide, multi-faceted approach to
>solving the problem?
>Kathryn Van Wagoner
>Director, Math Advantage Programs
>Utah Valley State College
>ad-van-tage   n.  A factor conducive to success.
> >>> [log in to unmask] 3/23/2006 8:16 AM >>>
>I agree with you 100%.
>I see too many students in my own math class who take no notes, do no
>homework, and then blame me for not being able to take the time for
>one-on-one instruction. Students need to take some responsibility for
>their own education.
>Barbara Kitcey
>Remediation Specialist
>The Art Institute of Pittsburgh
>420 Boulevard of the Allies
>Pittsburgh, PA 15219
>Tel: (412) 291-6207
>Fax: (412) 263-3715
>Email: [log in to unmask]
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