Print

Print


I have followed with interest the discussions on the "math problem". There 
has always been a math problem, but more recently the issue of "entitlement" 
and "why do I need this" has really taken hold. Kathryn, your comments on 
why students don't succeed are certainly correct. There are some students 
who do everything right and still can't get through on one try. There are 
others who think that because they got an A or B in their highschool math 
class with little effort that the same technique will work in college.

That does mean that math teachers (myself included) must work harder to find 
appropriate strategies that can help those who are giving it their best 
shot, and be more vigilant about getting the others to see that their 
strategy (or lack of) is not going to bring them success. I believe 4-year 
schools have a much less liberal policy on W's but at the community college, 
the last date for withdrawal is so late into the semester that a student 
doesn't really have to put a lot of effort into the class, knowing that if 
their lacksadaisical attitude doesn't pan out, they can always drop - 
frequently as late as 2 weeks before the end of the semester.

The thing we have to help students understand is that a) yes, math is hard 
which means that it will take something other than a couple of hours outside 
class each week, b) just because math is hard doesn't mean that it's 
impossible - they do hard things all the time, and c) that they really won't 
use everything they learn in math class in "the real world", but they won't 
use all the information they picked up in history, psychology, art 
appreciation, chemistry, etc. either. That's not the point. We are training 
them to be informed thinkers. In math, my main goal is to learn the 
importance of critical thought, attention to detail and being able to follow 
through a process. These are things they will use in the "real world".

Thanks for letting me share!
Melissa

Melissa Quinley
Developmental Math Instructor
Isothermal Community College
Spindale, NC
----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Kathryn VanWagoner" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Tuesday, June 27, 2006 1:18 PM
Subject: Re: Math intervention(s)


> Susan, Ted, et al:
>
> There is a request for feedback imbedded in this lengthy post.
>
> This whole issue of math success is complicated at best.  It truly is an 
> individual problem -- in the sense that each individual has differing 
> needs/issues.  That's what makes the solution so challenging.  The problem 
> has to be addressed from many angles if it is to be resolved. 
> Unfortunately, there are weaknesses on both sides of the classroom.  There 
> are students who work their tails off in an effort to succeed, but simply 
> do not.  Sometimes it is because they have an unrealistically difficult 
> instructor, sometimes it is because they don't have effective learning 
> strategies, sometimes it is because their fear and anxiety annihilate 
> their efforts to learn.  On the other hand, there are students who 
> approach their education with a sense of entitlement, not willing (or 
> perhaps not understanding the need) to exert the necessary effort to 
> succeed.
>
> These are just two scenarios in the wide range of individual needs, which 
> is what makes finding a solution so difficult.  The solution needs to be 
> addressed by a menu of strategies.  Structured Learning Assistance (SLA) 
> is a strong menu item.  Efforts to build math appreciation are important, 
> too. (Math Awareness Week, using The Futures Channel: Digital Video 
> Library - or other real applications - in classrooms, math camps, etc). 
> Good advising is essential. (Are students choosing appropriate 
> quantitative literacy courses for their majors?  Not everyone is on a 
> calculus track.) Policies that prevent a student from digging a deeper 
> hole are needed. (How many times do we let a student fail before we 
> intervene?)
>
> 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
>>
>>
>> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
>> To access the LRNASST-L archives or User Guide, or to change your
>> subscription options (including subscribe/unsubscribe), point your web
>> browser to
>> http://www.lists.ufl.edu/archives/lrnasst-l.html
>>
>> To contact the LRNASST-L owner, email [log in to unmask]
>>
>
> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
> To access the LRNASST-L archives or User Guide, or to change your
> subscription options (including subscribe/unsubscribe), point your web 
> browser to
> http://www.lists.ufl.edu/archives/lrnasst-l.html
>
> To contact the LRNASST-L owner, email [log in to unmask]
>
> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
> To access the LRNASST-L archives or User Guide, or to change your
> subscription options (including subscribe/unsubscribe), point your web 
> browser to
> http://www.lists.ufl.edu/archives/lrnasst-l.html
>
> To contact the LRNASST-L owner, email [log in to unmask]
>
> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
> To access the LRNASST-L archives or User Guide, or to change your
> subscription options (including subscribe/unsubscribe), point your web 
> browser to
> http://www.lists.ufl.edu/archives/lrnasst-l.html
>
> To contact the LRNASST-L owner, email [log in to unmask]
> 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
To access the LRNASST-L archives or User Guide, or to change your
subscription options (including subscribe/unsubscribe), point your web browser to
http://www.lists.ufl.edu/archives/lrnasst-l.html

To contact the LRNASST-L owner, email [log in to unmask]