A developmental math course promotes active learning


A developmental math course engages students by promoting active learning

Lone Star College, Kingwood Campus, Texas

“I think that there is a fear of math because people are different. We all have different interests and likes, and college algebra is not the best fit for everybody. And that’s what has been the traditional route—everybody has to take college algebra. Not everyone’s brain thinks algebraically, but we force everybody through that same funnel,” explained Stephanie Doyen, professor of mathematics at Lone Star College and math teaching ally with the Charles A. Dana Center at the University of Texas.

To address students’ fears and dislike of math, Lone Star College, Lone-Star-College-partnership-740x440Kingwood Campus, implemented one of the Dana Center’s New Mathways Project’s courses, Foundations of Mathematical Reasoning (FMR), in 2013. FMR differs from many other developmental math courses because it promotes active learning by asking students to work in groups to solve real-world math problems.

FMR lessons are contextualized. “Everything in the curriculum is based on something realistic,” explained Amy Hoherz, associate professor of mathematics at Lone Star who teaches two sections of FMR. She recalled a recent exam that required students to fill out a tax form. “Within that tax form, you have to do percentages and then follow the directions, which differ based on whether or not your income is above or below a certain amount.”

Hoherz observed that her FMR students, especially the adult learners, are more engaged in class discussions than in the other developmental math courses she teaches because they can relate to the lesson content. And FMR encourages students to work in groups during class to solve problems, promoting active learning.

In the fall of 2015, Lone Star College, Kingwood Campus, began using Version 3.0 of the FMR curriculum. Version 3.0, developed by the Dana Center in partnership with Pearson, includes more interactive online lessons.

Hoherz appreciates the improvements in the new version. She observed, “You can see the graphs better. You can understand the questions better. There are help items, where students can e-mail me if they have a question and where they can see examples.”

In an informal survey, Hoherz’s students agreed that the help items were beneficial. An aspiring writer liked the “ask my instructor” feature the most, an occupational therapy student found “the example feature was the most helpful,” and a nursing student favored the “help me solve this” tab.

I love FMR’s tools for each problem, especially ‘help me solve this’ and ‘show me an example’.

Associate of Arts Degree Candidate

Doyen, who is working for the Dana Center to support faculty members teaching the FMR course, thinks that Version 3.0 is more user-friendly. “Last year, I would say over 50 percent of my support for the professors was helping them with the online program,” she commented. “This year, I would say less than 1 percent of my time has been spent on online support.”

With Version 3.0, Pearson assists professors who want to import quizzes into the online program or incorporate Learning Catalytics™—a response system that encourages active learning by asking students to respond to questions on their personal devices—into their classrooms. Doyen wasn’t able to offer faculty that level of support before. “To me, that’s a huge difference,” Doyen stated. “It’s a huge strength. It’s a breath of fresh air to have Pearson’s support.”

For more background on the New Mathways Project, see the blog post “New Mathways Project Connects Students to Their Future.” To learn more about Lone Star College, Kingwood Campus’ implementation, read the full success story.

Read the full success story

New Mathways Project

Developed by the Charles A. Dana Center at The University of Texas in partnership with Pearson, the New Mathways Project includes interactive, digital courses, homework assignments, and additional resources to assess a student’s conceptual understanding of important skills and facilitate an active, engaging learning experience.
Learn more about New Mathways Project