Flexible movements in mathematics: One path does not fit all?

There are presently a number of flexible movements in mathematics including mastery learning, flipped teaching, modular learning and co-requisite courses. Each of these rethinks the traditional higher education classroom and have developed out of a growing need for STEM education that works for all students. In particular, The U.S. Department of Commerce, Economics & Statistics Administration estimates that during the past 10 years growth in STEM jobs was three times as fast as non-STEM jobs, and that STEM workers are less likely to experience joblessness than their non-STEM counterparts. Now more than ever our students need a STEM education that also prepares them for career success.

The need for STEM knowledge and skills is complimented by the need for a college and career skill set and mindset. A skill set is defined as a set of social and technical tools that individuals use to be successful in the workplace. Whereas, mindset can be defined as the attitude with which one approaches their personal and professional life. Studies have shown that some workplaces prefer to hire someone with a high mindset, where others prefer a high skill set. However, my own research shows that math faculty overwhelmingly prefer a student with a strong mindset.

Instructors can support the development of skill set and mindset in a number of ways that integrate easily into daily classroom procedures and routines. For example, college success skills such as on-time arrival, preparedness, study skills, and especially organization can all be developed through the classroom culture an instructor creates. Too often students enter college with the idea that the habits and study skills they obtained in high school will seamlessly carry over to college. Reorienting students to adopt study skills and mindsets for college is a valuable lesson that STEM instructors can build into their course. One way instructors can easily begin this process is by eliminating “optional” assignments from their syllabus. Assigning point values to all assignments will increase student completion and hold students accountable. Additionally, showing students real-world examples throughout the semester supports the development of career skillsets, and gives students tangible examples of how the class connects to their future.

The growth of flexible movements in mathematics and the STEM job market creates a unique and exciting time to be a math instructor. How will you contribute?


Professor Martin-Gay is one of our featured speakers at ICTCM 2017. Access more than 30 dynamic sessions by registering through the virtual track.



About the Author

Elayn Martin-Gay

Elayn Martin-Gay firmly believes that every math student can succeed. She has taught math at the University of New Orleans for more than 25 years and earned numerous teaching awards along the way. Early in her teaching career, she developed a series of highly acclaimed lecture videos to support developmental math students in their quest for success. These videos formed the foundation for the twelve arithmetic and algebra texts she would author. Elayn has also authored a series in Algebra I, Algebra II, and Geometry.