MyLab Math educator study examines impact of homework in the Developmental Math sequence at Coppin State University
- Students who passed the course had statistically significant higher MyLab Math homework scores than students who failed the course.
- Students who earned at or above the median MyLab Math homework score achieved test scores, final exam scores, and final course scores that were at least 28 percentage points higher than other students.
- According to faculty, using MyLab Math to help fill gaps in students’ knowledge enhances daily classroom instruction and yields greater student achievement.
Coppin State University, Baltimore, MD
Elementary Algebra and Intermediate Algebra
Hybrid: lecture with lab
MyLab Math for Introductory & Intermediate Algebra by Lial/Hornsby/McGinnis
Dr. Jean Ragin, Assistant Professor
Dr. Min A, Associate Professor and Co-Coordinator of the Developmental Math Program
Dr. William Shaw, Instructor and Co-Coordinator of the Developmental Math Program
Results reported by
Julianne Labbiento, Pearson Customer Outcomes Analytics Manager
Coppin State University (CSU) is one of 14 schools in the Maryland University system. An urban, residential, liberal arts university located in the northwest section of the City of Baltimore, CSU provides academic programs in the arts and sciences, teacher education, nursing, graduate studies, and continuing education. CSU is an HBCU (Historically Black College or University) and has a culturally rich history as an institution providing quality educational programs and community outreach services. A fully accredited institution, CSU serves residents of Baltimore as well as students from around the world, offering 53 majors and nine graduate programs. CSU provides opportunities for a wide variety of students with a mix of academic programs that attracts high quality students from many international settings, including Africa, the Caribbean, Europe, and Asia.
The student population is comprised of nearly 4,000 students enrolled in day, evening, and weekend programs. Approximately 60 percent of CSU graduates identify as first-generation students, and 70 percent are working adults with young families. The average age of a CSU student is 28, with female students outnumbering male students 3:1. The average household income in Baltimore City, where most students are from, is $36,000 annually.
About the Course
Students taking Elementary Algebra and Intermediate Algebra courses are those who did not meet the cut score on the Accuplacer. Many of these students are non-traditional students or students who did not take a math course during their senior year of high school. The Elementary Algebra course at CSU serves as a prerequisite for either Intermediate Algebra for students needing a quantitative math course, such as math and computer science, natural sciences, management science, nursing, etc., or as a prerequisite for students who will take either a liberal arts math course or statistics as their terminal math course.
Elementary Algebra is a five-credit course that covers the following topics: operations with whole numbers, integers, fractions, decimals, percents, rational numbers and real numbers; scientific notation; operations with algebraic expressions, integral components, equations and inequalities; sets; systems of equations; solving equations with rational expressions; graphing linear equations, finding the slope of line; factoring, rational exponents, and radicals.
Intermediate Algebra is a three-credit course covering these topics: relations and functions; expressing word statements as functions; factoring; rational expressions; solving and graphing quadratic equations; rational exponents and radicals; complex numbers; inverse function, exponential functions; and logarithms.
Challenges and Goals
Dr. Min A, Associate Professor, and Dr. William Shaw, Instructor, share that math faculty at CSU began using MyLab Math in their courses in 2005. Through the redesigns of CSU’s Elementary Algebra and Intermediate Algebra courses, they hoped to accomplish three goals. First, they wanted to help students matriculate into college-level courses as quickly and smoothly as possible. They felt that MyLab™ Math could help in that endeavor by providing extra instruction and practice in the form of online homework. They planned to use MyLab Math to reduce course drift, their second goal. Finally, they hoped to use the customizable features in MyLab Math to allow them to compensate for student attendance issues and to give students additional support while outside the classroom.
CSU’s Elementary Algebra (MATH 97) and Intermediate Algebra (MATH 98) courses utilize the Coordinator Course feature in MyLab Math. Before each semester begins, instructors make copies of the coordinator course, creating uniform and consistent member courses for each section, thus minimizing the chances that course drift will occur. MATH 97 and MATH 98 are hybrid courses, with 40 minutes per week of each course devoted to lecture and 60 minutes of classroom meeting per week devoted to computer work. Dr. Jean Ragin, Assistant Professor, relates that lectures consist of face-to-face demonstrations by the instructors, discussion, small group work, and students working problems on the board. Faculty and students also engage in conversations about what is working and what is not working. Students are not required to specifically go to a computer lab to complete additional time in MyLab Math, but they must spend time working outside of class. Customizable features in MyLab Math such as View an Example and Help Me Solve This are designed to provide support to the learner outside of class.
In addition to daily in-class support, CSU’s Math Center offers tutoring support for nontraditional students who are new to higher education or have been away from higher education for two or more years. Also, for two weeks each semester, the math faculty run daytime Enhancement Workshops to provide students with in-depth instruction on topics where they may be struggling.
Both courses run for a full 15-week semester. During the first three weeks of the Elementary Algebra course, students attend lecture and have the option to learn the objectives needed on their own time in order to attempt to test out of the course at the end of that period. Supports are provided for students during this time, including two practice tests on paper and in MyLab Math. An Enhancement Workshop is also held during the second week. Finally, students are given a departmental cumulative final exam, and those who earn at least 70 percent on the 30-question, multiple-choice exit exam are allowed to take the Intermediate Algebra course in the same semester at no additional cost. Since the first three weeks of the regular Intermediate Algebra course are just a review of Elementary Algebra, students passing the exit exam join their new course just as new material is started.
Students are provided with a pacing guide in the course syllabi. Courses contain common online homework, as set up in the coordinator course. Students complete one homework assignment per chapter, with all learning aids available and unlimited attempts allowed. Analytics, such as length and difficulty, are considered when assigning problems in the MyLab Math homework. The MyLab Math chapter homework is due before the chapter exam. Textbook assignments are also assigned, but are not common across sections. Each instructor is also allowed to assign his or her own quizzes. A minimum of six chapter tests is given in Elementary Algebra, with a minimum of five given in Intermediate Algebra. The first chapter test is given on paper, but it is preferred that instructors administer all other tests via MyLab Math. Instructors are told to encourage students to view videos and utilize other resources as well. Both courses end with a departmental cumulative final exam consisting of 30 multiple-choice questions.
Though not all assignments are common across the courses, assessments are weighted in a similar manner. Faculty are encouraged to upload any written assignments as Offline Items in the MyLab Math Gradebook, so that course grades are accurately portrayed for students viewing their own gradebooks in the program.
- 60% Departmental cumulative final exam
- 40% Chapter tests, MyLab Math homework (weighted), quizzes (weighted)
Both Elementary Algebra and Intermediate Algebra are non-credit, pass or fail courses. In order to receive a Pass (PS) for the courses, a minimum of 70 percent must be earned on the final exam and 70 percent in the MyLab Math gradebook. A grade of CS is recorded for a score less than 70 percent according to the above criteria. A Fail (F) is given to students having completed less than 70 percent of the total 100 points satisfactorily, having excessive absences, and/or failing to take the final.
Results and Data
Analysis of the data for the two courses centered around a review of the impact that homework performance had on various other assessments in the course and the overall course grades.
Data show that students who passed the courses had statistically significantly higher homework scores, which are weighted in the final grading, than students who failed the courses [t(239)=5.14, p<0.05]. Figure 1 illustrates the difference in homework scores for the two groups.
Average MyLab Math homework scores
Figure 1. Average MyLab Math Homework Scores for Students Passing or Failing the Courses; Pass (n=147); Fail (n=94)
Further analysis started by grouping students based on their homework performance. The median homework score was calculated as 63 and two groups were defined as follows:
HHS: Students who earned at or above the median score on homework.
LHS: Students who earned below the median score on homework.
The data show that students in the HHS group scored higher than students in the LHS group on all three major assessment categories in the courses: test scores, final exam scores, and final course scores. Figure 2 below gives a comparison of these assessments for the two groups. The HHS group outperformed LHS students by 38 percent on tests, 28 percent on final exams, and 31 percent on the final course scores.
Test scores, final exam scores, and final course scores by group
Figure 2. Test Scores, Final Exam Scores, and Final Course Scores by Homework Group; HHS (n=120); LHS (n=121)
The Student Experience
In a survey given at the beginning of the semester (11 percent response rate), students were asked about their feelings and attitudes towards math prior to the start of the course. Results indicate that 57 percent strongly agreed or agreed with the statement, “I get very nervous doing math problems,” and 74 percent strongly agreed or agreed with the statement, “I worry that it will be difficult for me in math classes.”
While only six percent of students completed an end-of-semester survey, those who responded overwhelmingly found MyLab Math to be an important factor in their learning. Some comments included:
How has MyLab Math impacted your learning in the course?
- “MyLab Math impacted my learning experience because I didn’t necessarily have to go [to] my professor as much because there was a tutor support in MyLab Math.”
- “MyLab Math is a great review tool and helped me retain information.”
- “It has given me a way to have a lot of tools to help me complete my homework.”
What do you think are the benefits of using MyLab Math?
- “Useful notes to come prepared for class”
- “Being able to redo the problems until you get them correct is a big benefit.”
- “You can watch the videos from anywhere at any time.”
Faculty at CSU are happy with the flexibility of MyLab Math in these two courses and feel that it has met their goals. With its integration, more consistency is seen across sections of the courses and the three-week test-out option can now be offered to students in the Elementary Algebra course, allowing them to accelerate to the next level more quickly. Shaw is very satisfied with the textbook and MyLab Math, noting, “It has certainly affected my teaching. One thing I like about it is that I try to make my lectures very close to the lecture videos online so that students get one message. That way, if they don’t understand everything or forget what I said in class, they can look at the video online and be reminded.” Professor A believes it’s a very helpful tool for students because they can check grades easily, with everything available in the MyLab Math gradebook. She finds that she’s getting fewer questions about course grades now. And Ragin adds, “I have come to depend on the computer-aided instruction to fill-in where students have achievement gaps. The greater the number of hours on the computer yielded greater student achievement.”
MyMathLab is now MyLab Math. New name. Same experience.