Discovering the Effectiveness of College Algebra

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Mathematics education at the college level is facing many challenges. These challenges are occurring at a time when most experts believe that students are going to need stronger mathematical skills than ever before in order to compete in the workforce (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 2000). Many students are unprepared for collegiate-level mathematics, and efforts are being made to find better ways to help all students learn the mathematics they need to pursue their educational and occupational goals (Brewer, 2009). Mathematics courses are the most significant barrier to degree completion in both STEM and non-STEM fields. For example, each year only 50 percent of students attain a grade of A, B, or C in college algebra, and fewer than 10 percent of those who pass go on to enroll in a calculus course (Ganter & Haver, 2011, p. 49). “Freshman and sophomore mathematics and statistics courses function as gateways to many majors, and they are crucial for preparing mathematically- and scientifically-literate citizens. Yet, each year only about 50 percent of students earn a grade of A, B, or C in college algebra. Failure rates under traditional lecture are 55 percent higher than the rates observed under more active approaches to instruction” (Common Vision report by Mathematical Association of America, 2015).

College Algebra

In college algebra, this becomes more challenging when students do not get enough time or resources to understand a topic before moving on. If a student does not understand the basic concepts, it is often very difficult for them to catch-up. Consequently, many students move through the college algebra curriculum with deficiencies (Gordon, 2005). While there are many possible avenues to pursue while trying to improve these alarming statistics, practical realities often preclude drastic changes to programs and curriculum. Large-scale efforts to reform college algebra may not be possible in universities and colleges that base their programs on certain theoretical and practical considerations (Baxter Hastings, et al., 2006). Thus, efforts to solve the problem of helping students succeed should focus on interventions that can be implemented within the framework of existing programs. The traditional framework of most college algebra classes includes lectures provided by the instructor and homework completed by the student. If effective pedagogical changes can be made that fit within this traditional lecture-based framework, then it is more likely that these changes will be accepted and consistently used by the collegiate mathematics education community. (Brewer, 2009).

Traditional Instructions VS Computer-Aided Instructions

Traditionally, college mathematics education is based on lecture model. In this direct instruction, the teacher is the only supplier of information. Students put all of their focus on listening teacher. The instructor delivers the lecture, answering questions, and solving mathematical problems on board. This traditional method is adopted widely because of the amount of mathematics content need to be covered in the classroom. However, other instructive methods are being explored, because of high failure rates of the traditional approach (Baxter Hastings e al., 2006). More student-centered approaches are being promoted, which encourage more student engagement (Huba & Freed, 2000). One important study comparing face-to-face with online learning is a meta-analysis conducted by the U.S. Department of Education. In this meta-analysis, 45 studies were synthesized that compared face-to-face with online learning. The online learning could also include blended learning that incorporated both online and face-to-face instruction. Although online learning had a modestly higher effect than the traditional instruction, nine of the eleven individual studies with significant effects favoring the online condition used a blended learning approach (U.S Department of Education, 2010). Though the flipped classroom model was not a 21 term explicitly used in the study, the flipped model shares many of the characteristics of blended learning.

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Discovering the Effectiveness of College Algebra. (2020, October 08). WritingBros. Retrieved July 14, 2024, from
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