College Algebra and Finite Mathematics Course Redesign

In an effort to offer a more learning-centered experience for students in lower-level courses, the Mathematics and Statistics Department is piloting a redesign for college algebra and finite mathematics this semester. The redesign draws on a model used successfully by several universities that worked with the National Center for Academic Transformation.


Large lecture classes are challenging because it is more difficult to develop meaningful student-instructor rapport. In a small class environment, there are more opportunities to answer student questions and collect grades, and it is easier for the instructor to note when students are struggling to comprehend the content.


The Mathematics and Statistics Department is responding to this concern by changing how course content is delivered. Instead of offering two large lectures and two small breakout sessions, the redesign offers the course in one large class meeting and two required small lab classes.


Prior to attending the large class meeting, students are required to watch a short lecture video highlighting the objectives being presented that week. During class, students are challenged with questions, which they answer with "clickers.” The students’ responses to the questions enable the instructor to gauge whether or not the students comprehend the concept.


In addition to the large class meeting, students attend two small lab classes in a 24-seat computer lab with a graduate teaching assistant as the lab instructor, assisted by a math tutor. The lab was funded by the Office of Student Success, and provides more hands-on experience for students.


While in the lab, students can complete required assignments online at their own pace and get individual help when necessary. The program is accompanied with online resources such as videos, animated slides and an individualized personal study plan based on the student's strengths and weaknesses. In addition, students are encouraged to meet with the instructor, the TA's, or the math tutors during open lab times or set appointments.


It is still too early to say for certain whether this redesign will significantly impact student success, but this delivery format does allow more opportunity for students and instructors to make a connection. So far, comments by both instructors and students in the redesign classes indicate this plan is a positive change, one that engages the student learner with multiple learning styles and puts the student in control of the learning.


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