Significant numbers of students nationwide place into developmental math when enrolling in a community college. To counter this trend, the project develops contextualized lessons in math with the aim of enhancing student math skills. This project will test whether increased content relevance boosts course retention and academic progress. Based on work at several institutions, the project seeks to improve pedagogical approaches, course design, female and minority student participation, and course articulation at this college and with the region's fourteen local high schools. The work will focus on applied math in five career technical areas (CTE) to 1) develop a one-term community college and a year-long high school math course with contextualized algebra and geometry concepts; 2) conduct an in-depth summer math institute based on the curriculum for regional high school, community college, and industry teaching professionals; 3) integrate the math course into all CTE college curricula; and 4) use the course for dual credit that satisfies State of Oregon diploma requirements as a third-year high school math course.

Project Report

Rogue Community College (RCC) received a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant (2010-12) to transform Algebra I (MTH60) into a revised MTH 63 curriculum that it is entirely contextual-based, using examples from at least five CTE (Career Technical Education) disciplines, taught in one term at community college or academic year in high school. Math faculty (Gardner, PI) wrote the textbook and facilitated two Summer Math Institutes where high school and community college math teachers learned the curriculum through actual math applications in RCC’s CTE labs. Student outcomes were very positive in both critical thinking advancement and achievement of credit. The project goal was to improve pedagogical approaches, course design, and course articulation to increase students’ math skills and to better prepare them for post-secondary education and work as CTE technicians in the workforce. Intellectual Merit: The project set out to integrate requisite mathematical skills needed in industry inside a math curriculum. More students successfully completed this level math, and improved their readiness to apply math in CTE areas. The project is helping RCC transform how the traditional math sequence leading to college algebra math is taught in high school and at the community college as an integral part of career preparation. Broader Impacts: At RCC, over 90% of students, including first-generation, female and minority students, place into developmental math on the college’s placement test. Since this lack of math success is a universal problem in the U.S., creating math curriculum that is industry-driven and focused on CTE programs is a promising practice model. The principal discipline of this project is mathematics. The premise of this course development and pedagogical derivation was to create a math course in a sequence of math skill development with a contextualized approach in an attempt to make the math relevant to students in career technical programs. The raditional math sequence secondary to post-secondary level leads to Calculus. However, a relatively small percentage of students go on to take and more significantly, use calculus in everyday work applications. At RCC Associate of Applied Science degree level, CTE students need to be able o use critical thinking to problem solve the functions and real world applications of their technical trade. The traditional Algebra I level course, MTH60, was taught in the abstract, meaning by formula on the page or hite board only. MTH63 looks at real-world problems such as calculating the volume of a load of gravel and the number of wheel barrow loads needed to distribute the gravel. The algebraic formula is derived from the situation challenging the students to think through the variable values and solve for the unknown. This math textbook was developed in conjunction with RCC CTE faculty who gave Gardner (PI), problems they have regularly in Construction, Manufacturing, Electronics, Diesel, and Welding labs. Students’ engagement in this course was substantially different in that students were actively discussing, problem-solving, referencing their personal, professional, or college lab experience. In fall term 2012 MTH 63 CTE students passed at a 72% pass rate and the MTH60 CTE students at a 36% rate. Students, in general, report that hey really understand math for the first time in their lives. This contributes to student persistence and to their general self-esteem. The impact on high school students was similar but divergent as well. The Oregon Department of Education (ODE) changed the math requirements for high school graduation several years ago. As of 2014 all high school students will need to take Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II to receive their diploma. The math specialist at ODE reviewed the RCC MTH63 curriculum and determined that this course could be considered a third year math and therefore an alternative to Algebra II. Several high schools that adopted this curriculum filled the class with students who had very weak math skills, a history of failure in this subject area, and discipline problems making this a sort of "last chance" math class. Even with this disadvantaged population, high school teachers reported that they experienced a higher level of student engagement in the work, record-breaking attendance, and test performance that exceeded their expectations. One teacher shared in a PLC meeting that she gave a test and the students did so well that she reviewed to the seating chart to see if there had been wide spread cheating on the exam. Her investigation proved that students had done their own work and solved the problems individually and correctly. Yet, the overall statistics for students passing this course do not look nearly as good as the community college student results. High school teachers report that this is due to the student life challenges and choices that present barriers to completion or success. Nevertheless most teachers report there was a different attitude and energy, and an enthusiasm for math that they rarely experienced with this population before.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Undergraduate Education (DUE)
Standard Grant (Standard)
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Herbert H. Richtol
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Rogue Community College
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United States
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