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Pilot program helps students master mathematics

Math Academy Class“It’s so great,” said adjunct mathematics instructor Elaine Califf about working with her colleague Teri Miller. “She can deepen their understanding and go over things I didn’t have time to do in class.” The two educators are teaming up on a pilot program called Math Academy, which is designed to prepare developmental education students, who may be math-challenged, for college-level mathematics. Here’s how it works: Through a grant called Rethinking Pre-College Math, a one-year pilot program was set up for a class of 26 students. Monday through Friday, the students have a one-hour class with Califf; four days a week directly after their class, Miller leads a three-hour lab. “It’s a 50-50 mixture of going over homework and additional material,” said Califf. “I also go over, as a group and also individually with students, study skills, time management, test preparation and how to identify your weaknesses.” The program is designed to target students at a critical point in their math studies: the transition from pre-algebra to college math, when many students experience discouraging failures and setbacks. Califf and Miller are working to get students over that hump, and more quickly than usual. So far, the program appears to be working. “We’ve been comparing my math course that doesn’t have the extra lab with the Math Academy course, and halfway through the quarter, we started seeing the difference,” said Miller. “The students in Math Academy understood the material better.” “Some students are just discovering the importance of the lab,” said Califf. “They didn’t see what a big difference it could make, but now they do.” “We were going to switch the lab to only an hour instead of three for winter and spring quarters,” says Miller. “But the students have already asked for added hours in the tutoring center to make up for it. The support between the students is really good too. That’s been encouraging.” The program is currently undergoing an independent study, and both Califf and Miller hope that its results will encourage more funding and support for the Math Academy. Photo: Members of the Math Academy pilot project.

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