Taking Fear Out of the Equation

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In its new life, math at Mountwest is about applying the concepts to everyday scenarios, engaging with your classmates in problem solving and incorporating math concepts into other entry-level courses. 

Math has this intrinsic ability to make grown men weep.

We’ve seen it happen hundreds of times to the brightest of students. Math becomes their Mt. Everest—this seemingly insurmountable obstacle before them.

The good news is that there’s a new math at Mountwest—designed specifically with the mathematically overwhelmed student in mind. If you put in the hard work, we’ll be there every step of the climb to get you to the top.

In its new life, math at Mountwest is about applying the concepts to everyday scenarios, engaging with your classmates in problem solving and incorporating math concepts into other entry-level courses. In just a little over a year, success rates in developmental math have jumped from 30% to more than 70%!

What to Expect

Placement testing is the first step. This occurs either through the ACT in high school or Accuplacer, Mountwest’s on-campus testing tool. Based on their results, students may either go into a college-level or developmental course. Developmental requirements must be met for students who score 18 or below in math on the ACT or the equivalent on Accuplacer or other state-approved placement exams. The purpose of developmental math, just like any other course prerequisite, is to ensure that students have a strong grasp of the concepts taught in upper level courses so that a student is less likely to become discouraged and fall behind.

Students have several options to help move them quickly through their developmental requirements and on to their program of study. Math Boot Camps provide a one-week, intensive remediation, while stretch courses offer developmental and college-level work in one course. E-ZStart incorporates its own version of “catch-up math” while MAT 100 bypasses some requirements for developmental math altogether.

Boot Camps – Mountwest first began offering boot camp-style sessions for math during the summer of 2012 so that students could work toward completing their developmental math requirement during the summer and be prepared to enroll in a college-level math course during their very first semester of college the following fall. Boot Camp sessions last one week with a post-test at the end of the camp.  Students do not pay for Boot Camp, but must agree to be part of the Beacon Program, an on-campus program available to all students that facilitates student success.

E-ZStart – This course provides non-traditional students the chance to take a COL 101 course free of charge. Through E-ZStart, student learn about how to be successful in college, are evaluated for college preparedness and are given opportunities to improve their readiness for developmental and/or college-level math courses.

MAT 100 – MAT 100, or Occupational Math, allows students with a 3-hour developmental math requirement to go directly into a college-level course designed specifically for students in non-transfer A.A.S. degree programs. MAT 100 includes supplemental instruction in cooperation with the Academic Skills Center on campus.

Stretch Courses – Stretch courses allow students who have not met developmental requirements to take a college-level course with embedded developmental instruction. These courses save students time and money by packaging the developmental math and college-level requirements into one five-hour course.

Why it Works

Math may be your Mt. Everest, but at Mountwest, we maintain the philosophy that you have the right to succeed, rather than the right to fail.

The communication between developmental faculty and student success counselors is also critical. By working together, they are able to ensure students are placed into the right courses. As a foundational skill, different math courses offer different learning outcomes and meet different curriculum objectives for specific degree programs.

A prime example of how this happens is through E-ZStart. E-ZStart’s primary goal is to address many of the common barriers that impede the success of adult learners.

“The incorporation of math into the E-ZStart curriculum is the first step in this process and provides students with a stronger academic foundation, increased confidence levels and an easier transition into college,” said Student Success Counselor Veella Grooms, who leads the E-ZStart program. “Students who participate in ‘catch up math’ are active participants in the learning process and are fully engaged with Mountwest math faculty.”

Our Starfish Program allows this communication to continue throughout the semester. As you find success or find yourself struggling, math faculty can alert you and your counselor with “kudos” or “flags” through the Starfish system. Flags serve as a reminder that you need to attend class or to make an appointment with a tutor.

An interactive, collaborative learning environment goes a long way in making math more manageable. Although Mountwest has also been piloting collaborative learning initiatives in English, Patient Care Technician courses, the transformation in our math classes has been astounding.

Collaborative learning allows students to work together to increase their understanding of topics discussed in class. For math, this takes place in a state-of-the-art classroom that features two entire walls painted as whiteboards so that students can write down their ideas and share their thoughts. The furniture is mobile. It can be easily moved so that students can meet in different-sized groups, which varies from class to class.

With new classroom technology, students can connect any of their electronic devices, including smart phones, to make notes interactively as an entire group. The notes are then saved electronically and students can access them at any time. It’s the technology piece that certainly excites the students the most.

“This classroom makes a math class come alive,” said Assistant Professor of Mathematics, Heather Pack. “Students are excited to be able to interact with the material they are learning by doing instead of watching.”

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