Developmental math, reading programs to become more flexible

Developmental math, reading programs to become more flexible

Developmental math, reading programs to become more flexible
May 22
19:45 2014

Joshua Knopp // Senior Staff Writer

The Texas Board of Higher Education wants schools to do a better job of helping underprepared students who need to take not-for-credit courses, and UNT is developing plans to get those students into credit classes faster.

UNT’s math department has experience grouping math courses and developmental skills together in the same course, and they are putting together new courses aimed at the upper level of students who need developmental math. Kathryn Raign, linguistics and technical communication director, is developing a more flexible version of the developmental writing course, TECM 1200.

Developmental courses cost as much as a regular course, but give no credit and can be required to get into a for-credit course. UNT contracts out its developmental math courses to the less expensive NorthTexasCommunity College.

Mathematics chairperson Su Gao said the biggest problem with developmental math courses is that students get bored. Most incoming students already learned most of it, but lack study skills or had forgotten algebra since high school. As such, developmental math courses are basically semester-long refresher courses that are also designed to teach study skills.

Gao said allowing more students into courses with higher math will help more students stay in the class.

“The idea of pairing a developmental math course with a credit-based course is to expose them to something more exciting,” he said. “Algebra 2 is not the end of math.”

The math department has experience combining regular courses with study skills and higher-end algebra with MATH 1581 and 1681.

These courses are versions of 1580, Survey of Mathematics with Applications, and 1680, Elementary Probability and Statistics, with added algebra review. Both of these classes are specialized pre-requisites for specific degrees. Associate mathematics professor William Cherry said the basic idea is to take the algebra review portion of those classes and add it on to less specialized math courses.

Cherry said the rules surrounding which students need developmental math are changing, but last fall, 379 UNT students were enrolled in not-for-credit courses. Of those, 163 would have been eligible for the new for-credit courses the math department is developing.

Raign already made significant changes to Developmental Writing when she took the course over six years ago. Raign said the previous course had no grade and was about studying on a student’s own time and re-taking the placement test until it was passed. The course is now similar to Composition 1 with a greater emphasis on grammar and punctuation, Raign said.

Raign is currently designing an online self-paced version of this course aimed at the same “bubble” students the new math courses are aimed at, or students who didn’t do well enough to get into credit classes but were close. Raign is trying to make the class more current and interesting, including small but frequent assignments and School House Rock videos.

“I’m trying to make the reading more interesting, because I have the ability to link directly to current periodicals and things like that,” she said. “I’ll be anxious to see how well it works. I’m very excited. I’m sure we will have to make tweaks after this first semester.”

The course will be even more self-paced than most online classes, without set due dates for essays and tests, though students will be required to write them in the Writing Lab.

Feature Photo: Students place red Solo cups, with grooves carved out of them, on top of the computers they work at while taking developmental math courses on the fifth floor of the General Academic Building. This technique is used so students don’t have to raise their hands for a long period of time. Photo by Senior Staff Writer Josh Knopp.

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