MyMathLab and Math XL for Remediation

An eSchool News article, from September 22, 2008, discussed how the online PEARSON  products listed in title could save colleges billions of dollars. The lead in reported, “College officals nationwide are concerned about the number of recent high school graduates in need of remedial math courses, and some schools have turned to online programs that could preserve shrinking operating budgets.”

The article further states that over 60% of students in community colleges need some kind of retraining, before they can take college-level credit courses. A study from the summer of 2008 reported that community colleges spend more than $1.4 billion on remedial courses every year. Yet another problem with remedial classes is the drop rate as students cannot keep up with the class material.

MyMathLab and Math XL online tutorial programs offer graded assignments, tutorials, and exams. The site contains a grade book for the college instructor and allows him/her to view which problems required mutiple attempts by students. The instructor can then review the problem type in the classroom.

Students are required to purchase a code to allow them to register on the web site at a cost of $57.00. They also  must purchase the textbook for the class.  One of the perks of the program is the MyMathLab Tutor Center, where students can e-mail or call “qualified math instructors” for help at no charge.

Many community colleges were surveyed on the use and learning outcomes with this project. Across the board results showed a positive increase in pass rates as well as a decrease in drop rates. The reader is not given a total picture of the statistical results, but only small figures here and there. I was particularly interested in the statistics on diverse ethnic and low socioeconomic variables. One small table with two columns and two rows showed an increase in African-American and Caucausian pass rates.

Bill Moore, a policy associate for the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges, said that online math programs are valuable for self-motivated students, but professors cannot count on all students following through. When time limits are placed on the assignments, more students tend to finish their assignments.

In the last five years, UMES has seen an overwhelming increase in the need for remedial classes. These students come from all over Maryland, not just the Eastern Shore. The Pearson MathXL program is used in all remedial programs. You generally have a small percentage of self-motivated students who follow through. Many of the students have not learned to manage their time and schedule in a lab time for math. Over and over, seasoned math professors see students who are not on campus to study. Extensive faculty meetings are held to discuss what strategies should be employed. This type of situation is happening at community colleges and universities all across the country. I asked a math professor at SU last spring if freshmen from another region of the country were demonstrating the same problems with remediation and self-motivation. His discription was very similar.

I believe that college professors are of the notion that incoming students must realize that it is time they grew up and took responsibility for their learning. Rightly So! But for whatever reason these students do not realize what it means to press in and push through.

Is it possible that the remedial students need a tween time? This area might require more from the students, but give a little more hands-on instruction. For instance, one of the colleges who testified about the use of the online program said the math class was held in the computer lab. After instruction, the students log onto the program and work the assignment. The professor and a qualified math assistant work the room helping anyone who is confused and keeping students on task.

What do you think about remedial math classes?

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