Lower-Division Math Instruction and Advising Team

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Team ID: 
College / Administrative Unit: 
Science, Eberly College of
Undergraduate Education
Date Started: 
September 2008
To improve teaching, learning, advising and student success in lower-division mathematics courses. Our primary emphasis has been in the Math 21-22 sequence at University Park. We seek to improve student mastery of algebra for those students to whom it is a pre-requisite for calculus-based work in the major, and to broaden GQ course advising and choices for students whose majors do not require calculus.

We are informed by our collective experiences with students and instructors, and also by the results of the 2008 NSSE data that indicate students in several non-STEM colleges feel less confident in their quantitative abilities when they are seniors than when they arrive as freshmen. This partnership has involved using Penn State Learning’s facility in Sparks for both direct instruction and office hours in Math 21, an activity made possible by computers from ITS and by innovative instructional changes (funded jointly by Math and World Campus) that employ mastery-based on-line instructional software. Several GQ offerings developed by the Math department, including a popular new course in Personal Finance, are now being advertised and explained broadly to academic advisers in non-STEM colleges. We hope over time to increase student success in mastery of algebra for students who choose or require this material, and to increase numeracy among the Penn State community by encouraging engagement with quantification in ways that are relevant and meaningful to all students.

We have been pleased by the performance of students in Math 21-22. It is too early to determine whether student comprehension of algebra has increased, but initial results comparing exam scores from students in traditional versus innovative classrooms are encouraging. More importantly, students who enroll in the on-line mastery courses report more positive attitudes towards mathematics than those who complete traditional courses. We have seen greatly increased enrollments in non-algebra GQ courses, and hope over time to enroll demonstrably fewer students in Math 21-22 as a result of publicizing alternatives to students in degree programs that do not require calculus. We will evaluate whether student success - measured as the number of students who earn grades below C and therefore repeat these courses - shows improvement.

Contact Person: 
Tanya Furman
  • Tanya Furman, Co-Leader
  • Ann McLaren, Co-Leader
  • James Sellers, Co-Leader
  • Mary Erickson, Member
  • Linda Higginson, Member
  • Mary Ramsey, Member
  • Stan Smith, Member