Math Lab proves successful with increase in algebra pass rates

Fall 2012 College Algebra pass rates have increased to 52 percent. That’s an increase of about 20 percent since efforts to transform the way College Algebra is taught at FIU began in the Fall of 2010.

“This is really good news since this is the first time that all online exams have been used, and for all 1,600 students,” said Director of the School of Integrated Science and Humanity Suzanna Rose. “Now we can work on improving the mastery program.”

With a steady increase in pass rates associated with the Mastery Math component of FIU’s Project Gateways, the Fall 2012 semester saw full adoption of the program across all College Algebra sections. The program is on track to achieve an overall pass rate of 73 percent by 2015.

MasteryMathLab-Desk“The new Mastery Math Lab is the key element of transformation,” said Leanne Wells, Title V Coordinator for Mastery Math. “The lab allows all College Algebra and Intermediate Algebra students to do math while having access to trained Learning Assistants as well as their instructors.”

The Mastery Math Lab is equipped with more than 200 computers and staffed by 30 full-time Learning Assistants (LA’s) who lead weekly sessions targeting student conceptions and common mistakes. The core algebra faculty, including Nashini Khan, Ada Monserrat and Jerry Hower along with Department of Mathematics and Statistics Chairman Bao Qin Li, oversee the program.

Students are required to spend a minimum amount of hours in the lab per week, depending on the course they are enrolled in. To better serve these students, Junior Pena, senior Learning Assistant, has taken the initiative to incorporate social media into the “high-touch” aspect of the program.

By following @mathlabFIU students can have hourly reports of the capacity of the lab and know when there are open stations or when the lab is full. They can know when their favorite LA is working at the lab and have special reminders for homework due dates, quiz and test days, as well as lab hours. However, it is important to note that these social media accounts do not replace email communication with professors and specific assignment information for a particular section.

“We want to make sure students know that the lab is a great resource they should take advantage of,” Pena said. “Students are always on their phones and by being on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram they can have the important information at their fingertips.”

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— By Ayleen Barbel Fattal

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