Friday, September 18, 2009

Developmental math projects at Pierce

Several members of the Los Angeles Pierce College mathematics department are involved in two extraordinary experiments to improve the school's developmental math program. The Mediated Algebra Project (MAP) aims to improve the success of intermediate algebra students, and the Modular Math Project is trying an alternative method for teaching elementary algebra.

MAP involves:

  • reading assignments completed before coming to class (in a textbook authored by Pierce faculty and available to students both online for free, or through the bookstore at the cost of copying and binding),
  • online reading and skills questions (using the open source WeBWorK homework delivery and grading system, with problems coded by Pierce faculty),
  • online videos (including Pat McKeague's freely available MathTV site ( ) and screen capture videos made by Pierce faculty),
  • an online Question and Answer student forum using the open source Moodle learning management system,
  • Replacement of lectures with in-class activities that explore math concepts, (from an Activities book created by Pierce faculty and sold to the students at cost) within an environmental theme when possible ,
  • written homework aligned with the in-class activities, and
  • concept "clicker" questions (written by Pierce faculty).

This fall 2009 semester is the first try at the "full" MAP package, with three faculty teaching in the pilot: Kathie Yoder, Kathy Yoshiwara, and myself. The Reading and Activities books have already been class-tested by the principal author, Kathy Yoshiwara. Some of the ancillary MAP materials were created by Roya Furmuly, Sheri Lehavi, Bob Martinez, Jenni Martinez, Brenda Rudin, Ben Smith, Kathie Yoder, and me.

The "Mod Squad", team-teaching a modular self-paced elementary algebra course, consists of Cassie Cain, Sheri Lehavi, Brenda Rudin, Zhila Tabatabai, and Kathy Yoshiwara. More on their efforts later.

Most of the funding to pay for the continuing development of the two programs comes from California's Basic Skills Initiative ( ). Further funding came from a STEM grant at the college and will be supplemented this semester by a Hewlett Foundation ( ) grant. The college itself has committed none of its normal budget to the effort.

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