Spring 2000
Vol 8 Issue 2


Database of Dreams?

Maricopa Learning eXchange (MLX)

Who's Doing What

Student Learning Through Career Exploration

High and Low Technology Have Roles in Today's Complex Machining Industry


Invisible Lines of Connection

The Forum



Maricopa Center for Learning and Instruction

The Labyrinth... Sharing Information on Learning Technologies

Melinda Rudibaugh,CGCC

The American Mathematical Association of Two-Year Colleges has established standards for introductory (before calculus) mathematics. Standards for pedagogy support the use of technology, multiple approaches, and interactive and cooperative learning. Also, quite importantly the AMATYC Standards advocates connecting mathematics with other experiences (to make it relevant and meaningful) and promotes student firsthand participation in mathematics through projects and sustained activities.

As a consequence of teaching three semesters of learning cohorts, where students may follow one instructor through four math classes (MAT082, 091, 120, and 150) "College Algebra Concepts" (MAT 150) is being taught for the first time, this spring at Chandler-Gilbert Community College (CGCC). The course is being taught in the same style as its three predecessors which is mostly active, hands-on learning with cooperative activities, student projects, and presentations.

The first three courses in the learning cohort use Maricopa Mathematics Project modules. Since none exist for college algebra, College Mathematics through Applications, piloted by South Mountain Community College (SMCC), has been selected. This text relies heavily on the use of calculator and calculator-based laboratory equipment.

In order to facilitate group activities, sharing resources, and discussion, the classroom is set up in pods of tables which seat four students face to face. Members are placed into base groups according to college majors, when they can study, and where they live (to facilitate meeting for group projects and study outside of class). After a few weeks, student teams are reformed based upon abilities and attributes (such as age or gender) that are brought to group dynamics.

Howard Speier and Melinda Rudibaugh at CGCC are team teaching the course to approximately fifty students. Team teachers Ann Lindner and JD Mildrew at SMCC provided valuable input to the course foundation. A typical class period involves instructors alternating to introduce various topics. This lasts no more than ten minutes, and then students immediately are assigned a cooperative activity to begin constructing their knowledge of the concept. Roles (assigned by "numbered heads") such as recorder, encourager, taskmaster, and checker ensure equal and simultaneous participation. Frequently a spinner is used to select teams to present results of their work. Papers are placed into the team folders at the end of the period and collected by the teaching assistant of the day.

Students work through six projects over the course of the semester. Most projects require the use of technology, such as spreadsheets, and they must be formally done, as though presented to an employer.

In response to the AMATYC Standard requiring true mathematical experience, a service learning project is required. This is a three- to six-hour (depending on the agency) visit, arranged with the assistance of the CGCC Office of Student Life. Students select an agency which affords them an opportunity to use their math skills as they serve. Sites include local police stations, schools, and the Boys and Girls Club. Students must document hours and write a reflection on their learning.

At the end of the semester students in the MAT 150 learning cohort will take the same common final as all other college algebra students. Their teachers believe, however, that they will possess problem-solving, decision-making, and communication skills beyond the assessment potential of the instrument.

The following excerpt from learning@maricopa.edu supports our rationale for creating this course:

In the 7 Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education (Chickering and Gamson, 1987) the authors suggest that "good practice encourages active learning" (1). The principle, anchored in decades of research about teaching and learning, requires us to consider methods to expand the terms of engagement between student and teacher. It suggests that we think about and act on what we know about the way student participation in the learning process leads to higher levels of deep and lasting learning.
Because learning is also interactive it gives the connotation that a learner is actively engaged with others. It suggests the development of four central relationships, each of which can be viewed in terms of its quality and frequency of occurrence. These relationships are:
  • Between learner and faculty
  • Between learner and others who support the learning process
  • Between learner and other learners
  • Between learners and others outside of the college environment.