Picture this: You’re an incoming freshman, ready to sign up for your first semester of classes at MSU. You didn’t reach a certain threshold on the required math placement examination and are now required to take Math 1825. Imagine this Math 1825 course being online and you not receiving credit for it, despite it being a university requirement and costing the same as other courses. That doesn’t sound terrifying in the least sense, does it? How would that make you feel?
This was the reality for a large number of students at Michigan State, up until this fall. Concerns shared between the Department of Mathematics, the Department of Statistics and Probability, the Program in Mathematics Education (PRIME), the Office of the Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education (APUE), and the Hub ultimately resulted in the dissolution of Math 1825 in favor of a system of improvements across introductory mathematics courses to both alleviate the stress that students were facing with Math 1825 and to effectively enhance the experience for students.
As of Fall 2018, all of the introductory mathematics courses, Quantitative Literacy (Math 101 & 102) and College Algebra (Math 103), are offered in formats that allow students to enroll directly without having to first pass developmental mathematics. In particular, College Algebra is being offered as a stretched sequence of courses, Math 103A and 103B. Though these courses take two semesters to complete, they are offered for credit, counting towards students’ undergraduate degree(s), and they are offered in-person as opposed to the online model of Math 1825. Additionally, these courses incorporate standards-based grading, a system in which students receive scores and credit based on their demonstrated learning relative to explicit course objectives. In Math 1825 and most other courses, students instead receive credit based on a mix of effort, behavior, and achievement as demonstrated on quizzes and tests.
Together, the purpose of these changes is to provide a more equitable pathway through introductory mathematics that focuses on students developing knowledge and skills relevant to their other coursework and degree programs. Because so many changes are occurring in tandem across these courses, one role for the Hub in this project is to continually collect and analyze data that helps the instructors and faculty teams make decisions about changing the courses. For example, Becky Matz, academic specialist in the Hub, said “We are looking to conduct student interviews specifically in Math 101 and 103A toward the end of this semester to dig a little deeper into how the course designs are working.”
Student Success has always been a priority for MSU and with these substantial shifts in introductory mathematics courses, this is the case, more than ever. For more information on how MSU has been working to restructure the experience of first-year students with math courses, visit https://undergrad.msu.edu/news/view/id/186.