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Mathalicious Lessons for Developmental Math

Background
Developmental math at community colleges has been a hot topic in North Carolina.  Within the past two years, the state has redesigned the curriculum so that basically the classes are broken up to modules and a student has to show mastery learning to move on to the next course.  Furthermore across the state you will see many different versions, such as 4 week classes, 8 week class, emporium, seated, and online.  The DMA (developmental math) range from DMA 010, which is operations with integers, to DMA 065 a prerequisite for pre-calc. Students that are non-stem need to have tested/completed out of DMA 010 through DMA 050.  Soon, multiple measures, where students can use their high school GPA, can be used to test out DMA, compared to as of now a student must take a test for placement.

My Experience
Teaching this level of math to people whose range is 18ish-50ish has its challenges, as any type of math course.  One challenge is that students have a lot of baggage from all of the previous math courses.  For example, when teaching the concept of fractions, students have already seen this many times and their knowledge can be very fragmented.  They might remember some type of tricks, what previous teachers did, or only how to enter fractions on a calculator.  My task it re-piece all those ideas and also provide a “deeper conceptual understanding” of fractions.  These classes are tough.  In the past, I have tried to present the material in a way they might have never seen, like using cantor sets to learn fractions or like using lattice multiplication for decimals or like using expanded form in decimal and fractions or using Sam’s club photos to introduce the idea of variables, expressions, distributive property, yada yada yada.  Students were engaged with these lessons but I think the approach was too mathy, especially for the liberal arts audience.  I need to present the math in a way they have never seen before and in a way they can relate to their own lives.

Mathalicious Lessons
I have been aware of Mathalicious for a few years now but I have never actually used their lessons.  (Actually, I stole a few of their ideas but I am now a paying member 😉  My original thought about Mathalicious was “Back when I was an 8th grade math teacher, those lesson would have been perfect.”  That thought resonates with a lot I find on the internet: that is there seems to be plenty of resources directed towards a public school audience, some resources for the university audience, and very little for a community college audience.  This distribution of resources makes sense to me since there are way more public schools and if you add in universities, then community colleges are sort of covered due to the intersection of public and university.   With all of that said, I have decided that this summer I will try to implement Mathalicious Lessons with some community college flare.

Matching up lessons to the course outline
Here is the table of contents and the Mathalicious lessons that I will add.

  1. Algebraic Expressions
  2. Simplifying Algebraic Expressions Using Properties of Real Numbers
  3. Solving Equations Using Properties of Equality
  4. More about solving equations
  5. Formulas
  6. Problem Solving
  7. More About Problem Solving
  8. Solving Inequalities
  • Ice Cubed – This lesson will cover formulas, geometric formulas, expressions, rates, and problem solving.  This will also be a good lead into mixture problems.  The lesson uses Lemonade, but being at a community college I change the drink to a “spiked lemonade”  I might try to extend the lesson about what is the fastest way to cool down a six pack and what type of ice is best to keep a six pack cold.
  • Viewmongous – I recently purchased a 55 inch TV so I have some resources for this one.  (Mounting the TV in the corner of my room  involved a good bit of math.  The mount could only extend 13 inches from the wall and I had to calculate if the mount was too short.)  This will be a good introduction to the geometric style of word problems that are in the text book.
  • HI, BMI – This problem is in the textbook but only to re-write the formula.  Student will practice solving equations and learn how to handle linear equations that have denominator.
  • Calories In, Calories Out – My area of North Carolina is not known to be the healthiest. But this lesson will help student combining like terms and evaluating expressions.  Also, is some conversions that students have to do, which is prerequisite skill of the class.
  • Heart Rate – Having a wide age range for the class works well for this lesson. I have chosen to use this lesson towards the end since graphing is more of a focus in the next course.
  • Not So Fast – Again, another great lesson because of the ages in my class.  Also, the lesson focuses on Virginia, which our school is about 100 miles away from.  I might try to extend the lesson to North Carolina, who has different pricing structure of speeding tickets.  This lesson will also work for inequalities and domain restrictions.
  • Text Me Later – This seems like a good lesson to have after Not So Fast.  Yet, I don’t know if I will follow that order.  I might do this lesson first because of the focus on percentages, ratios, and conversions.  It could be a good refresher.

Final Thoughts
I am excited to try these all of these lessons and a bit scared because of how the lessons differ from the text book and the assessment.  At my school, students have to score at least an 80% on the final exam to exit the course.  Though the lessons don’t mimic the final exam, I feel that students will be prepared.  A lot of what I read, shows that people who take developmental math, mostly need to work on their attitudes toward math and being in a “lower level course”.  The students needs to have a positive experience and a sense that they belong, as shown in this NY Times article, “Who Gets to Graduate?”.  Overall, my thought is to hook students in the classroom with the Mathalicious lessons, which will hopefully motivate students to work on the more mathy stuff outside of the classroom, and to build a collaborative environment around the Mathalicious lessons so that students have a sense of belonging.

The class starts next Tuesday.  I will try to blog about experience.

 

 

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