Stan Jones, a former state legislator who now heads Complete College America, calls the current remediation model “a bridge to nowhere.”
“It’s very clear that what we’re doing right now is not working,” Jones said.
Since math is the subject that most often holds students back, it’s the subject coming under heaviest scrutiny. Math education researchers are calling for a fundamental redesign of how the subject is taught all through school, not just at the college level.
Among their criticisms: Memorization is prized over critical thinking, and algebra-heavy requirements are irrelevant to students’ career plans, while the statistics and quantitative reasoning they need go untaught.
“We’re not teaching the value of math,” said Jeffrey Watts, an IUPUI researcher who has studied how math is taught in other developed nations. “Our students don’t see any immediate application of math to the careers they want to pursue, whether that’s in nursing or firefighting.”
That disconnect has prompted the state’s largest public postsecondary institution, Ivy Tech Community College, to overhaul its curriculum. Of nearly 200,000 students enrolled on Ivy Tech campuses around the state, about 80 percent have had to take remedial classes — most in math.
Beginning this fall, Ivy Tech will offer a series of math options designed to bring students up to speed more quickly and steer them into courses that better connect with their career goals. There will be more emphasis on real-life applications and greater attention to identifying students’ specific deficiencies so remedial work can be customized.
Gone will be the typical remedial course, which offers no credit and delays a student’s path to a degree. Replacing it will be remediation that’s baked into credit-earning classes.
Sheila Yancey, a former high school instructor who now teaches remedial math at the Ivy Tech campus in Lawrence, said the change is really about improving math literacy.