A new math program and its course books has created a pathway that gives students a more practical and interesting way to fulfill the general education requirements in order to obtain a degree or transfer.
The Math 450, 250 and 150 program includes creative and custom-made course books that were created by a group of PCC math professors and team leaders who worked to together to compile them in a more fun and interactive way.
The textbooks offer more cohesive and easier-to-digest breakdowns of math concepts that many students often struggle with. The concepts aren’t any less intensive than those taught in the standard algebra classes but they’re described in practical terms that are more accessible to students.
And on top of all that, the books are made here at PCC and significantly cheaper than other math books, available at a cost of around $28 to $30.
The books include real-world word problems, colorful graphics, and hands-on, visually stimulating puzzles structured to make the courses interactive and more fun, progressively moving a student towards Algebraic equations and Statistical analysis.
“We wanted to start off doing something new and different so that students would be interested and hopefully maintain that interest throughout the semester. I just said, ‘Bring me your ideas. Bring me whatever cool things you do in your class. Bring me cool puzzles you use and then just started amassing a mountain of stuff,” said Linda Hintzman, mathematics professor and team leader and creator of the initial Math 450 course and book. Puzzle “manipulatives” such as Algebra Tiles, Geoboards, and C-Rods are used in setting up the pre-algebraic puzzle and word problems featured in the books.
The number of students showing improvements has progressed significantly to show that the courses and books are working.
“We’ve actually had a few that went all the way from [Math] 450 up through our Calculus sequence,” Hintzman said.
And the numbers don’t lie. Over a four-year period, the grade improvement rate over all has increased 1 to 5 percent with each year that the new math courses have been offered.
The “Fifties” math course’ evaluation process never ends and is constantly evolving through required input and feedback provided by professors teaching these new classes Hintzman and fellow math professor and book and course team leader Roger Yang go over the feedback daily to determine the need for updates and changes.
“Even now, there’s mistakes in the book,” said Yang, team leader of the Math 150 course, the course book, and the S.L.A.M. video companion episodes available online for students to review. “And we’re learning “Oh! A better way would have been to do this! This is a little bit confusing for our students. But you don’t really know until you do it.’”
Math 150 and 250 are part of S.L.A.M., Statistics and Liberal Arts Math.
Yang emphasized how the curriculum and books were designed to accommodate students, such as those in the Liberal Arts, by removing the “heavy machinery” that might prevent a student from continuing on.
Yang said that the creative input for the S.L.A.M. videos “simply came to together” with folks like David Steiman at Lancer Lens and math professor Jay Cho. They began creating the “flipped course” videos that are companions to Math 150 and Stat 50 and to help explain some of the course work.
“We do [the videos] about once a week,” said Yang of the energetic, entertaining and graphically informative videos. “Sometimes we’ll film two episodes in a week, if I can put it together…by the end we are somewhat delirious, so that’s another reason why the videos are slightly ridiculous,” Yang said, laughing.
Specifically to Math 150, the main focus of the staff of 10-plus who created these textbooks was to promote critical thinking through problems relevant to everyday life. Lab activities scattered throughout the books give students the opportunities to work with Microsoft Excel, calculating living expenses and working with loans. Other activities encourage students to discuss and demonstrate concepts such as probability in groups.
Hintzman said that the greatest thing to come out of these courses is the overall change in students’ feelings towards math.
“They’re not hating their math. They’re not dreading their math. They’re realizing that math is not going to be the gatekeeper that’s going to prevent them from reaching their goals,” she said. “More than grades or success rate is that attitude shift and that’s something we really focused a lot on.”