UT center develops math education system for community colleges

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During a workshop, plans for the New Mathways Project are discussed. The program was developed by the Dana Center in the College of Natural Sciences and aims to help community college students succeed in college-level mathematics courses.

The Dana Center, a research unit in the College of Natural Sciences, has developed the New Mathways Project in order to improve mathematics performance among students in community colleges.

The New Mathways Project is a framework adopted by community colleges to encourage more student success and completion of mathematical courses. The Dana Center provides tools, services and curriculum materials to assist select community colleges with the implementation of the New Mathways Project.

The New Mathways Project was created to alleviate the high rates of failure and attrition that community college students experience with the standard math education, said Amy Getz, the Dana Center’s strategic implementation lead. According to data from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Boards, only 13 percent of first-time college students entering community college earned math credit in three years.

“[Education] is critical for ensuring that the next generation of students is prepared with the knowledge and skills needed in the modern global economy,” Getz said. “Mathematics education in particular is a barrier to success for students seeking to improve their lives through education.”

The New Mathways Project offers classes that promote active learning, allowing students to learn through problem-solving situations that relate to their daily lives and possible future careers.

“Students build estimation skills through explorations of the impact of credit scores on interest payments and use algebraic formulas to calculate blood alcohol content and its impact on reaction times,” Getz said.

Austin Community College professor David James said that the New Mathways Project classes help students because the math is used in real-world applications.

“This math class is more about concepts and more about understanding how things relate to one another,” James said. “In this course, we  learn how math relates to the world in general.”

Temple College student Dominique Reed said that she feels more comfortable in the New Mathways Project classes than in regular math courses.  

“I’ve had a lot of developmental classes before this that honestly didn’t go all that well,” Reed said. “I feel like I am doing better in [New Mathways Project] since it deals with real world applications versus all of the algebraic things that go on in other classes.”

Forty-seven of the fifty community college districts in Texas have enrolled to implement the New Mathways Project models. Twenty colleges in Texas and three out-of-state colleges utilized the course materials provided by the Dana Center in their New Mathways Project models.