Math levels just don’t add up for some students
Mathematics might be the most procrastinated subject by college students across the country. It requires a lot of reasoning and calculating, and can be intimidating in the extreme.
“I seriously had nightmares with statistics,” said Jamie Wisniewski.
The 25-year-old physical therapist assistant major from Ann Arbor doesn’t have to worry though, because Basic Statistics is the only math class required for her program. However, there are other students who are concerned that the new Math Level Expiration Policy, implemented by Washtenaw Community College, may impede their academic progress.
The policy was put in place at the start of the Fall semester, and with little notice according to Tom Hopper, 49, a pre-engineering transfer from Ann Arbor.
“We’ve been trying to push it before we even put this limit in, and about one or two years ago we started emailing instructors when registration opened telling them, ‘hey, today’s a good day to talk to your students about registering for their next math class,’” said Kristin Chatas, chair of the college’s Math Department.
Hopper doesn’t buy it.
“What good is that if you aren’t in a math class?” he asks.
Working full-time and attending classes, Hopper is focused on his goal of getting his engineering degree, but being a non-traditional student is making it hard for him to comply with the school’s policy of one year expiration – due to work constraints.
“If I would have known this was coming, I would have waited to take chemistry,” he said.
As a participant of “Achieving the Dream,” a nationwide initiative to improve success for students who enter college at a developmental level, WCC knew it was coming. The question is what prompted the change?
“Sixty-seven percent of students entering WCC have to take remedial math, and that isn’t just a problem here. It’s nationwide,” said Linda Blakey, associate vice-president of Student Services.
“Achieving the Dream colleges refer, on average, 56 percent of their students to developmental education coursework, with individual institutional referral rates ranging from a low of nine percent to a high of 97 percent of all entering students,” according to research conducted by Achieving the Dream.
Additional empirical data supporting Washtenaw’s case for the change in police, however, was not available on request from The Washtenaw Voice.
“A lot of what we used was anecdotal experience,” Chatas said. “We were finding that many students would take a math course and then wait, potentially several years, to take the next required course. This was prolonging their academic paths, and oftentimes led to poor performance from the long layover between classes.”
That is of little consolation to a student, like Hopper, who isn’t at a developmental level.
“I think expiration is needed, but a blanket of one year seems a little extreme,” said Andrea Waite. In her experience, the Chemistry 111 instructor believes that it depends on the student.
But there is a way for students to keep math levels current without having to repeat a class. Take the Compass test.
Becky Alliston, a business major, found that she needed to drop her required math class when she realized that it was too much in her schedule. Her math level wasn’t due to expire until the Fall of 2012, but she was still unable to register for her math class for the Summer semester because the registration system wouldn’t allow it, so she went ahead and took the test.
“I passed for the level I needed, but before I took the test the proctor told me it was harder due to the expiration policy,” she said.