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MCCC Receives Grant to Redesign Developmental Math Classes


West Windsor, N.J. -- Mercer County Community College has received a $40,000 grant from the National Center for Academic Transformation (NCAT) to teach math fundamentals in a whole new way. MCCC will participate in "Changing the Equation," a program that focuses on redesigning developmental math courses.

According to MCCC Liberal Arts Dean, Dr. Robin Schore, the project will result in radically redesigned classes for students who come to MCCC needing pre-college math. He notes that the goal is to improve learning outcomes. "We want to help these students move quickly into college level classes, and ultimately, to graduation. With an emphasis on learning math by doing math, students will work with computer software as well as receive one-on-one assistance from faculty."

Assistant Professor of Mathematics Betty Peterson was instrumental in writing the grant application and will develop the curriculum for the two courses to be offered in spring 2011. The courses will follow a structure created by NCAT that has been used across the country over the past ten years.

Mathematics faculty members, from left, Richard Porter, department chair, Assistant Professors Betty Peterson and Dr. Charlene Sharkey, and Liberal Arts Dean, Dr. Robin Schore.

NCAT reports often dramatic improvements in student performance and significant cost savings to participating institutions. According to center statistics, its partner institutions have seen a 51% increase in the percentage of students who successfully complete a developmental math course, with a 30% reduction in the cost of instruction on average.

MCCC's redesigned courses will enable students to work their way through modules in a computer lab setting. Peterson believes this hands-on and actively-engaged approach will be highly beneficial. "The traditional model is to have a professor standing at the front of the room talking at students. Here, students will learn by doing," she said.

As they demonstrate mastery, students will move from one module to the next with the possibility of completing two or more courses in one semester. Conversely, if students are not successful and need to retake the course, they will be able to restart at the same module where they left off instead of having to go back to the beginning.

Observes Assistant Professor Charlene Sharkey, who teaches several developmental math classes and assisted with the grant application, "Those who understand the material can move through so much faster, while those who need extra help will get it."

The grant process was highly competitive, with 38 community colleges nationwide selected for funding. Following the pilot semester in spring 2011, MCCC expects to institute the program for all developmental math students in fall 2011.

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