Heart Soul COLLEGE OF ARTS AND SCIENCES Volume 10 No. 1 Northern State University Spring 2012 The Introductory Math Program started as a pilot program in the fall of 2009. The program was designed to incorporate collaborative learning strategies in MATH 101 Intermediate Algebra and MATH 102 College Algebra with the intent of improving student success rates in these courses. (Student success is defined as a grade of C or higher.) The primary component of the program is a required lab that meets for one hour, once a week, and is offered in conjunction with the standard courses which regularly meet for one hour, three times a week. The students work together in the lab solving math problems in small groups under the watch of Instructor Assistants (IAs). The IAs are undergraduate students who have successfully completed these courses. The IAs are chosen for their problem-solving skills and their ability to communicate their understanding of the material and provide guidance to beginning students to help them succeed in these courses. The IAs are trained to help students take ownership of their learning and to facilitate the students’ work. Mr. Roger Wilson ran the program in the fall of 2009 with three labs and eight IAs under the guidance and direction of the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Dr. C. G. “Tino” Mendez, who is a mathematician. Since then, the program has continued to grow to seven labs and fifteen IAs in the spring of 2012 under the supervision of Ms. Jennifer Dolejsi. Dr. Tariq Alraqad and Dr. Ricardo Rojas of the NSU Math faculty have actively participated in the program. The program will expand next fall with the addition of two new labs for the MATH 021 Basic Algebra courses taught at the University College. The Introductory Math Program has dramatically increased the success rates of students in MATH 101 and MATH 102. In a study done in the fall 2011 by the South Dakota Board of Regents, Northern State University’s student success rates in MATH 101 increased from the 50% range in 2008- 09 to the 60% range in the last two years. Even more impressively, the student success rates in MATH 102 increased from 60.1% in 2008-09 to 71.5% in 2009-10 and 69% in 2010-11. NSU numbers are now the highest in the state, ahead of the SD School of Mines, with student success rates of 70.8% in 2009-10 and 66.2% in 2010-11. The students enrolled in the program enjoy the lab and see it as a valuable learning experience. A student wrote: “I liked the fact that we worked together as a group. It was easier to ask questions in a small group of 5-6 people because it was much less intimidating than larger classroom settings. I think the labs are crucial to gaining academic achievement in math courses because math tends to be a very difficult subject for most people.” Another student observed: “I really liked having the lab. I have never done well in math, but the lab helped me to be successful in this course.” The IAs who help out with the labs also gain valuable work experience. The majority of the IAs are math education or elementary education majors, and being able to work with students gives the IAs work experience and insight into their future careers as teachers. A veteran IA stated: “My overall experience as an IA has been very educational. I have learned different approaches to different problems, and I have seen different positive and negative aspects of different teaching styles. Being an IA will benefit me as a future math teacher as I am learning new ways to explain common math problems, and I am better able to understand the struggles that students go through.” NSU College Algebra Student Success Rates Best in the State under New Program “I really liked having the lab. I have never done well in math, but the lab helped me to be successful in this course.”