Academic journal article Journal of Developmental Education

Incorporating Study Strategies in Developmental Mathematics/College Algebra

Academic journal article Journal of Developmental Education

Incorporating Study Strategies in Developmental Mathematics/College Algebra

Article excerpt

It is not surprising that, with the increase in student enrollment in postsecondary institutions, there has also been an increase in underprepared students entering these institutions (Xu, Hartman, Uribe, 8c Mencke, 2001). In fact, as many as 40% of all freshmen in four-year colleges and universities require some form of developmental education (Hall 8c Ponton, 2005). Not only are students weak in mathematics content knowledge, but they also lack many of the skills needed for academic success (Xu et al., 2001).

Developmental education program leaders are being forced to deal with the ramifications of such an influx of underprepared students. One such ramification is student attrition. One of the first studies that investigated the levels of attrition of underprepared students was conducted by Roueche (1968). Through this nationwide study of community colleges, Roueche found that approximately 90% of students who were required to take developmental or remedial education courses either withdrew or failed. Unfortunately, as Barr and Schuetz (2008) state, "there is little convincing evidence that much has changed" (p. 10). Furthermore, the researchers assert that "colleges often pursue recruitment and enrollment management strategies to offset the impact of student attrition more vigorously than trying to understand and resolve the dynamics driving student attrition in the first place" (Barr 8c Schuetz, p. 10).

A related problem is that many students who take developmental mathematics, in particular, are less likely to graduate from college and are more likely to take developmental mathematics repeatedly. Although minimal research indicating mathematics as the gatekeeper of college graduation can be found, a substantial amount of research shows this to be true at the high school level. For instance, Mathematics Special Professional Interest Network, National Association for Developmental Education (2002) claims that one of the reasons developmental mathematics exists in the first place is to "serve as part of the 'gatekeeper' mechanism by which colleges eliminate students who are not qualified for further study" (p. 2). An indication that developmental mathematics is a stumbling block in the path for graduation is the fact that many students take developmental mathematics courses many times before passing the course if at all. For example, of the 47 participants in the Developmental Mathematics/College Algebra program, 12 students (25.5%) took some form of developmental mathematics course repeatedly, and less than half of these students actually passed the course eventually.


Math Fundamentals of Conceptual Understanding and Success (Math FOCUS) was an intensive summer program that provided a hybrid Developmental Mathematics/College Algebra course and accompanying instruction through correlation of mathematics and science (Mireles, 2009a) using Peer-Led Team Learning (PLTL; Cracolice 8c Deming, 2001) and computer theme modules that link content (Míreles, 2009b). Furthermore, related academic support components addressed college going and success seminars concentrating on applications of the psychology of learning, cognition and motivation, financial aid and matriculation, tutoring, and mentoring. The program was partially funded by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and, as such, incorporated a programmatic-type of evaluation. In addition, research questions focusing on academic performance and use of study strategies address two integral thematic initiatives of the program. The purpose of this study is to evaluate the effectiveness of incorporating study strategies in the Math FOCUS program.


This study adds to the research knowledge in several ways. There is limited research regarding the acquisition and transfer of relevant mathematical "habits of mind" from the developmental mathematics experience to that of college algebra. The researched program provides study strategies in a mathematical context for both developmental mathematics and college algebra since the courses are paired. …

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