College's Island TIME math development program called a motivator

skinney@keynoter.comFebruary 19, 2014 

Florida Keys Community College's relatively new developmental math curriculum, Island TIME (Transition Into Math Excellence) has increased success rates for students who are most likely to abandon college because of difficulty with math.

Florida students entering college have to take what's called the Postsecondary Education Readiness Test to determine their level of math competency. Students who test below the college level have to take non-credit courses before they can enter math classes required by their degree track.

Island TIME is the college's "quality enhancement plan" component of the school's 10-year reaccredidation successfully completed through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools in 2012.

College staff, looking at long-term data trends, determined that developmental math can be a dream-killer for many students who aren't ready for college-level coursework.

Island TIME, begun in January 2012, ditches the traditional lecture format for a technology-driven program that lets students progress at their own pace while giving real-time data to instructors highlighting strengths and weaknesses.

Coordinator Nadia Hall said there are 65 students enrolled in the two sections of developmental math. There are four instructors, one lead faculty member and seven tutors.

"The students are learning math by doing math," she said. "We make sure they understand."

"Another thing that benefits [students] is the course work is individualized to them so they're not wasting their time," instructor Morgan Fry said.

In fall 2011, before the program launched, 36 out of 56 students, 64 percent, passed the first section of developmental math with a C or better.

In fall 2013, with the Island TIME curriculum, 25 of 34 students, 74 percent, passed the course with a C or better.

For the second section of developmental math, before the program launched, 46 of 77 students, 60 percent, passed with a C or better. In fall 2013, 42 out of 55 students, 76 percent, had a C or better.

Instructor Marjorie Rodriguez said the transition to the new form of student-driven learning has been well received by students who "don't know what to expect. They're very apprehensive, particularly with math."

"We don't have a pinpoint" for face-to-face intervention, Fry said. "We just walk around. Some of them are comfortable raising their hands and asking questions."

But if that doesn't work, Hall said the sophisticated computer program called My Math Lab provides student data to the instructors. They can see strengths and weaknesses.

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