Bonham and Boylan and developmental math

Posted on April 25, 2013

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So!  I snagged that copy of the Journal of Developmental Education and espied the article _Developmental Mathematics: Challenges, Promising Practices, and Recent Initiatives.

It’s four pages deep, beginning with stats about who has to take developmental courses and how many colleges offer them (e.g., “3/4 of colleges and universities in U.S. that enroll freshmen have at least one developmental course” and “nearly 75% of students entering two-year colleges must take one or more developmental mathematics courses (Noel-Levitz, 2006).”  It includes statements such as, “For many students entering college these courses have become a frightening obstacle.”

Another column is devoted to how many students actually complete the developmental sequence, and how successful they were.   Two studies were cited indicating that students completing developmental course were as successful as students not required to take them… but that something like 21% of students in one study actually did complete the developmental courses. Nor do we  find out just how successful those folks who didn’t have to take developmental math were. Hint:  probably not a nice number.

Then we get to the “what are we doing in these courses” part, which was interesting in that it used a ton of general Things To Do (“greater use of technology as a supplement to classroom instruction,”  “self-paced delivery”, etc.), and lots and lots and *lots* of descriptions of the the assorted ways of packaging instruction.

There was acknowledgment that professional development is really, really important:  “Many educators teaching developmental mathematics are highly qualified in the discipline of mathematics. However, they may have limited coursework or formal training in developmental education, college teaching, student learning, or the application of varied teaching strategies. Those who have been teaching developmental mathematics can attest to the fact that it differs substantially from teaching more advanced college-level math courses.”  

There was some discussion of “redesigning” courses, but almost *everything* described concerned the packaging.

A column and more was devoted to the importance of affect and attitude for student success, and efforts to work with that.

However, the issue of whether students were learning math concepts was not touched.   The phrase “conceptual framework” was used once, per:

“Additional recommendations regarding course redesign from colleges involved in the process include the following: ….(d) develop a conceptual framework to guide the process…”

At no (zero, zip, zilch, nada) point in the article was the issue of student comprehension of any mathematical ideas so much as mentioned. (No, Stigler, et al’s _What Community College Developmental Mathematics Students Understand about Mathematics_ was not in the reference list. )

This issue was a “best of” issue; the original citation is below.

Bonham, B.S., & Boylan, H.R. (2011). Developmental mathematics: Challenges, promising practices, and recent initiatives. Journal of Developmental Education, 34(3), 2-10.

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Posted in: math