Article N + 1

Posted on August 14, 2018


This is scholarly so it’s not another “nobody knows math! they shouldn’t have to!”  blurge…

 Considering a Technological Redesign of Developmental Mathematics? It’s Sixes got me through this morning’s “beginning of year address” from our college prez.   From 2012, it’s a bit of a summary.

The “sixes” does mean six of one (good things), half a dozen of the other (bad things). It cited examples from research from each one.

The first good thing talks about “mastery learning” assuming that breaking things into tiny steps and allowing for retakes until you pass leads to understanding. Pithy quote from it:
“The more time that students are allowed to take to digest and apply information before being instructed in the next set of curriculum objectives, the more that student wil improve on a wide variety of affective measures, such as … confidence… attendance… attitudes…”   Odd there’s no mention that … some students might benefit from more time to actually learn and understand the stuff.

Second good thing:   instant feedback and “individualized” tutorials.   (My note: No, not really individualized the way a human would individualize, just “oh, you still need that?” but yes, the computer is equated with being a ‘private tutor’).

Third:   “self-pacing and control,”  because “many students placed in developmental mathematics courses are simply out of practice and in need of a quick review…” Really?   I’m thinking this is a convenient myth.

Fourth:   “Appeal to different learning styles.”   Talks about use of video, audio, animation, text, interactive… yes, I can agree fully with this one — except that … in my experience most of the computer stuff doesn’t have that.   Sorry, a video lecture (Khan Academy) is still lecture.

Fifth: “Mathematics and Test Anxiety Implications.”   “…failed tests are viewed as positive learning experiences…”   Well, maybe on that one!    They are right, though, in that it is a whole lot less anxiety-inducing to enter an answer in a computer w/ low-stakes stuff, and hte “great job!” feedback … works.

Sixth:   Money.   Yup.

Deterrents, though.

  1.   “Use Care when Interpreting Others’ Results” — says that basically, most of the stuff where tech worked was on higher level math classes.  Consistent with my experience and other articles.
  2. “Self-Efficacy of Developmental Students”      “In a digital environent, those studetns with low feelings of self-efficacy are more prone to avoidant behaviors such as absenteeism and withdrawal.”  YES.   And in my world, even if they are doing the problems, they are looking for getting answers, not expecting to understand.  (No, the article didn’t even bring up understanding vs. memorizing procedures.)
  3. “What students want” — the article notes that while students “like technology,” a lotof them…. want a *teacher* for math.  I agree: Almost every student I’ve helped register for a developmental math course has been absolutely sure they needed a live teacher, not an online course. (We have no all-online courses in Pre-Algebra.)
  4. “Student-teacher interaction, though essential, may actually decrease.”   YUP.
  5. “Self-pacing and control” — yes, a “good thing” for the mythical “just need review” students, but the article acknowledges that self-pacing “gives developmental students an astonishing level of freedom that few are capable of handling.”  Now, I do grow weary of how everything’s on the student.   If the online learning is not working because it’s poorly designed, that’s going to also lead to those avoidant behaviors, etc.
  6. “Faculty ennui”   — lots of teachers *hate* turning teaching over to a computer.   (This has come up in lots of other articles, too.)


This basically confirms:    the lower-skilled students aren’t well served w/ tech-based math.