Fast-track to degrees; fewer math courses may be needed


Victoria Stephens

Math requirements at Lane are changing.

For many students, heavy algebra isn’t necessary and requiring it may be a hindrance to some students in getting their degrees, according to Kristen Henderson, Lane pilot Math 199 teacher. If math isn’t required in students’ future careers, the algebra requirement could prevent them from being able to do what they want, commented Henderson.

Enrollment in math classes is high at Lane because math courses are required for most programs of study. To help promote student success, more options are being offered and new courses with shorter pathways to higher level courses are being devised.

Henderson said that changes in math requirements extend beyond LCC, however.

“Community colleges in general around the US are trying to find alternate paths that will give students the knowledge they will need for their specific fields without necessarily making them go through all of the algebra classes,” she said.

A new course at Lane is Math 98, Math Literacy, which bypasses Math 60, 65 and 95. It goes directly from Math 20, remedial geometry to Math 105, game theory. Math 98 has less algebra skills development than the traditional pathway.

Apart from university transferability, Math 105 can also be used as a prerequisite for Statistics just as Math 111 can. First year student, Beau Blunk, finished Math 105 in winter term in preparation for an Associate of Arts Oregon Transfer degree. “This is all I need to do to complete,” said Blunk, who took the Math 20, 98 route to Math 105.

Another new fast track math class, developed especially for computer science majors, is Math 82, Math for Network Operations, offered for the first time this term as Math 199. In Spring it is being offered as Math 82 and will only require Math 20 as a prerequisite.

“Many of my students were excited. They had attempted Math 95 and they struggled. They thought this was much more useful for their field,” Henderson said.

However, one student said this is unfortunate. “He had found the Math 60-65-95 sequence to be good for general knowledge and interesting. He thought it a disappointment that people would not learn that any more,” she said.

At first Henderson was torn about the changes. “I found all the algebra fun, interesting and useful, so it was really hard for me,” she said. “But then looking at what students wanted to do and how much they were struggling, it really seemed like maybe it was a disservice to some students.”

Henderson said she sees several obstacles to math success for her students. For those who don’t have a solid foundation from previous classes, building new concepts is difficult. Others struggle with not having adequate time to study because of juggling family and job commitments.

Studying math is different from studying for other subjects, she commented. It requires a lot of practice on problems to internalize the steps and remember them rather than reading materials over and over again she added.

Teachers want to help, and meeting with them and getting answers to questions right away is important, according to Henderson said. She said that teachers can also help with test anxiety strategies or are able to point students to the right people to help them.

In Winter term, 97 math classes were offered at Lane and were taught by 47 faculty members. Enrollment was between 2,500 to 3,000 students — approximately one-fourth of the student body.