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Pellissippi State Increases Student Retention with Hybrid Math Program

Pellissippi State Technical Community College near Knoxville, TN has tracked an increase in the retention rate of students in developmental studies mathematics, an increase that surpasses that of non-developmental studies students. In that program the school has introduced automated math instruction from Carnegie Learning.

"After the first semester of implementing Carnegie Learning Developmental Math Solutions in the 2008-2009 school year, [the college] experienced a 6.01 percent rise in student retention, with 76.58 percent of development studies math students now returning for a subsequent semester," said Mary Monroe-Ellis, dean of transitional studies. "Math can be the primary obstacle to success for developmental students, and we feel the redesign of our math program is giving these students a deeper conceptual understanding of mathematics, which results in greater learning and success."

Pellissippi State uses a hybrid approach, integrating Carnegie's self-paced computer-assisted instruction, Cognitive Tutor Software, with classroom instruction. Sections meet for one hour a week in the classroom and one hour in the math computer lab. Students are required to spend two additional hours each week working in the lab where instructor and tutor support are available.

The curriculum is divided into nine modules, covering topics that were previously covered in three different levels of developmental math courses. The new structure treats all developmental math students as enrolling in a single math course, yet students have different software assignments depending on their performance on a placement test, and they progress on a customized instructional path that addresses each student's strengths and weaknesses.

"We are able to spend more time with our students addressing individual needs, instead of treating them as if they all learn the same way and understand the math at the same level," said Amy Tankersley, math instructor. "The students are learning to work independently. They are responsible for their learning and how quickly they progress through our course, which gives them a sense of pride and accomplishment."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at dian@dischaffhauser.com or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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