Michigan State University will change its remedial math program

Jun 6, 2018

Michigan State University will roll out a new introductory math sequence this fall.

In the past, students who needed extra review before jumping into college-level math courses could take the university's online remedial math class, MTH 1825. The course did not count towards an undergraduate degree and had high failure rates.

Now students who enter at this level will take a two-semester college algebra class. The classes— MTH 103A and MTH 103B— will both be taught in-person and count towards a degree. The first semester will serve primarily as a review and will be graded pass/fail, while the second semester will broach new college-level topics.

Shekar Chivukula, MSU's associate provost for undergraduate education, says the online class made it difficult for many students to fulfill the university’s “quantitative literacy” graduation requirement.

“It was a significant hurdle for many students, and given that it was required for students to progress, our mathematics department really stepped up and developed a whole new pedagogical scheme that we're excited about,” Chivukula says.

MSU will also continue to teach its one-semester college algebra class for those who don't need the extra review. Additionally, with adequate high school transcripts and placement test scores, students can pass into a higher level of math or out of the requirement completely.

The new sequence has been piloted in some of MSU’s college transition programs. The idea is for more students to do better in math -- and early data from transition programs already show that happening.

“We've done that on a very small level with our pilot classes and that's where we've seen dramatic gain,” Chivukula says. “[For] the students who finish the second semester, the average grade was a 3.5 on a 4-point scale.”

MSU will need to hire more people to accommodate the shift from online to in-person classes, but Chivukula does not yet know how many additional staff they'll need.