Dr. Paul Nolting's Academic Success Press Blog: A Publication Dedicated to Math Success
Dr. Paul Nolting's Academic Success Press Blog: A Publication Dedicated to Math Success
Dr. Nolting Speaks with Dr. Nancy Sattler about Future AMATYC Initiatives, Technology, and the Current State of Developmental Mathematics
In anticipation of the upcoming 2017 AMATYC conference, Dr. Nolting recently reached out to past-president Nancy Sattler for an in-depth conversation about many of the issues that will no doubt dominate proceedings come November. The following post contains the bulk of this conversation, drawn from an email exchange last month. Enjoy!
Paul Nolting: Why don't you start by describing your educational background, as well as your history with AMATYC?
Nancy Sattler: I have a bachelor’s degree in pure mathematics with a minor in science. My master’s degree is in math education with an emphasis on post-secondary mathematics. My Ph.D. is in higher education with two minors – one in educational technology and the other in research and measurement.
I have worked as an adjunct faculty member at Terra Community College in Fremont, then a full time teacher, then department head for mathematics and science, a curriculum chair, then association dean, and then dean of Arts & Sciences and Business and later dean of Liberal Arts & Public Services. I began teaching part-time in 1983 and have taught continuously since then.
I have taught a variety of mathematics courses during those 34 years but have primarily taught developmental mathematics. I began teaching online back in the 90’s when I went into administration so I could continue to teach at Terra. Ten years ago, I began teaching at Walden University in their Mathematics Education Program. I am the lead faculty for two classes – Curriculum, Instruction, & Assessment, and the Teaching and Learning of Mathematics.
I helped start the Ohio Mathematics and Science Coalition and serve as its Treasurer. I also was a member of Ohio’s Educator Leader Cadre that was in existence for a number of years. Our job was to promote the Common Core Standards. I took part in national assessment meetings as well as state and local meetings.
I attended my first AMATYC Conference in Seattle in 1991. I presented the results of my Thesis for my Master’s degree which was on Placement Testing. I went to the Placement and Assessment Committee meeting that year and two years later became chair of that committee. After chairing that committee for three terms, I chaired the distance learning Task Force for AMATYC and then went on to become chair of the Distance Learning Committee. Soon after, I began Treasurer of AMATYC for two terms, then vice president of the Midwest region, and then was elected president-elect.
In December, I will conclude 12 years on the Executive Board of AMATYC. I have co-chaired the committee to revise the AMATYC Standards and am pleased that the delegate assembly will be voting on the document in November in San Diego.
Nolting: How would you describe the current state of college developmental mathematics and first credit courses on the national level?
Sattler: Some states use placement testing or ACT or SAT scores to determine college readiness. Other states are using state end-of-year tests or common core assessments to determine college readiness. In the last few years, there have been great changes. Many states have decided that students are taking too long to get to credit courses and have suggested finding alternative pathways.
The Dana Center has worked with many states, including my own state, to create alternative pathways recognizing that not all students will have a STEM career. The Carnegie Center’s Math Pathways program with Statway and Quantway are quite similar to the Dana Center’s.
Some states are using assessment results to place students in a first year credit course, but require that they take some type of bridge course in addition to the credit course. It might be that a student will take a 3 credit hour college algebra course but enroll in a five hour course. The extra two hours are used for “just in time” mathematics.
Many schools across the nation are changing the mathematics requirement to a quantitative literacy course for non-STEM majors. It is no longer college algebra for all. Three years ago, in November of 2014, the AMATYC delegate assembly passed a position statement that prerequisite courses other than intermediate algebra can adequately prepare students for courses of study that do not lead to calculus.
Now students throughout the nation have options of statistics or quantitative literature for their first credit course in mathematics and sometimes this is the only course that they are required to take.
Nolting: How has the national math redesign movement affected success rates in developmental math courses and first credit courses, and how can colleges/universities determine which math redesign (Modular, Emporium, Accelerated, Contextual, Co-curricular/requisite) is best for which type of student?
Sattler: Some states have legislated to do away with developmental mathematics courses in colleges or universities. Other states, such as Florida, have legislated to do away with requiring placement tests, allowing students to skip developmental mathematics courses in colleges. Ohio’s universities can no longer offer developmental mathematics courses and there is a movement to have developmental mathematics courses offered through Adult Literacy Programs.
The Ohio Mathematics Initiative (OMI) is a collaborative effort of mathematics faculty members from the state’s public colleges and universities and Ohio high schools that is revisiting and rethinking mathematics courses and curricula and the relationship of mathematics to other disciplines.
One catalyst for the initiative is the need to better align course options to students’ academic and career goals. In addition, OMI is a response to the establishment of Ohio’s Uniform Statewide Standards for Remediation-Free Status, which guarantees placement into college credit-bearing courses for all Ohio students achieving at or above a benchmark assessment score and matriculating to an Ohio public college or university.
Ohio has recognized that much of 21st-century science and engineering is going to be built on a mathematical foundation. Yet, the reach of the quantitative sciences doesn’t stop there. They are fueling innovation and discovery in many areas including Medicine, manufacturing, transportation, communication, finance and other economic enterprises depending on the mathematical sciences, which consist of mathematics, statistics, operations research and theoretical computer science.
Some schools mandate the type of redesign that is going to be used at certain institutions. I was a dean for a good number of years, and I recognize that teachers know their students best and should be the ones to decide any redesign. I do not prefer a top down approach, but rather collaborative discussion to determine what is best for the students and their success. Some students are self-directed learners and can work independently while others need a great deal of hand-holding and support. What works for one, does not work for all. Students are individuals who learn differently. Some are visual learners, others prefer to read/write while others are auditory learners or kinesthetic learners. There is no “one size fits all." Some students who are highly motivated can take an accelerated course while others will be discouraged and drop out.
Nolting: Has the redesign movement decreased the number of developmental courses? Have these courses been replaced by credited math courses? If so what do you think about this trend of co-requisite credit courses?
Sattler: At my own school we are having fewer developmental mathematics courses. We used to have an arithmetic course that could be taken in a semester or split into two semesters. Then we had a beginning algebra course and an intermediate algebra course. Students who did not have the proper skills had to take these courses before enrolling in statistics or college algebra, which have been the first transfer level college courses offered at Terra. It could take a student two years to take the prerequisite courses and Terra is a two-year school. We now have fast tracked the curriculum and combined courses. This is similar to what is being done across the country.
Some schools are now offering college level courses adding on a bridge course to help students fill in the missing gaps. Years ago, when I first began teaching, we used to offer a one credit hour course in decimals and a one credit hour course in fractions. Students would take a placement test and part of the test concentrated on decimals, and part on fractions. If students earned less than a 70% on one of these areas, but did well in the algebra portion of the placement test, they would enroll in a credit course but also take a one credit hour course in either decimals or fractions. My college discontinued this policy when we switched to the ASSET test because the scores were not broken down by decimals, fractions, whole numbers, and algebra. To me what is being done now is similar to what we did then with a great deal of success. I am not sure how the co-requisite idea will work now because it is not focused on one particular area. Institutions need to keep copious data to determine the effectiveness of this approach.
Nolting: Do students being placed into higher level math courses that move three to four times as fast as high school courses need to become independent learners? Why?
Sattler: Absolutely. I have had many high school students in my classes and they are surprised on how fast the course moves. Some teachers are using a flipped classroom approach with their students with some degree of success. More and more colleges are going to hybrid and totally online mathematics courses. Students taking these courses need to be self-motivated and independent learners to be successful.
Nolting: How can we help the lowest level developmental math students? Do we consider them lost souls? I have heard that some states, colleges and universities are writing these students off.
Sattler: I have always said that we need to be cheerleaders for our students, especially the ones who lack the confidence to do mathematics and do not have a strong mathematics background. I believe that all students can learn. Some students need more support than others. Many states will no longer accept students who need remediation. Students enrolled in Ohio universities must take developmental mathematics courses at community colleges. Some states have pushed down developmental mathematics courses to adult literacy programs.
Nolting: What are some support strategies to help all levels of developmental math and first year courses? PAL, SI, embedded tutors, math study skills, math lab, co-requisite courses? How has technology impacted what is being done in the classroom?
Sattler: Different states and different schools offer different levels of support to developmental and first year mathematics students. Some schools require that students take a study skills course if they are enrolled in a developmental mathematics course. Other schools embed student skills into the developmental course. Many schools provide students with a free Math Lab where they can go to get help in a particular topic or provide tutors to the students. Students may or may not take advantage of these services.
Technology has helped students receive tutoring at a time that is convenient for them. According to a recent survey published in Campus Technology, three out of four college and university students think technology has had a positive impact on their academic success. Their preferred tech tools are laptops and smartphones, and they look to their institutions to provide the software applications and resources they need. And most are satisfied with the variety of IT resources available to them.
Those findings and more came out of a SurveyMonkey Audience study of 601 U.S. adults ages 18–44 who are currently enrolled as students in two-year, four-year or graduate school programs. The survey was conducted from Sept. 9–11, 2017; respondents came from an online SurveyMonkey Contribute panel of people who volunteer to complete SurveyMonkey surveys each month in return for charitable incentives.
The survey revealed a wealth of insights into students' use of computing devices, attitude toward technology and awareness of campus resources. More than half (54 percent) of students surveyed bring at least two internet-connected devices with them to campus. Another 22 percent bring three to four devices.
Nearly all students (92 percent) use smartphones on campus; 72 percent use laptops, 23 percent use tablets. Notably, 53 percent of respondents took the survey on a mobile device (iOS or Android phone/tablet).
The majority of students (66 percent) said their overall technology experience at school has been excellent or good. What's more, most students (75 percent) said technology has had a significantly positive or positive impact on their academic success. Just 3 percent said the opposite.
When students were asked what technology issues have a negative impact on their academic success, they most frequently cited connectivity issues and internet access on campus. About one in five students (21 percent) rate their school's wireless network coverage as merely "fair or poor." (Fifty-five called the WiFi good or excellent.)
Out of all students who bring at least two devices with them to campus, 76 percent said their laptops contribute most to their academic success; 40 percent thought their smartphones were most important to their studies. Only 12 percent cited tablets, and 9 percent cited desktop computers. However, 24 percent of students said laptops are banned from one or more of their classes, while 38 percent are restricted from using smartphones.
I believe teachers should use the technology, not ban it. SMART phones can be used to take polls in class. Computers and/or SMART phones can be used to access the Internet and allow students to use real world data in mathematical problems. We need to make the technology work for us in the classroom.
Nolting: We have been focusing on concerns and discussing some solutions. Now let's focus on national solutions. AMATYC has had Crossroads One and Two as documents to help improve math success. Now it is working on a document called AMATYC IMPACT. Can you describe what this is all about?
Sattler: I am very pleased with the progress that we have made on AMATYC’s third standard’s document. AMATYC IMPACT stands for Improving Mathematical Prowess and College Teaching
The word “PROWESS” references extraordinary ability as well as distinguished bravery. AMATYC has created four pillars of PROWESS as an innovative way to enhance students’ mathematical ability and bravery through recommendations for continuous improvement of college teaching in the first two years of college. These pillars are:
SS student success
AMATYC IMPACT was designed to inspire educators to improve mathematics instruction by developing PROWESS in their students (Proficiency, Ownership, Engagement, and Student Success) and to assist instructors to view themselves as a key part of an extended educational community. We hope AMATYC IMPACT encourages fruitful conversation and productive dialogue on how to create an environment of learning that is supported by research.
This document does not only introduce the concept of the four pillars of PROWESS, but also the importance of the role of stakeholders and of research specifically targeted for mathematics education in the first two-years of college.
AMATYC is seeking input on the document until December 31. Feedback for the document can be given at www.amatyc.org/IMPACT
The document will be fine-tuned during the first few months of 2018. It will be printed and available to our members who attend our 2018 conference in Orlando. We will have an online version and hope to have a web-enhanced version of the document that will offer help to classroom teachers on implementing the suggestions of AMATYC IMPACT.
I am also pleased to tell you that AMATYC has created a “Mathematics Standards in the First Two Years of College” committee which will focus on promoting the AMATYC standards, as well as maintaining the digital products to support those standards. The goals of this committee are 1) to establish and implement a marketing campaign including but not limited to a series of regularized activities to promote widespread implementation of the standards in the first two years of college mathematics, 2) to establish and implement the web presence for the standards, 3) to submit articles centered on the standards for the AMATYC News and the MATHAMATYC Educator at least once a year, 4) to establish and implement a process of regular review of the standards in the same manner as the position statements are reviewed regularly, 5) to ensure consistency among the standards and other AMATYC documents, and 6) promote the standards beyond AMATYC members.
AMATYC will be seeking grants to enable us to provide standards-based professional development opportunities for our members
Nolting:The National Math Summit pre-conferences and workshops, sponsored by AMATYC and NADE, have provided solutions to math redesigns. What has your role been in these summits, and what are the plans for the next summit?
Sattler: I was aware of the first summit, which took place during our AMATYC board meeting, so I was unable to attend the summit. I helped plan the second summit and am chairing the group that is planning the third summit in Orlando in November of 2018.
The planning team has surveyed past attendees and asked them what information they have used from the 2013 and 2016 summits. The top answer (59%) said that they used information that they learned about Modes for instruction (Alternate delivery, hybrid, distance learning, face-to-face). 43% mentioned accelerated learning and 41% mentioned study skills. When asked what type of information they would like to see at the next summit, 62% listed assessment of redesign, while 56% mentioned that they would like to learn more about pathways.
We are looking at the data to determine where we should place the emphasis, and we are having a panel discussion at the AMATYC San Diego conference this fall.
AMATYC is happy to have you, Annette Cook from NADE, Julie Phelps from both AMATYC and the MAA, and Paul Wilhite, who chairs AMATYC’s Developmental Mathematics Committee. Participants have the opportunity to dialogue, discuss, engage, and question the four of you national leaders in the field of developmental mathematics education. The plan is to discuss outcomes from the National Math Summit 2016 and share preparations for the National Math Summit in 2018 in Orlando.
Because the focus of the summit is on pathways, credit courses will be discussed at the summit. The planning committee will discuss modifying the name so that college administrators realize that the summit is not just about developmental education.
Nolting: If you had one suggestion to improve math success what would that be?
Sattler: We need to make mathematics relevant to our students. They need to realize how mathematics can be used in their everyday lives.
I have been involved with TPSE Math - Transforming Post-Secondary Education in Mathematics, sponsored by Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and the National Science Foundation. The aim of TPSE is to effect constructive change in mathematics education at U.S. community colleges, 4-year colleges and research universities.
The vision of TPSE is: Post-secondary education in mathematics will enable any student, regardless of his or her chosen program of study, to develop the mathematical knowledge and skills necessary for productive engagement in society and in the workplace. Its mission is to facilitate an inclusive movement to strengthen post-secondary education in mathematics by working closely with--and mobilizing when necessary--faculty leaders, university administrations, membership associations, and relevant disciplinary societies in the pursuit of mathematically rich and relevant education for all students, whatever their chosen field of study. TPSE Math will identify innovative practices where they exist, advocate for innovation where they do not, and work with and through partners to implement and scale effective practices.
I am proud to be part of this initiative as we work together to make changes in the way mathematics is taught.
We need to teach our students the four C’s of 21st-century learning that have been identified by the United States-based Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21) as the most important skills required for 21st century education: critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity.
The message that I would like to leave your blog readers is “be a collaborator and a life-long learner.” The Internet makes the world a much smaller place. We can meet Face-to-Face or electronically. We can share information through Google Docs, we can Skype or FaceTime to have discussions with our students and with our colleagues. I have spent the last two years working with a great group of AMATYC members to create our third standards documents. Most of the collaborative work has been done through Google Docs and Zoom meetings. It is easy to collaborate and learn from one another. All it takes is making it a priority. I believe that collaboration is key – we all need to work together for student success.
My 96-year-old mother told me that she learns something new every day. I also try to learn something new each day and encourage all teachers to do the same. Through life-long learning and collaboration we can make a difference in the lives of our students.
Dr. Nolting is a national expert in assessing math learning problems, developing effective student learning strategies, assessing institutional variables that affect math success and math study skills. He is also an expert in helping students with disabilities and Wounded Warriors become successful in math. He now assists colleges and universities in redesigning their math courses to meet new curriculum requirements. He is the author of two math study skills texts: Winning at Math and My Math Success Plan.
American Mathematical Association of Two-Year Colleges presenter, Senior Lecturer-Modular