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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Pathways Primer: MLCS, Statway, Quantway, Statpath

The idea of new pathways through developmental math is a popular approach these days, especially for schools interested in redesign in ways outside of restructuring the traditional curriculum.  However, there are many choices that are often used interchangeably.  In so doing, it's easy to confuse the various pathways. 

First, all pathways courses use technology in some way to augment the course and develop skills.  Second, all pathways courses are based in contextual, integrated content instead of linear, skill-based units that dominate developmental math.  Word problems and problem solving are the norm.  Skills are developed but only as a means to continue with problem solving.  Let's explore the big 4 pathways in development currently.


1.  Mathematical Literacy for College Students (MLCS)

MLCS is a one-semester developmental course designed to take students who are at the beginning algebra level and give them the mathematical maturity to be successful in liberal arts math or statistics.  It varies from 3 to 6 credit hours based on state and school curricular needs and requirements.

It works under the assumption that the student is at the developmental level, and that the goal is college level by the end of the semester. 

There is a strong algebra component to the course, especially the development we are using in our book and course at my college.  Our goal is to give students the option of taking intermediate algebra upon completion if they need to bridge to the STEM path.

2.  Quantway

Related but different than MLCS, Quantway is a one-semester developmental course that takes the student who is at the beginning algebra level and gets them ready for liberal arts math or statistics in one semester.  It is usually a 3 or 4 credit hour course that students take in place of beginning algebra.

It has the feel of a quantitative literacy course with college level problems and work.  Any prerequisite knowledge is addressed just-in-time. 

Algebra is in limited quantities, just enough to complete any problems at hand.  Students who change their major to a STEM field will need to take beginning algebra after Quantway.

3.  Statway

Statway is a two-semester integrated statistics course with developmental content addressed just-in-time.  Students who place at the beginning algebra level qualify for the course.  At the end of one year, students will have met their statistics requirement if their program of study has one.

It is a statistics course done over one year, allowing the content to progress slower.  Content is at the college level with developmental content woven in as needed.

Algebra is in limited quantities, just enough to complete any problems at hand. Students who change their major to a STEM field will need to take beginning algebra after Statway.

4.  Statpath

Statpath is a one-semester developmental course covering descriptive statistics.  It has no prerequisite.  Content is at the college level with developmental topics covered just-in-time to continue progression through the material.  Typically, it is a 6 credit hour course.

Algebra is in limited quantities, just enough to complete any problems at hand. Students who change their major to a STEM field will need to take beginning algebra after Statpath.

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MLCS is not better than the other three, but it is different.  All pathways support students moving through the developmental sequence differently and more quickly.  However, students need to know their program of study and required college courses if they are to use Statway, Quantway, or Statpath to accelerate their sequence.  Otherwise, they will need to take beginning algebra after the course if they have a STEM math requirement like college algebra.  In developing MLCS at our school, we had the goal of giving students more options and a broader base in case they do change their mind.

Another difference is philosophy.  MLCS operates under the assumption that students are at the developmental level and need help, both mathematical and student-success oriented, to get to the college level by the end of the semester.  The other pathways operate under the assumption that the student really can do college level content with the right support structures, be they more time or tailored instruction.  Personally, I believe there is a small set of developmental students who could do college level content with support, but the majority of developmental students are not ready for the level of rigor and abstraction present with college level material.  I chose to work on MLCS because I believe in the philosophy of helping a developmental student move from where they are to where they want to be in one semester.

In terms of materials, Carnegie will have open source materials for Quantway and Statway within the next year.  Schools who are under their grant structure are piloting those materials now.  Myra Snell has written materials for Statpath.  I am writing a text with a colleague, Heather Foes, for MLCS that will be published with Pearson.  If you are interested in seeing materials and/or class testing them, please contact me.  Other publishers have MLCS books in development as well. 

As for technology, Carnegie is developing their own programs, MyStatway and MyQuantway, to support their courses.  We use MyMathLab with our course and it will accompany the text we are writing.

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There are many choices and ways of incorporating pathways.  Your choice depends on your needs and goals.  If you are interested in developing a version of MLCS and need assistance, workshops, or professional development, please contact me.


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