Saturday, September 29, 2012

Two MLCS events coming up soon

I'll be in Michigan for a Pearson event and MichMATYC, October 5 and 6.  At the Pearson event, I'll have a small group session with faculty after my MLCS talk.  At the small group session, we'll have copies of the sampler to look at, discuss, and answer questions.

The following week, I'll be at Oakton Community College in the Chicago suburbs doing two MLCS sessions.  The first is a general talk overviewing the course.  The second is an interactive session designed to help schools plan their pilots.  The Pearson site has the session descriptions.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

MLCS Webinar this week

I'll be giving a webinar for Pearson this Friday.  Details below:

Looking for new teaching strategies and techniques, especially regarding using technology with your courses? Learn from your colleagues for FREE and from the comfort of your own home or office!

Speaking about Math & Stats Online Conference – Friday, September 28th from 10am-4pm Eastern

• This full day online conference is filled with sessions given by mathematicians and statisticians.

• You can join just one session or you can join multiple sessions; it is up to you.

• To join on September 28th, all you need is a computer and internet connection.


Check out the great topics and fabulous speakers!   (All times Eastern)

10am - Eric Schulz from Walla Walla Community College on Teaching and Learning with Interactivity

11am - Scott McDaniel from Middle Tennessee State University on Flipping the Math Class at the College Level

noon - Greta Harris-Hardland from Tarrant County College, NE on Mod Math: A Redesign Option for Mastery and Acceleration of Developmental Mathematics

1pm - Kim McHale from Heartland Community College on Using Statistics in Online and Hybrid Statistics Courses to Improve Student Learning

2pm - Kathy Almy from Rock Valley College on New Pathways for Developmental Math: A Look into Mathematical Literacy for College Students

3pm - George Woodbury from College of the Sequoias on Using MyMathLab to Promote Mastery Learning

For more information and to register for this free event, check out

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Are we there yet? Almost!

This week was the end of the first unit of MLCS for the semester and with that came the grading of their open-ended project and their first test.  And to say the least, I am thrilled with the progression of this course and what we're seeing.  Here's what's happening:

1.  Because the text is such good shape and the goals of the course are clear, students never really had an adjustment period where we had to hope they'd buy in.  They just quickly learned how we run this course and adapted without an issue.  That is a major change from last year where students took about 2 weeks each semester to accept how the course would operate.

2.  Along with that, we are seeing terrific things with the projects and tests.  The level of quality is much higher than what we got from students last year.  We're not necessarily attributing that to the level of students (although it's possible), because they are similar to our classes from the spring.  What is different is the cohesiveness of the content and clarity of the goals and expectations.  Basically, we get what we're trying to do and we can articulate that well.  Consequently, students better understand what we want from them and can provide it.  As Heather put it well, we're more confident and students sense that.

But there's something I noticed this week that I had never thought of before.  We know the goal of a course like MLCS is college readiness.  It's not about solving equations or graphing lines (even though we do that too).  It's about maturity in terms of college and mathematics.  To get there, we push students and ask more of them than they're used to.  At first, it's intimidating because the open-ended projects are not simplistic.  The tests aren't easy either.  Most math students at community colleges do not take tests that are half word problems.  But students rise to these challenges and really gain something in the process of that struggle.

It's like my 8 year old and how he reads.  He's a terrific reader but he didn't get that way by reading 2nd or 3rd grade books.  He got that way by first reading a lot but also by always pushing into new and harder books.  The same principle applies with developmental students and the traditional developmental sequence.  If we want them to be college ready, how can we expect that to happen if they're just redoing what they did in high school?  Pushing them beyond the familiar and comfortable exercises new parts of their brains and helps them make gains where we need them.  It makes sense.  You build strength by lifting heavier weights than are initially comfortable and adapting to the challenges they pose.  Mental muscle works the same way.

3.  We are starting to figure out better ways to elicit the behaviors we want from students in the course.  Attendance policies matter and grading MML homework helps too.  But we need students really working with paper homework to solidify concepts and get to the point of being able to use the ideas learned.  However, the idea of grading their homework each day is not appealing to me or Heather.  So we've added longer quizzes given twice each unit that cover the paper homework in addition to MML quizzes that cover skills.  Still, some students won't do the work.  So we're now randomly collecting pages from their binders to give them that little extra push to do their homework.  It should help some, although there will still be some students who are not motivated by measures like these.

Another related change I've made this semester is what I call an "intervention."  We are a quarter of the way through the course.  If students are going to pass and aren't currently, they have to make major changes now.  Usually I either do a pep talk or a gripe session when I give back tests if they're not that good.  This time the tests were good (I graded my first perfect MLCS test!) but there were still some D's and F's.  To address the specific issues with those students, I wrote a letter to students and stapled it to the back of their test for privacy.  It outlined what they need to do to pass the course.  I also showed them the timeline to finish their college level math course if they pass this class as opposed to the timeline if they need to repeat MLCS or change to beginning algebra.  The difference is more than a year of their lives.  That fact alone seemed to get the attention of several students.  I'm hoping this intervention strategy will prove successful.  We'll see...

Are we there yet?  Meaning, is the course perfect?  No, but most courses aren't.  The book is still being tweaked and the MML course is still a work in progress.  But the growth and improvement we are seeing is not a fluke; it's real and consistent amongst all our sections.  That is reason to celebrate.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Updated MLCS overview presentation

If you're looking for a brief but informative view of MLCS, check out this short PowerPoint.  It's been updated to include the book cover and an instructor's page from the new sampler.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

MLCS Book Preliminary Cover

This is the preliminary cover of the book I've been writing with Heather Foes.  There may be some changes to the cover before the book is fully published.  But until then, here is a taste of what's to come!

The Math Lit sampler will be available in early October 2012.  Contact your Pearson rep for a copy.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

MLCS Webinar Recording Now Available

This spring I gave a webinar on MLCS through AMATYC.  You can click on the youtube video below and watch it in this window.  It has the PowerPoints that I've shown on this site before but also my voice giving the presentation.  There is a slight lag in what slides you see and the ones I'm speaking about due to the software used to record the webinar. 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

A new semester of MLCS and a book update

The fall semester brings new MLCS classes.  We've expanded our pilot to three sections (from two last year) with two different day patterns:  MWF for 100 minutes a class, and MTWTh for 75 minutes a class.  I'm doing two sections, 4 days a week.  It's been quite enjoyable to do a 75 minute class period.  Students have remarked that the class flies since we're so busy.

I'm continually pleased with the progress that's been made in a year.  The materials are working beautifully.  Students adapt quickly to the style of the class.  Maybe it's because Heather and I better understand what we're doing, but issues of "buy-in" were pretty non-existent.  Students accepted that this is how the class would roll and have been very positive as well. 

Without question, I'm sold on this course and what it can do for developmental math students.  More than just mastery of specific mathematical objectives, MLCS builds college readiness.  We push them, no doubt.  Students say this is a tough course.  But it's also an accessible and enjoyable one.  If students will work, they will be successful.  That cannot always be said in an algebra class, or most math classes for that matter, because math is linear.  If you lack the prerequisite skills, you are at a huge disadvantage.  But the prerequisite skill knowledge needed in MLCS is fairly minimal and we review that content to begin the semester anyway.  What we need are students open to learning, willing to think, and willing to put in serious hours of work.  The payoff is large:  one semester and they are done with developmental math.  But beyond that, they are ready for college level work and expectations upon successful completion of the course.  They've had to write, read, think, problem solve, communicate, and persevere.  Not all will make it, but many do.  

In other exciting news, we have been working on a sampler of the MLCS book we're writing.  It is nearly finished and will be in print in early October.  Pearson representatives will have copies.  It is one full unit, completely designed and professionally laid out.  The cover has also been designed and is part of this sampler.  I'll post a picture when I have the final copy.

The book is written and has been through several rounds of edits.  If you would like to see the full manuscript, please contact your Pearson representative.  It is currently being class tested at schools across the U.S.  Additional class tests are available for the spring semester.  We will begin copyedits and design edits of the remaining units soon with a publish goal date of next summer.  After seeing the sampler, I'm very anxious to get the rest of the book to that level. 

Students in MLCS class working together.