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Solving the Math Problem

​COTC Sees Increase in Student Success with New Initiatives

NEWARK, Ohio, June 10, 2019 — Ask college students what is their most difficult subject, and most will give the same answer: Math. More than half of new students at Central Ohio Technical College (COTC) test below the college level in mathematics. This means additional courses, cost and time to degree completion—if they make it there at all.

"Completing math and English in the first year is a strong indicator of whether a student will complete their degree," said Assistant Professor Nicholas Shay. "We were seeing students get all the way to the end of their plan of study and not be able to finish their degree because math was sitting there."

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Historically, students testing below college level were required to enroll in and pass a remedial course prior to taking the college math course in a subsequent semester. This prerequisite method, however, has not only been ineffective in getting students to complete math requirements, but it is also said to be the greatest impediment to degree attainment.

So COTC responded by instituting new policies and procedures beginning in 2012. The college took steps to reduce the number of pre-college math courses, moved math to the first semester and implemented multiple measures for better placement in those courses. The latest change is the availability of corequisite remediation in which students enroll concurrently in a college-level math course and a corequisite course. This method has been piloted for two years at COTC using the math course for statistics with promising results.

Shay has been the driving force behind the development and implementation of the corequisite curriculum. He described, "We wrote a different developmental course for statistics, one that teaches what students need to know right before they go to statistics. Students take these classes at the same time, so it's fewer credit hours and it's more geared toward specifically preparing them for the topics in statistics. We practice on Monday in the corequisite so that when I see them in statistics 48 hours later, we can dive into the deeper conceptual items. "

"I loved having the coreq class on Mondays then stats on Wednesday. It helped me to actually understand the reasons for the math I would do in stats," wrote one of Shay's students. "Having a 'why' helped ingrain the material for me."

The results have been similar for others. The percent of students completing college-level math within their first year at COTC has gone from 13.1% in autumn 2012 to 34.8% in autumn 2017.

"Having the opportunity to have a class that explained why we were doing what we were doing helped me tremendously," the student continued. "I felt, for the first time in a long time, that I was actually learning the material and not just memorizing it for testing purposes." Having more class time with the instructor, she said, also gave the opportunity to ask more questions and get immediate feedback.

Corequisite remediation is a growing trend in community colleges statewide. Shay participates in a state panel of two-year colleges, the Ohio Math Initiative (OMI), as a subject matter expert on corequisite remediation. The OMI New & Alternative Pathways subgroup has been working to identify best practices and connect colleges that have adopted the corequisite model to colleges that want to adopt it.

Here at COTC, Shay is looking ahead at developing a corequisite curriculum for college algebra as well as looking back to measure the success of the current corequisite curriculum. With a couple of semesters of data, he is now able to examine Pell-eligible and minority students, populations which tend to graduate at lesser rates than their peers. Compared to those enrolled in the traditional developmental sequence, they are performing at a much higher rate in the corequisite, he said.

"Student success is about understanding where a student is on their educational journey and providing them the supports necessary be successful," said Shay. "Our corequisite curriculum offers those supports in mathematics to not only be successful in a math class, but also fostering the quantitative literacy skills necessary to be a productive member of their professional community."

COTC is a fully accredited, public college dedicated to providing high-quality, accessible programs of technical education in response to current and emerging employment needs. COTC is the only technical college in Ohio operating four full-service campus locations: Newark, Coshocton, Knox and Pataskala.