New Approach to Math Class Adds Up at Merrimack

The math department this semester introduced an innovative approach to teaching its Concepts in Algebra class, which has been recognized nationally for making learning more student-centered, personalized and aligned with student learning preferences.

A team of professors developed the class out of Pearson’s MyMathLab program, relying on short lectures with heavy doses of practice work on iPads or laptops. In November, the independent Online Learning Consortium recognized the program with a 2017 OLC Digital Learning Innovation Award of $10,000.

“The philosophy is you have to do math to learn math,” said lecturer Paula Bordogna, who led a team of five instructors who developed the new program.

The class uses Pearson’s technology to present students with videos and sample problems. When students reach at least 80 percent mastery on homework and quizzes in each of the class’ five modules, they take a test to move on to the next module. All along the way, students receive guidance and help from professors and teaching fellows as well as the Math Center.

Nine sections of the class were filled this fall with students of all mathematical backgrounds, experiences and abilities. More advanced students were free to move through the material at a faster pace, while others were given the time they needed to complete the work by the end of the semester.

“It’s very student-focused, very individualized,” Bordogna said.

The development team also comprised mathematics lecturers Julie Noone, Bethe McBride and Sujatha Thiruvengadathan and education lecturer Sharon Taitelbaum. Janet Syed, the lead instructional designer for academic affairs in the provost’s office, supported the work.

Michael Bradley, co-chair of the math department, said is pleased with the classroom results and the award.

“It’s an exciting acknowledgement of the team’s hard work, and we’re seeing results already from students who completed the course a month early,” Bradley said.