By Sophie Tucker
Before attending College of the Canyons, or any college, for that matter, students are required to take a math placement test to determine how much they do or do not understand. When students place into lower classes they have to work their way up in order to reach College Level material. For some students, this process may take longer depending on how low they place.
Math 070, otherwise known as Elementary Algebra, is just one of the lower level classes students are required to take if they do not place into college level. They must pass this class before they move on to the more difficult classes like Calculus or Statistics.
The problem is, many students end up failing or dropping Math 070.
“This math class needs to be cancelled,” said COC student Gigi Luna.
Due to the difficulty of this course, many students have been forced to retake this class in order to earn the credits they need to move on.
“I failed the first time and had to retake it. I feel like the class lacked structure, like every chapter was a completely different concept than the one before. So instead of building on old skills you had to learn something completely new each time,” COC student Sabrina Da Silva said.
Rather than taking the time to make sure students understand each concept that is being taught, Math 070 rushes students through the course without allowing them the time needed to fully grasp everything.
“The material is just all over the place. I feel like too many different topics are being taught. It needs to be more structured by having concepts that actually relate making the material connect better,” Da Silva said.
According to research done by College of the Canyons the success rate for students taking Math 070 declined from 2012 to 2015.
Since then the placement process for students entering college has changed. Placement changes were made for students testing in the spring/summer of 2016.
“Math 070 is an intensive algebra class that prepares students for transfer-level math course such as Trigonometry and Calculus. Contents are similar to those in Algebra Two in high school, but the pace is much faster and the level is much higher. Also a lot of students think they need Math 070 while, in fact, they do not; the course is not designed for these students,” COC math chair Saburo Matsumoto said.
For students doing a STEM or business major this class is especially important. On the other hand, those majoring in humanities or fine arts do not have to take this class; however, many students are completely unaware of that.
“I spent hours studying for this class but I ended up dropping it anyways. Math 070 made me realize I needed to change my major.” COC student Brittany Douthitt said.
Math 070 is a very rigorous course. Students must be prepared to spend hours outside of the classroom to study and complete homework, otherwise they will not be successful.
“I spent about 5 hours every week doing homework and studying. I did work shops and would go to tutoring every day. Unfortunately, it never really helped long term with the class,” Da Silva said.
After realizing how many students were unable to do well in this class, the COC Math Department has worked on trying to fix the problems with this class in order to help more students be successful.
“The Department is doing everything it can to help students succeed: First, helping students choose the right course, as described before—not everyone needs 070; second carefully reviewing the contents of 070 so the course will better prepare students in transfer-level math; third incorporating more activities in and out of the classroom to engage students; fourth using more online resources and supplements; fifth addressing students’ “affective domain,” emphasizing the importance of effort, “grit,” self-confidence; and sixth introducing more applications and real-life context. Believe me, we are trying all of these things,” Matsumoto said.
While recent changes have been made it is up to the students whether they end up doing well or not. Unfortunately, the amount of course work given will not change and students taking Math 070 will be forced to keep up.
“In the past few years, the Department reviewed and revised the course outline multiple times. I think it is reasonable now,” Matsumoto said.
There are many things students can do outside of the classroom in order to help them better understand the material and get the grade they need in order to move on.
“I think study groups would have helped me. If I had made more of an effort to work with other students it may have helped us all understand the material better,” Da Silva said.
There are even resources at school in which students are offered free tutoring. What I usually did after class was go get help at the TLC, I spent a lot of time there with tutors who helped me with my homework and studying for exams. They would even teach me tricks that made the problems easier to understand,” Douthitt said.
If you are an incoming college student and you place into Math 070 do not be discouraged but do be prepared. While it may be called Elementary Algebra, do not be fooled, this class will not be easy.
Seek advice from students who have previously taken this course and see what they did in order to pass. Students need to take the time to get tutored if they do not understand the material.
Most likely, no further changes will be made to Math 070 in order to make it easier, so it is up to the students to see if they have what it takes.