UTAH TECH UNIVERSITY'S STUDENT NEWS SOURCE | January 26, 2023

New math classes generate mixed feelings from students, faculty

Share This:

The math department sprung yet another change on Dixie State University students this semester. 

DSU previously offered Math 920, Math 990 and Math 1010. Math 920 and 990 were remedial courses that refreshed students on information they were expected to have learned in high school. Math 1010, also somewhat of a remedial course, was the next entry-level math course.

The math department introduced a large-scale restructure of the lower-division courses for spring semester. Students no longer enroll for 920, 990 or 1010; the courses are now called Math 900 and Math 1000. The remedial course is 900, and 1000 is a combination of 990 and 1010. After some students expressed issues with the course a few weeks into the semester, the math department decided to remove deadlines on assignments and quizzes and let students move at their own pace. 

The changes were originally brought on by the state requesting high schools to step it up, and colleges needed to support them in doing so, said Kathie Ott, a math lecturer and adviser.

“The state came and told us that they were tired of paying for things twice,” she said. “They felt like we needed to do better.”

Ott said some students were taking 1010 numerous times, and the new courses are designed for student success on the first try.

“I’ve taught Math 1010 for a number of years, and what happened is I would notice students would do pretty well at the beginning of the class, and then a significant number of them would tail off and not do well for the rest of the course,” she said. “As a department, we were concerned about that.”

The new classes are now only offered online. There is a video lecture, study guide, homework, quiz and test for each chapter. The Edward H. and Idonna E. Snow Science Building provides a lab for students to complete their work and receive help. Instructors are required to meet with students face-to-face during scheduled hours.

Traci Thompson, a junior nursing major from St. George, said the changes force her to spend more time on the class than anything else. She said the new classes are horrible.

“I had to drop another class to do this one,” Thompson said. “I work on math every day. It takes up as much time as a part-time job at least.”

After the deadlines on assignments and quizzes were removed, Scott Mortensen, an associate professor of math and eLab coordinator, sent an email to his students that cautioned them to stay on top of it regardless. 

“The motivation of finishing this course is now your responsibility,” Mortensen wrote in the email.

Scott Hollingshead, a junior business major from St. George, said he was grateful the deadlines were removed.

“When I got the email, it was 4:30 a.m.,” he said. “I was finishing up my math that was due on the next day. It was a relief.”

The math department took special care in trying to figure out exactly what system should be implemented that would be the best fit for the university, Ott said. Representatives from the department traveled to other schools and adapted the new courses from what they observed. Ott said there was a particular institution that implemented a system that was similar to what DSU developed.

“They have a 95 percent pass rate up there,” Ott said. “[We are] implementing some of their stuff, but we’ve also looked at what would work well here.”

Thompson said while the course works well by forcing students to understand the material fully, the class requires too much effort.

“There shouldn’t be so much to do for one chapter,” she said. “With the video lecture, homework and quiz, it’s so much work.” 

So far, the numbers are back up, Ott said. An instructor told her out of 18 students who took a recent test, the average score was 90 percent. She said the key to the new system is working hard, and the best way to learn math is to do the work.

Ott said advisers have experienced some complaints from the students. She said most of the time the reason for students’ struggle was because some of them were putting off the work until the last minute.

“That’s very human nature, but if you wait until three days before the test and you try to do everything at once, it’s not going to work very well for you,” she said.

The department believes the change will be a good thing, Ott said. Students need to be patient while faculty and staff work out the kinks, but she said if people stick through it, they will come out of the courses with a much higher mastery level than what was happening before.

Students who are having issues with the courses are encouraged to bring their concerns to the instructor first. Students can also visit the math lab in the Snow building for help with homework.