Mastering Math: A Guide to Passing Your Community College Math Requirements

Mastering Math: A Guide to Passing Your Community College Math Requirements
Learn about how to prepare for your community college's math placement exams, as well as excel in remedial math courses.

Increasing numbers of students are enrolling in two-year community college programs, yet only one-third will graduate with their degrees. Naturally, there are multifaceted reasons for the high dropout rate, but some reports cite the students’ struggle with math courses as playing a major role, as outlined by WNYC.

Most community colleges require that students take three placement tests before registering for classes. The placement tests include a basic math section, a reading comprehension section, and a writing composition section.

Approximately half of prospective community college students struggle with the math placement test and, thus, require at least one remedial math class. Even at community colleges, most degrees require successfully completing several college-level math classes, and many students struggle to make the grade. Lowering the community college dropout rate partly hinges on preparing students for math success.

This video offers a look at Portland Community College's math literacy program.

Math Placement Tests: How to Improve Your Score

Scoring well on the math placement test can save time, effort, and money in the long term. In most cases, remedial math classes don’t count towards degree requirements; thus, making the score on placement tests can save you tuition fees. The best way to prepare for the math placement test is to get the gray matter working again – especially if a lot of time has elapsed since your last math class.

Several inexpensive options can help; the libraries are packed full of basic algebra and geometry textbooks, and this book contains plenty of practice questions. Read through some sections, view the examples, and test your understanding by completing practice questions and checking your answers.

Learning, being reminded of forgotten math concepts, and simply staring at math squares in the face again boosts confidence, improves proficiency, and increases scores on placement tests.

Remedial Math Classes: How Community Colleges Are Promoting Success

Most community colleges boast an “open door” policy, meaning students will not be refused admission based on poor placement test scores. Community colleges are populated with non-traditional students, many attempting to work, study, and raise a family simultaneously. Furthermore, according to studies conducted at LaGuardia Community College, many remedial math students fail to see why algebra and calculus are relevant to daily life and readily admit to “never having been good at math” in the first place.

This video examines the issue of students who struggle with college math.

LaGuardia Community College prides itself on its empathetic, understanding remedial math professors. Such professors are attuned to the fact that it takes most students a great deal of effort to get to class in the first place, and even when they do, they feel inadequate, insecure, and intimidated by the subject matter. Professors attempt to boost students’ confidence, create a comfortable learning atmosphere, and revisit basic math concepts, taking painstaking care to explain them fully.

Many students at LaGuardia manage to eke out a passing grade in the remedial math course and on the subsequent COMPASS assessment – meaning that they can progress to the next level.

The students who enjoy success in remedial classes attribute their newfound understanding to good teaching methods. The professors break down every problem into small steps, which high school math teachers systematically fail to do.

This video discusses the usefulness of John Saxon's approach to teaching math.

Making The Grade: Secrets To Success

Almost no one in a remedial math class loves math. However, the students who typically get A-grades are the ones who are motivated to complete the quizzes, assignments, and practice questions.

At Northern Virginia Community College, professors teach math concepts in a way that students understand. They also require that students take College Success Skills, a course designed to help with note-taking, test anxiety, and proper time management. Students at NOVA learn to help themselves, practice good study habits, and embrace a can-do attitude.

Many researchers blame K-12 teachers and administrators for the high community college dropout rates. Since K-12 is a compound system, students who fail to understand math concepts taught in one specific grade fall foul of the “snowball effect” and cannot grasp concepts taught in subsequent grades.

The key to math success in community colleges appears to hinge on local high schools providing proper instruction and preparation for college. Fortunately, even in cases where proper tutoring is not apparent, the motivated, diligent student still has ample opportunity to succeed in community college.

Questions? Contact us on Facebook @communitycollegereview.

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