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Calculating Success One Accelerated Math Class at a Time

November, 2017
  • Dadbeh Bigonahy, Professor of Engineering & Sciences (right) demonstrates a math concept to a student.
    Dadbeh Bigonahy, Professor of Engineering & Sciences (right) demonstrates a math concept to a student.

At Quinsigamond Community College, the mathematics department has discovered a way for students to increase their chances for success while completing their degree in a timely manner, through the college’s accelerated math program. Accelerated math classes are longer classes over a shorter period of time. A two year study done by the college showed that students consistently passed the accelerated math classes at a higher rate than both traditionally scheduled classes and classes taken online. Across all of the courses over that timeframe, all accelerated math courses had a pass rate that was 12 percent better than traditionally scheduled courses (sample size 4,489 students) and 25 percent better than courses taken online (sample size 744 students).

According to Dr. Leslie Bolinger Horton, Dean for the School of Math and Science, the math department looked at the success rate of students taking summer sessions, which are traditionally offered in longer time blocks for a shorter period of time, and found the success rate for these types of classes outpaced traditional and online classes.

“This was data-driven,” Dr. Bolinger Horton said. “We tried the first fall accelerated math classes of Intermediate Algebra (MAT 099) and College Algebra (MAT 100) in 2015 and found that students advanced through the developmental math classes and segued into college math in a shorter period of time, with a high rate of student success.”

The college’s accelerated math classes offer students the ability to take their math classes twice a week in three-hour blocks, as opposed to traditional math classes that meet 50 minutes, three times per week. Students have the same learning requirements as those in traditional face-to-face and online classes, however, with the duration of each class period being longer, students are able to complete their course in just seven and a half weeks as opposed to 15 weeks.

These longer time blocks allow students more time to process content and provide professors with more time to help individual students as needed. The accelerated classes offer a more relaxed atmosphere, due in part to students not being limited to a 50-minute time block. While students are still responsible for mastering the same learning objectives as those in traditional classes, they are able to spend more time on a math concept that may pose a challenge for them before moving on.

While one might normally think accelerated math classes would only be for the student who is drawn to mathematics, it has been shown that a longer period of contact time in class with the professor is what all students seem to need.

“We checked the success rate last spring and in every case students showed a higher success rate than the other more traditional and online methods of learning,” Dr. Bolinger Horton continued. “In all cases the students were more successful. This works with both ends of the spectrum…developmental math classes and advanced math classes.”

Associate Professor of Mathematics, Sheiba Mas-Oud, is one of the professors who has been teaching the accelerated math courses. He noted that his own classes supported these findings.

“The success rates in all the accelerated courses that I taught were at least 40 percent more than my traditional regular semester courses,” Professor Mas-Oud said.

Professors also seem to be drawn to this type of class learning.

“We find the professors love this type of class as well. It allows students a greater amount of time to articulate questions and professors a greater amount of time to explain concepts and clarify student questions,” Dr. Bolinger Horton said.

QCC Liberal Arts major Lizabeth Da Silva said taking an accelerated math course was one of the best academic decisions she’s made.

“My experience taking an accelerated math course was a positive one. I liked the overall curriculum in both accelerated math courses I took, from the interaction with the professor on campus, to the work and assistance MyMathLab™ offered,” Ms. Da Silva said.

“In my opinion, the success rates were higher because students who signed in for the accelerated courses feel more like a team with a sense of urgency to graduation and hence they become more and more motivated by the team,” Professor Mas-Oud said. “I love teaching these courses and I would not hesitate recommending them to any student here at QCC.” 

Dadbeh Bigonahy, Professor of Engineering & Sciences said his engineering students were happy to be able to take the required math classes in a quicker timeframe in order to advance faster in their academic careers.

“I told my students they can get to their dream faster by taking two math courses in one semester,” Professor Bigonahy said, adding that all of his engineering students are required to take a variety of math courses.

This spring, QCC will be offering a variety of accelerated math courses that include intermediate algebra; college algebra; statistics; pre-calculus and trigonometry.

“What students should keep in mind is that even though this is a fast-paced course, the professors at QCC are prepared and equipped in assisting students’ needs while meeting the course's deadlines and syllabus,” Ms. Da Silva added.

To learn more about QCC’s accelerated math courses, visit the Math Department's Web page.