Gateway Math: A Close Look at Miami Dade College’s Approach

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The US Department of Education has awarded multi-million dollar "First in the World" grants to 18 colleges and universities that are innovating to solve critical challenges with access, recruitment, retention, and student success. At AI, we have interviewed each of the recipients to learn more about the projects these institutions are pursuing, how their approaches are unique, and what other colleges and universities can learn from these new efforts.

2015 was the second year of the First in the World grants. You can read our interviews with the 24 institutions that received 2014 grants here.

by Lisa Cook and Daniel Fusch, Academic Impressions

When Florida passed a law making college placement tests optional for recent high school graduates, institutions were left to grapple with how to address the needs of students in college-level math who previously might have been routed to developmental courses. (Under the 2013 law, even if students do choose to take the optional placement exam, they may still enroll in regular courses even if their test results indicate the need for developmental work.)

At Miami Dade College, enrollment has skyrocketed in the first college-level course in the math sequence, MAT 1033, while enrollment in developmental math courses dropped by more than 40 percent. Failure rates also jumped up and more than half of MAT 1033 students failed the course. The college's dean of academic affairs, Alicia Giovinazzo, recalls, "We really felt that something needed to be done."

With the help of a $2.9 million First in the World grant, Miami Dade now hopes to tackle the challenge though a holistic approach that includes:

  • Just-in-time remediation
  • Course redesign to involve more active learning
  • Efforts to contextualize the course to select popular programs of study

Though the specific situation Miami Dade faces is local to Florida, the initiatives they are putting in place may be of interest to institutions across North America that wrestle with how best to support and accelerate students with developmental math needs. We spoke recently with Giovinazzo to learn more about how the project will combine contextualization and remediation with academic support and early intervention.

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