Release Date: 
Monday, April 1, 2019

Instructional innovations: a different path from remedial math

Photo of mathematical equations and a pencil

If a student isn't fully prepared for college-level courses in a specific required subject, how does Henry Ford College provide the needed bridge to advance student learning and long-term success? In some cases, it starts with remedial coursework -- extra courses designed to prepare the students to succeed in their required courses. Nationwide, more than half of freshmen in community colleges, and 40 percent in four-year colleges and universities, enroll in at least one remedial class in reading, writing, or mathematics. It's not that students aren't smart enough or hard-working enough to succeed in rigorous college courses and graduate. They are capable of excelling. Some just did not receive the necessary preparation before enrolling in college.

The highest remedial enrollments tend to be in math. And sometimes students don't achieve their goals directly through those courses. We want to see them not only pass their classes, but gain the capability to succeed in any academic program and career they choose.

Since student success is our mission at Henry Ford College, what should we do for students who need an extra boost to their education? Starting in 2017, some HFC mathematics faculty decided to try a different approach.

As an alternative to remedial classes, the HFC Mathematics Department is offering what are called "co-requisite" math classes. Co-requisites are taken simultaneously with regular courses, in an attempt to provide targeted instructional support, exactly when it is needed. Co-requisites are offered in the following courses:
• MATH 110: Intermediate Algebra
• MATH 131: Quantitative Literacy
• MATH 141: Elementary Statistics

Cohorts help students learn through co-reqs

“The co-requisite model has worked better for some students than remedial classes," explained HFC math instructor Shanna Simpson-Singleton, who teaches MATH 131. "Being enrolled in remedial classes can create a mental block where some students think they’re not good enough. With co-req classes, they take a college-level math class, just like everyone else. There’s no negative comparison. If they need additional help, the co-requisite offers extended instructional time.”

According to HFC math instructor Jeff Morford, who piloted the program in the Fall 2017 Semester, the co-requisite math classes use a cohort model. The lab and the respective college-level classes contain the same cohort of students. Labs and classes are scheduled at consecutive times, so the learning takes place in a connected, real-time sequence.

In this environment, instructors are able to be more receptive to deficits in math classes, and immediately respond to close those gaps. Co-requisite math classes also create a supportive student learning community within the courses, which reduces student stress.

A little extra time, a little extra help, better outcomes

“This is part of a national movement. Schools with well-developed co-requisite classes have gotten the highest pass rates for their students. Our experience so far has been the same,” said Morford.

Added Simpson-Singleton: “Remedial classes don't always provide the same paced, targeted learning community that students may find in a regular college class.”

So far, the HFC co-requisite classes have been successful. Co-requisite courses typically have almost the same pass rate as regular math courses. In every semester so far, the co-requisite pass rate is either higher or almost as high as regular classes, stated Morford.

“It’s a testament that these students can do college-level work in mathematics,” said Simpson-Singleton. “They take the same final exam that is required in regular courses. They just need some extra time and assistance to learn the material.”

HFC will continue offering remedial classes for students who benefit from them, and of course our tutoring and Learning Lab services are always available. The key to the highest student success is to find out which models help more students, and implement those models. Instructional innovation will continue to be a priority for helping students succeed at HFC.