CL1 - Stories: MathExcel: Calculus Among Friends



MathExcel: Calculus Among Friends
- by Mike Freeman

Mike Freeman

"The best calculus class at the University of Kentucky is MathExcel, a special program designed to give capable students the best chance to excel in this crucial course and have more successful college careers."

MathExcel is a collaborative, small-group learning program in developmental algebra and calculus, based on the Mathematics Workshop Model developed by Uri Treisman at the Charles A. Dana Center. In 1990, at a meeting of the American Mathematics Society, I heard Uri Treisman speak about the Mathematics Workshop Model he developed for women, minorities and other underserved groups of students to succeed in basic mathematics courses. His vision of a group of hardworking calculus students working together for two solid hours -- and having a good time at it -- was so appealing that I decided to go investigate. I visited the University of Texas at Austin and observed the Emerging Scholars Program, their successful implementation of his Workshop Model. By that fall, the UK Department of Mathematics had a program, called MathExcel, going here at UK. Adaptations of his Mathematics Model have since spread to other disciplines at the University of Kentucky, to the Kentucky Community College System, and to Appalachian community colleges within the Appalachian Rural Systemic Initiative.

Now in its ninth year, MathExcel is a special version of calculus whose students have volunteered to attend supplementary Collaborative Workshops. All students in calculus take the same tests, graded on the same standards. MathExcel students have about the same natural ability as the regular class, but they get much better grades - every semester, MathExcel students make almost twice as many A's and B's. They routinely beat regular students on standard tests by margins often exceeding one grade point, and they graduate from UK at a rate 12 percentage points higher than traditional students.

Anecdotally, the students are very happy about the MathExcel program. And they do tend to stay together for a while, and they do tend to organize their own collaborative study sessions in other classes later. One retention study, of a version of the MathExcel program developed at Lexington Community College, has demonstrated spectacular results.

In 1993, MathExcel won the University of Kentucky's Excellence in Undergraduate Education Award.

Tell me more about this:

Doing CL
More Info