Math is changing in the classrooms of UW-Milwaukee. Chairman of the Mathematical Sciences, Kyle Swanson, is helping to pave the way for new techniques for teaching remedial math.
Students have often struggled to pass the sequence of required courses for remedial math. Swanson said that many students would drop out of math between semesters, which resulted in many not completing all of the needed courses.
The remedial math courses have students repeat courses they already learned in middle school and high school to help them in higher math courses.
The students aren’t able to succeed in a traditional mathematics environment of a teacher lecturing at the board while students take notes, according to Swanson.
Swanson said he wanted to break the mold and use a differentiated pathway approach. The new courses will align more with the students’ interests. For example, in one of the classes, students calculated how long it will take to pay off their student loans. The other part of the program will be based off of what students will need to learn based on their major.
The math department is using a more active approach to engage their students. Swanson said it will move students to become owners of their own learning. Swanson has his students use white boards to answer questions, which allows him to see who is confused and where he should go back and work with the students to figure it out. Students also work together in small groups to figure out different problems.
Swanson said they want to emphasize the mind set of students. “A lot of students come in with a mindset that they are not a math person,” said Swanson. “That they are dumb and are not able to do math. That math is like being able to dunk a basketball, some people can do it, a whole lot of people can’t. We’re really working on trying to break that mindset.”
Swanson also said that the math needs to be attentive of cultural sensitivity, that people from different backgrounds act and learn very differently. The Math Department plans to use the new methods in all of the math courses.
“We’re rethinking what we are doing all the way along for these early-career students,” said Swanson.
There are about 20 percent more students in 200 level math classes this academic career. Swanson said it shows that students are engaging with the program.
“[Math] forces your mind to think in a way that allows you to interact with the modern world in a productive fashion,” said Swanson.