Graduation Year

2011

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Ph.D.

Degree Granting Department

Adult, Career, and Higher Education

Major Professor

James A. Eison

Keywords

College Math, Mathematics Instruction, Math Success, MyMathTest, Online Algebra Reviews

Abstract

ABSTRACT

The main purpose of this study was to investigate whether conducting a short-term online review of college algebra prerequisite skills at the start of a college algebra course concurrently with the normal course instruction and assignments would have a significant influence on student success. When failure rates in an entry-level college course such as college algebra can range from 20% to 60% or higher, it could present problems for the student and the institution (Burd & Boser, 2009). Research indicates that students who cannot pass entry-level college math courses have decreased chances of obtaining a college degree and it can limit the students' course of study (Adelman, 1999; Thiel, Peterman, & Brown, 2008). While several factors have been found to influence college algebra success, such as instructional practices, students' attitudes toward mathematics, and level of math anxiety, a secondary purpose of this study investigated whether students' gender and number of prior attempts at taking a college algebra course were factors that might interact with student performance.

A quantitative study was conducted in the researcher's college algebra class at the University of South Florida in the fall semester 2010. The design included a treatment group and control group; participants in both were given a pretest and posttest before and after the 4-week treatment period, and all participants took the required departmental final exam. Of the original 187 participants in the study, the final statistical analyses were computed using data from the 165 students who completed the pretest, posttest, and final exam. Participants who were randomly assigned to the treatment group received an online review of college algebra prerequisite skills using the program, MyMathTest (Pearson Education, n.d.b), which included interactive instruction and practice with a minimum requirement of 3 hours per week for the 4-week treatment period; participants who were randomly assigned to the control group received an alternative assignment based upon their college algebra coursework using the online program, MyLabsPlus (Pearson Education, n.d.a) that accompanied the class textbook, with a comparable weekly time requirement. After the four-week treatment period, the remaining 11 weeks consisted of the normal course of study and concluded with a comprehensive departmental final exam not prepared by the course instructor.

No significant differences in achievement on the final exam were found between the two groups. Also, there were no interaction effects and no main effects for gender and performance on the final exam. Number of prior attempts at college algebra similarly had no impact upon final exam. However, student achievement in the researcher's class was observed to be higher than that found in the other college algebra classes in the department (i.e. the researcher's students performed higher on the departmental final exam and had a lower failure rate than the overall departmental failure rate).

The fact the researcher's college algebra students had greater success when compared to the other college algebra students would suggest other possibilities for future regard. For example, studies comparing use of alternative instructional strategies and/or grading practices may reveal factors that influence college algebra performance. Investigations comparing alternative placement procedures and/or advising strategies might also contribute findings helpful to promoting student success in college algebra.

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