Chattanooga State Community College math department head John Squires recently addressed the Kiwanis Club of Cleveland at its weekly luncheon.
The former Bradley Countian was head of the Cleveland State Community College math department for a number of years before he accepted at job at Chattanooga State.
He asked the Kiwanians to raise their hands if they enjoy math.
About four hands were raised into the air.
Squires was not surprised by the less-than-enthusiastic response. He and his colleagues found students tend to share a similar sentiment. A project was launched in 2007 to thoroughly analyze the math department procedures, students’ reaction to math and how students learn math.
There are two reasons high school and college math teachers believe students do not excel in math as they might other subjects.
- First, students do not do their work.
“I used to come to math class when I was teaching math and I would ask the question, ‘How many of you guys have done your homework?’ Two or three hands would go up,” Squires said. “So then I would say, ‘How many of you have done half your homework?’”
Two or three hands would join the first three.
“Then, I would say, ‘How many of you did anything at all as in you even looked at someone doing math or you thought about doing math or you took your book home,’” Squires recalled. “At that point, if I reached 50 percent, then I was doing good.”
He pointed out it is hard for students to do well in math when they will not participate in the assignments, homework or classroom instruction.
- Second, students who attempted to complete the work would not go by the faculty offices to receive possibly needed extra help.
“I remember one time I literally dragged a student to my office,” Squires said. “I reached in my pocket to get my keys, put the keys in the door and by the time I turned around the student was gone.”
Squires and his peers agreed it was time to “disrupt” the classroom in an effort to better serve the students.
- Instead of lectures in class, professors uploaded the lessons online for students to watch prior to class. Work would then be completed during the scheduled class time.
- Squires and his peers created a math lab on campus where students could go day and night for help. Although students avoided faculty offices, they would go to the lab. According to Squires, it became the most utilized resource on campus.
The program has since gained a lot of national attention. Studies have been conducted on the program by the Tennessee Board of Regents, the University of Florida and Harvard University among others.
The program has since evolved into the TBR initiative Seamless Alignment and Integrated Learning Support for high school students. This program aids students who have an ACT score of 19 or lower. The program not only allows students to recover credits, but take courses in classes that may not be offered by a teacher at the high school in question.
There are currently 120 high schools across Tennessee in the program, which reaches 8,500 students and utilizes all 13 community colleges.