Remedial math at the University of New Mexico looked starkly different five years ago than it does now after the 2013 implementation of the Math Learning Lab, or MaLL.
The MaLL’s mission is to increase the passing rate for UNM’s lower-division math courses, according to their website.
Srini Vasan, Ph.D., the program’s director, said the intermediate algebra course, Math 120, had been giving the math department headaches well up to 2013. He said Math 120 was a remedial course that had been trapping students due to its inefficient teaching model.
Each section of Math 120 could only support a maximum of 60 students. He said it was not flexible, and many students had to retake the class with little grade improvement — there was a 30 to 50 percent pass rate.
When the MaLL was established, Math 120 was broken up into three one-credit courses: Math 101, Math 102 and Math 103. These became software-based formats to support about 100 students each, Vasan said.
The MaLL is enthusiastic about its ability to serve far more students than its predecessor class, and now remedial math is no longer a trap for incoming UNM students, he said.
Between 2016 and 2017 there was an increase in the passing rate by around 10 percent across all courses, Vasan said, crediting this to the new teaching format and the increased access to resources that the MaLL provides.
“Students like the software-based format, and it gives them the flexibility to continue the work at home and be ahead of the required benchmarks,” he said. “These courses are highly flexible.”
The MaLL has been experimenting with ways of increasing student efficiency. Project Assistant Linh Ward has been essential in implementing slight changes in the curriculum over time, Vasan said.
“By making incremental changes every semester…we have increased our pass rates continuously,” Vasan Said
One change the MaLL implemented was splitting up intermediate algebra into three eight-week sessions.
“The program rewards student work and initiative, because they can get six credit hours through this program,” Ward said. “This gives them the opportunity to graduate faster and build up their GPA.”
The MaLL has been a popular program for UNM, as about 2,000 students use the program each year, Vasan said, adding that the staff say they are not overwhelmed.
“Nothing else can replace the MaLL and be more effective, efficient or economical,” Vasan said.
The MaLL prides itself on handling the task of assisting so many students as efficiently as possible, even with experiencing an increase in course enrollment, he said.
“Our task is to manage the scheduling aspects of classes,” Vasan said. “We have been becoming more efficient in class scheduling and space utilization.”
The program has also begun to help students in dual-enrollment courses enter UNM ready to take advanced math courses, Vasan said. It is available to anyone who received a score of 18-20 on the ACT math section.
Vasan is retiring in August of 2018, and he said he is very confident in MaLL’s ongoing success.
“Our team consisting of my Project Assistant Linh Ward, our instructors, especially Don Adamson, our tutors and our Director Mr. Jurg Bolli of the math department should all take credit for our continued success,” Vasan said.
Donald Amble is a freelance news reporter at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Deambler.