This Semester’s New Elementary Algebra Approach With MyMathLab

February 1, 2010 at 6:00 am 3 comments

This semester I’ve taken a new approach with MyMathLab in my Elementary Algebra class. I was really happy with how things were going with my student contracts, but I got to attend many MyMathLab sessions in the last year and heard many great ideas that excited me. I’m hoping that this approach shows just how powerful MyMathLab is, and maybe wins over a skeptic or two.

MyMathLab HW – Now worth 0%!

I still assign MML HW for each section, but I have cut the number of problems in half. The HW counts for 0% of their overall grade, but the students must score at least 85% to access a MML Quiz for that section. Even though there are some instructors who feel that MML does too much to help students with the different learning aids, I feel that students can truly understand the material through the use of MML. On day one I explained to my students that the purpose of the homework was to increase their understanding, not their grades. I told them that the HW gives them a chance to practice, using the learning aids, without impacting their grade. I told them that these homework assignments were to prepare them for the section quizzes. I told my students that if they got a problem correct after employing one of the learning aids, they should see “Similar Exercise” to rework the problem and make sure they truly understand.

So, students are using to MyMathLab homework and its learning aids to increase their understanding but the homework is not (directly) impacting their grade.

MyMathLab Quizzes – Worth 20%

I use 3 types of quizzes – section quizzes, chapter quizzes, and Student Learning Outcome (SLO) Checkpoint quizzes.

Section Quizzes

The section quizzes are new for me, as well as the use of prerequisites in MyMathLab. To access a section quiz, students must score at least 85% on the corresponding section HW assignment. The quizzes are roughly the same length as the HW assignments, and the learning aids are turned off. Students can take the quizzes as many times as they like before the deadline, which falls on the 3rd night after the material is covered. (Halfway through the semester that will change to the 2nd night.) I like the section quizzes because students have to work through all the problems and topics before getting their feedback. At that point they can self-remediate, going over the problems they struggled with, before attempting the entire quiz. I do count only the highest score.

Chapter Quizzes

I do give chapter quizzes halfway through the chapter and again at the end of the chapter. These quizzes help the students to determine which topics they have under control and which topics require further study. I have always given these chapter quizzes, this is not new. In my experience, these quizzes have the highest correlation with exam scores. The chapter quizzes are being weighted as 3 times the weight of a section quiz.

SLO Checkpoint Quizzes

In our Elem. Alg. course we currently have 10 SLO’s. I have made up 10 comprehensive quizzes covering these SLO’s, and I release them during the last 3 weeks of the semester. The ulterior motive is to get students to start preparing for the final exam, but it also gives me good data for measuring SLO performance. These SLO quizzes are weighted as 4 times a section quiz.

Written Assignments – Weekly Assignments & In-Class Assessments 10%

I give out a written assignment each Thursday that I collect the following Thursday. As the week progresses, students are able to attempt more problems. This encourages them to keep up with the material. At the end (or beginning) of most classes, I give a brief 2-3 question assessment. Sometimes they are solo, sometimes my students work with partners. Both of these assignments allow me to see student work, to make sure that there are no gaps in their understanding. I can also alert my students to typical errors that they should avoid. As I mentioned, these assignments also help me to ensure that my students keep up with the material. Also, since paper & pencil exams make up a majority of the grade, it gives my students a chance to practice in the format they will be tested.

Paper & Pencil Exams – 50%

I essentially give 1 paper & pencil exam per chapter. They get 1 hour to take the exam.

Final Exam – 20%

I give a comprehensive final exam. Lately I’ve been part of a group of 4-6 instructors giving a common final that we grade collaboratively. (For what it’s worth, my online Elem. Alg. class performed outstandingly on last semester’s final.)

So Far, So Good!

I was expecting a minor revolt on day one. “You mean we HAVE to homework, AND we don’t get any points for it!?!?” As I’ve learned, if students understand why they seem to be willing to go along. I explained that the homework was their chance to practice and develop the understanding that prepared them for their quizzes. The look on their faces – “That makes sense.” The first exam is still a little more than a week away, and I know that things can always unravel in a hurry, but I’ve got a real good feeling. I’ll come back and post results as the semester progresses.

I look forward to reading your comments and answering any questions you might have.



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