New Approach in Elementary Algebra – Results

May 31, 2010 at 10:16 am Leave a comment

Last week was finals week at my college. Now I have some data to share on the results of my new approach in elementary algebra. I used the following grading policy.

  • MyMathLab Homework – Worth 0%, but served as prerequisites for MyMathLab Quizzes.
  • MyMathLab Quizzes – Worth 20% of the grade. There were 3 types – section quizzes (with prerequisites), chapter quizzes, SLO checkpoint quizzes.
  • Written Assignments – Worth 10% of the grade. These included weekly written assignments as well as in-class assignments and quizzes.
  • Chapter Exams – Worth 50% of the grade.
  • Final Exam – Worth 20% of the grade. This was a common final given by myself and 4 other instructors. The grading was done by committee.


I started with 52 students, but 6 of those students never took the first exam. Of the other 46, 32 took the final exam. None of the other 14 dropped the class – 11 stopped attending before the 5th or 6th exam and 3 took all of the exams but did not show up to take the final. The official retention rate was 46/52 (88.5%), but I would list the actual retention rate as 32/52 (61.5%).


Of the 32 students who took the final exam, there were 5 students who earned an A in the course, 10 who earned a B, 8 who earned a C, 6 who earned a D, and 3 who earned an F. (The 14 students who did not take the final also earned F’s.)

So 23/32 who made it to the final, 71.9%, passed the class. Of the 46 students who took the first test, 50% went on to pass the class.

My Thoughts

I feel that my new approach was a success in some ways, and a failure in other ways. At the beginning of the semester, my students were working hard and their test scores showed this. The scores of the early tests were really high, and it seemed that many students decided that they did not need to continue working as hard and that their test scores would not suffer. Obviously, we know that this is a mistake, and I did my best to get these students back on track but was not successful. The class quiz average was 45%. (The class homework average was 70%.)

The performance on exams, as I mentioned, started strong. The overall performance started to slip as the semester moved on.

  • Test 1 – Linear Equations: 40/45 passed, average = 85.3%
  • Test 2 – Graphing Lines: 35/44 passed, average = 84.6%
  • Test 3 – Systems of Equations: 34/44 passed, average = 78.2%
  • Test 4 – Exponents & Polynomials: 34/43 passed, average = 81.2%
  • Test 5 – Factoring: 25/38 passed, average = 80.3%
  • Test 6 – Rational Expressions & Equations: 19/35 passed, average = 69.3%
  • Final Exam: 19/32 passed, average = 72.1%


The main goal of this semester was to increase student exam performance by downplaying the role of assignments in MyMathLab containing learning aids and increase the importance of MyMathLab quizzes. I think that students who bought into the program truly learned.

  • Students who passed the final had a MML quiz average of 64% and a test average of 83%.
  • Students who failed the final (69% or below) had a quiz average of 36% and a test average of 66%.
  • Students who did not make it to the final had a quiz average of 25% and a test average of 53%.

My students that used the quizzes as a learning tool had higher test averages and final exam scores – this was what I was hoping to prove.


To me, the biggest failure was the poor participation by my students in MyMathLab. I have heard others talk about poor participation rates, but I had never experienced anything like this. I’m not sure whether the new grading policy caused this, or perhaps it was just the students I had. I do plan on using the same policy next semester to see if student participation can increase. I will share this data with those classes as a motivator.

I invite your comments and questions. I encourage you to leave a comment, or reach me through the contact page at my web site –


I am a math instructor at College of the Sequoias in Visalia, CA. Each Monday I post an article related to MyMathLab on my blog. If there’s a particular topic you’d like me to address, or if you have a question or a comment, please let me know. You can reach me through the contact page on my website –


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