New Arithmetic/Study Skills Course

September 3, 2010 at 2:20 pm 1 comment

At my college we have just started to offer a new arithmetic course. Previously our lowest course was prealgebra, and we had a good number of students who lacked the arithmetic skills to succeed in that course. If a lack of arithmetic skills was one of the primary reasons for student failure, we determined that the lack of (math) study skills was another cause of failure.

Arithmetic Concepts

So we started by deciding the arithmetic topics to be covered. We settled on whole numbers, fractions, decimals, and percents. While covering whole numbers, we will devote at least 2 days to helping students to learn/memorize their multiplication facts. Fractions will be developed slowly and conceptually. We hope that the students, at this point in the course, will have little trouble with decimals. Besides the basic concept of percents, we will cover converting percents to fractions & decimals and vice versa. We will finish with some friendly percent equations.

Study Skills

We have two AI (augmented instruction) sessions per week, and we will cover such topics as time management, taking notes, doing homework, studying for exams, using note cards, test taking, and test analysis. The idea is that we will teach study skills in context. For example, after covering multiplication facts we will teach students how they can use note cards to help them learn their multiplication facts.

So Far, …

On the first day of class I gave a pretest that covered all of the material in the course outline. Some students did pretty well, scoring 16-20 out of 25. For most of these students fraction problems were the ones they missed the most. (I’m not surprised.) Some students struggled with all of the problems, with a handful getting fewer than 5 correct.(If you would like a copy of the pre-test so you can see for yourself, drop me a line and I’ll send it to you.)

The abilities of these students vary greatly, making it even more challenging to teach this course. It may be the most challenging course I have ever taught. For example, I spent 30 minutes with a student during office hours trying to show a student how to round whole numbers to a given place value. She knew the place values and she could determine whether the digit to the right was less than 5 or not, but she could not figure out what to do from there. There were some tears shed, but I think by the time we were done she was starting to get it.

I’ll keep you updated as the semester progresses.

If you have any suggestions for teaching a course like this, or if you have some experience to share, please leave your comment or you can reach me through the contact page on my website .


I am a mathematics instructor at College of the Sequoias in Visalia, CA. Each Friday I usually blog about technology, inside and outside of the classroom, but I will also be sharing my progress with this new course from time to time. Let me know if there are other topics you’d like me to cover by leaving a comment or by reaching me through the contact page on my website.


Entry filed under: General Teaching, Math, study skills. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

Creating a Community of Learners – Group Test Math Study Skills – Note Cards (Part 3 of 3)

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Mary Beth Orrange  |  September 8, 2010 at 4:49 am

    George, I love these posts! They are detailed yet short enough to digest one at at time.

    Any suggestions for motivation for those uninterested and taking Prealgebra class because it is required? About half of my students have high school mentalilty and the other half want to make the most of the “second chance” to learn math. Always the problem for those teaching at a Community College.

    Thank you!


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