Math no longer a four-letter word with Mathways

By Joseph Losoya
Pulse Staff Reporter

Photo of students studying for their math course. Photo by Joseph Losoya.
Student studying for their math course. Photo by Joseph Losoya.

The success rate for math at Palo Alto College should increase with a new developmental math program called Mathways from the University of Texas at Austin.

Mathways is a two semester program. The first semester will be math and a learning frameworks course. The same group of students will be enrolled in both classes. The second semester will be a college-level math course, either statistics or liberal arts math, with the same classmates and teacher.

“I like the curriculum because the Mathways and Education class focuses a lot on student engagement,” said Russell Wagner, the learning frameworks professor.

This is the first semester Mathways has been offered, and it is only at PAC. Professor Brian Hons and Dr. Monette Elizalde teach the math portion and Professor Wagner teaches learning frameworks. Mathways has three sections with 51 students all together. The Charles A. Dena Center developed Mathways over the past five years at UT. This program was created to help students who do not need to take College Algebra for their major.

Palo Alto did not waste any time to get the Mathways’ ball rolling. Patrick Lee, Mathematics Department chairperson, said the process started in March 2014. A program similar to this is at Northwest Vista, and PAC followed the same blueprints, but it added some changes. The main difference is combining the learning frameworks course with the developmental math course.

Lee said, “The way we have [Mathways] set up, it will do even better.”

A requirement at PAC is to take an Intro to College course. Students can take either student development (SDEV) or learning frameworks (EDUC) to fill this requirement. The learning frameworks course counts as three college credits, but the student development course does not count for any college credit. The credits will not count at PAC but can be transferred to most Texas institution as an elective for a bachelor’s degree. This is because student development is a developmental course and learning frameworks is not.

Student engagement will be achieved by making the course fun. Students will do group assignments and spend more time getting to know each other and different counselors on campus. Already the students have attended a field trip that toured the Toyota Manufacturing Plant. Mathways provides teachers with innovative and interactive materials, video links and journals.

Freshman Adam Vasquez, is enrolled in Mathways and said he understands math better here than when he was in high school. Freshman Ray Torres is in the same section as Vasquez and said that Brian Hons, their Mathways teacher, makes sure everyone is on the same page before moving on.

Hons is one of two professors who teach the math part of Mathways. He does not teach in a basic lecture style. Rather, he relates math to real-world problem and situations.

Ray Torres said, “He (Hons) teaches better. He interacts with us.”

The program is so new that Hons does not have a book. Instead, he uses a massive binder filled with different work sheets. The semester is still fresh, so the effectiveness is unknown, but Hons can tell that his students are excited.

For more information, visit the Math Department in Nueces Hall, Room 123, and for help in math, visit the Math Tutoring Lab in the Gutierrez Building, Room 106.