New math placement tool in the works

math booksMathematics professors Dan Taylor and Preston Kiekel are putting their heads together to give students a stronger start in college math. Their proposed projects—an online preparation course for the COMPASS test and an online, self-guided math placement tool—recently earned them the Hanke Faculty Achievement Award.

Over the years, both professors have noticed students struggling in their math classes because they simply were not prepared or did not know what to expect. Similarly, those who inadvertently take classes beneath their level also struggle.

“If you have to take a lot of pre-college math, you are less likely to graduate…it takes you longer, costs you more, and you are more prone to feel bored or frustrated,” says Kiekel. “For me, one of the most important points is that being misplaced in math costs our students time and money—and time and money are in short supply for Lewis County students.”

The COMPASS test is currently the only measuring tool used for math placement, but Kiekel argues that “a single measure is never sufficient.” Until they are able to find a better measure than the COMPASS, the two teachers are working on improving student success through their proposed online COMPASS preparation course.

“Most students don’t realize the COMPASS test really matters,” says Kiekel, noting some students don’t take the test seriously. “If they score low in one area, that can affect the length of time and the amount of money it takes them to graduate.”

“Many students don’t know they can take the COMPASS test again,” adds Taylor. The crash course will help students focus on areas they missed the first time.

Their other proposed project addresses the need for students to be better informed about the expectations for each math class by providing guided practice and examples. By designing an online, self-guided math placement tool, the teachers hope students will be able to correctly choose the perfect math class—not too hard, not too easy, but just right.

The projects will take time to design and implement. While there is still a lot of work to do, Taylor and Kiekel are excited about the potential these tools have to help students start off on the right path in math.

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