Tag Archives: math

Assessment Success in the Mathematics Department

Written by Dr. Ashley Nicoloff and Dr. Krysten Pampel

As the department assessment coordinator (DAC), I have the opportunity to help my entire department assess each of their sections in the fall semester and analyze the assessment results in the spring semester. I would like to use this opportunity to share the yearly assessment process that our department goes through.

In the Fall we assess every section taught in the math department using google forms. This means that our 300+ sections of MAT and CSC courses are assessed. The course level assessments that we give are built by the course coordinators and the team of instructors that teach that course. Each assessment is roughly 7 questions in length and is projected to take no more than 15 minutes of class time.

As the faculty are giving the course level assessment through the fall, I as the DAC, record which sections have taken the assessment. I then send out reminder emails about the course level assessment with the number of completed sections so far. Many of the instructors like to use the course level assessment as a quick review near the final which makes me nervous since it always feels like there is less time near the end of the semester. During finals week, I send out the results of the number of sections that took the course level assessment.

In the Spring, I meet with all the course coordinators during the week of accountability to clean and review the data. We also take the opportunity to report the findings of the data if time allows. During the spring semester, the course coordinators meet in person or virtually to discuss the results with their instructional teams and how they want to proceed for next year. Sometimes there are rewrites to an entire course-level assessment, sometimes we change the placement of answer choices, and occasionally we leave everything alone in order to collect more data. I take all the changes that are requested and I update all the course level assessments in digital and google form format.

Before the fall semester, I meet with the course coordinators to have them verify the changes to the course level assessments and ensure that the assessments are ready for responses. This meeting also allows me the opportunity to update them on any changes in assessment for the academic year. This could be anything that I learn from the DAC meetings or something that comes down from the district.

I am very proud of the math department sticking with this assessment cycle and being willing to give up some class time to assess their sections of students. This information has helped us guide instructional moves and department-wide strategies to provide our students at GCC with the best MAT and CSC instruction across all sections we teach. The data we collect also assist the college in keeping the accreditation status with the higher learning commission.


Distribution Problem

When teaching a pre-algebra course the distribution property for the first time, I had unique incident occur in my classroom. The students had been working to develop an understanding of the distribution property using whole numbers.

For example; 4(3+2) can be simplified by adding 3 and 2 together and then multiplying by 4 giving the result of 20. However, you can also use the distribution property to simplify the expression 4(3+2) by first distributing (multiplying the 4 to both the 3 and the 2) this simplifies to 12+8, which simplifies to 20.

After the students had been using the distribution property for the class hour, we came back together to try some more complex expressions. I asked the question which property should we use to simplify the expression. There was an overeager student that really wanted to answer the question. I went ahead and called of the student. I was so surprised to hear that the property we should use if the DISTRIBATION property. Needless to say I lost my students to a fit of laughter.

Distribation Property: when a student tries to answer a question too fast.


 Why Math?! Why?!

Ever since I can remember I have been a driven person. My parents still to this day comment on the anxiety I use to give them when I asked what we were going to do today. Come to find out I was not okay if they did not have a plan in place or decided to change the plan. My mentality has not changed much from when I was little. I still make plans and execute them. This has served me well in life and has helped me achieve my goals. As you can probably guess everyone does not have the same thoughts about planning and execution. I experienced two mathematics teachers during my freshman year that helped to shape me into who I am today.

My math teacher was unorganized and chose to run her class in “organized chaos.” The students in the class behaved well and there were very little problems but she provided very little order in her lessons. The biggest concern I had was that she only excepted problems to be solved in one way, her way. She came across as unprepared and inflexible to me, and frustration set in. Math which was one of my favorite subjects became one of my least favorite. I passed the class but was starting to feel like math was not going to be “my thing” anymore. Mind you this was my first experience with a teacher like this and I was ready to call it quits.

In the second semester of my freshman year, I took another math course with a different teacher. This math teacher not only had a plan in his lesson but showed the entire class multiple ways to solve each problem. He told us that we, as students, have options when solving problems. This class helped me to explore different strategies when solving problems which made the class more interesting. We were no longer looking for the right answer rather how many ways we could get to the right answer. This is when I started to see math as a puzzle that can be solved in multiple ways, starting with the edge pieces or the middle, with the same resulting picture.

My experience as a freshman in high school was what shaped me into the mathematics teacher I am today. I strive to provide my students with multiple strategies to complete problems. I also encourage them to explore and find other strategies to solve problems. I was given the opportunity to see that I could make multiple plans, execute those plans in multiple ways, and still each my goals. It is my hope that I can help my students to realize the same thing is possible for them.