Incompatible Goals

I teach at a community college. One of its goals is to get students to achieve an AA degree. Many students can’t do it because they cannot pass a college level math course needed to graduate.  The school would like us to do something that would make it so more students are not held back because of that requirement.

As math teachers, we have several goals. One is to make it so anyone who passes a college level math course actually knows college level math.

It is not too hard to see where this is going. Every few years we redesign courses in the hopes that it will make it easier for the students to get through. Sometimes I think we are just making it easier. I was told last semester another topic was dropped out of Elementary Algebra and added to Intermediate Algebra.

In a few days, we are going to be given the outline of another redesign of the courses. The goals are noble and some things can be achieved by redesign. There have been many improvements in the teaching of mathematics over the years, both in content and in method. Technology has improved math education, and we should take advantage of it.

Yet I still have to wonder if future students who are getting an AA degree will really have learned college level mathematics.

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