College Algebra, Learning Support, and
Technology: What is the connection?
C49
Margo Alexander, Ph.D.
Department of Mathematics and Computer Science
Georgia State University
University Plaza
Atlanta, GA 30303
(404) 651-2245
Fax: (404) 651-2246
E-mail: MALEXANDER@CS.GSU.EDU
College Algebra is an essential part of the undergraduate
curriculum at all major universities. However, the success rate
among all of the students who take this course is very low. To
aid students in college algebra, learning support programs are
provided for students who seek help with the prerequisites or
review needed in order to take a college algebra class.
Another aspect that has emerged into the college algebra
curriculum, in order to facilitate in the learning process, is the
use of the graphing calculator. The role of graphing calculators
has entered into the classroom to enhance many aspects of the
teaching and learning process of mathematics. The applications
and implications of graphing calculators are reshaping methods for
teaching mathematics. Through numerous conferences, publications
and workshops, the news is spreading on how graphing calculators
can aid in the mathematics curriculum especially in conceptual
understanding. Knowing that the learning support program provides
students with the support needed to take a college algebra class,
the question raised is, if learning support is added to the
curriculum what would be the success rate of college algebra
students?
The purpose of this study was to investigate the success rate
of college algebra students if the use of technology and the
learning support class is added to the curriculum.
Approach to the study
The college algebra course (Math 104) was designed to use
technology in the classroom in order to meet the needs and
purposes of today's students and to implement the Learning Support
co-course (LS 094) into the curriculum. The focus of the study
done at Georgia State University during the Spring quarter 1995
was to incorporate the students' use of the TI-82 graphing
calculator in the college Math 104 classroom and for the students
to register in the Learning Support Class.
Two sections of college algebra were offered with the use of
technology, TI-82 graphing calculator. There were a total of 70
participants enrolled in both sections. Of those, 28 students
enrolled in Math 104 along with LS 094. Every student received
the same instruction in the classroom, however, the LS 094
students also reviewed success strategies, test taking strategies,
dealing with math anxieties, tutoring in mathematics and on the
TI-82 graphing calculator in their separate classroom.
The use of the TI-82 graphing calculator in the classroom was
designed to supplement mathematics instruction. The instructor
was able to facilitate and guide students in mathematical models,
in problem solving and visually demonstrate important concepts in
the algebra curriculum.
Results
The results indicated that students benefitted from the
Learning Support co-course. Most students believed that having
another class session to develop success strategies, test taking
strategies, dealing with math anxieties, learning to get the most
out of the TI-82 graphing calculator or just extra tutoring
sessions was worth the extra time and money. The actual results
of this study were very positive. During this quarter, 25 of the
students remained enrolled in both courses and all 25 students
passed the Math 104 course and were eligible to receive three
hours of additional institutional credit.
Conclusion
This study was initiated to encourage the effective use of
graphing calculators in existing mathematical content of the
college algebra course and to encourage those students worried
about passing college algebra to enroll in the Learning Support
co-course. It can be viewed as another step toward a more mature
body of knowledge about the application of technology and the
learning support program.