Course advances math skills

By Dan Hardin, Staff Writer

The fast-paced Beginning and Intermediate Algebra for STEM (Math 122) combines two levels of algebra into one course and allows students to experience a glimpse of trigonometry to help them succeed in future Pre-Calculus and Calculus classes.

Math 122 is one of Contra Costa College’s answers to Assembly Bill 705.

“Math 122 is not targeted at the so-called high scoring standardized test takers and placement test takers, but to that student who wants to get in and get out quickly, yet willing to put in many long hours of study.” Contra Costa College math professor Terrill Mead said. 

There are no prerequisites for Math 122 unlike Math 120 as students normally understand requisites; Math 122 is an accelerated course targeted for the STEM student.

Also, Math 122 is designed for people who need Intermediate Algebra as a pre-requisite for business, nursing or any of the STEM field courses.

“The course reduces the burden of performing well on tests as the singular most important criteria for getting into a degree applicable course,” said professor Sherry Sharufa. “Math 122 allows students to come in at any level and hopefully do well.”

A new policy requires all community colleges to include high school grades as a primary indicator for placement in a class such as Math 122, counselor Robert Webster said.

The new policy is due to Assembly Bill 705, which was unanimously passed by the California Assembly’s Committee on Higher Education,

“According to AB 705, high school profiles will also be used to determine a student’s success potential, The high school profile would include academic and extracurricular accomplishments and is a more accurate predictor of potential and success.” Webster said.

Before AB 705, the standardized tests and placement tests were the barometers for deciding which students were placed in credit-bearing or degree applicable courses.

However, due to using standardize testing and placement testing only as criteria for placement in a credit-bearing courses many students are left floundering in developmental education.

AB 705 reduces the burden of performing well on a test that has hard cut-off scores as the one most important factor for a student to get into a degree applicable course like Math 120.

Although the test scores will not be entirely eliminated from the equation, a student’s past success or lack of can be used to determine a student’s potential and to help him or her advance toward their goal.

But of course developmental education has its place and shall remain as an alternative mean for those needing more corrective education to prepare themselves for tougher courses.

“Students taking Math 122 have the option of participating in the Math Jam Program. They’re also eligible to get their math textbook paid for by the STEM grant through the STEM Office,” math professor Sue Van Hattum said.

“Professor Sharufa and I produced a lab manual and course pack for the class so that the students would take the lab seriously,” she said.

“We are challenging them to write and type their thoughts in full sentences on how they arrived at their solution to a given problem, rather than just working the sequential process and arriving at the answer.”