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SI and Teaching Protocols

Attending: Richard G., Kristin P., Daniel C., Patrick L., Emral D., Aleksandr G., Tian C.


  • Review of what SI is (“ground rules”)
  • “TAS” program in NYC schools (SI)
    • Re-enroll low-pass Regents – review with instructors, then have them teach new students Algebra, Living Environment, Geometry, Chemistry
  • Discussion of value of tutoring (as practiced currently at KCC)
    • What works & what doesn’t
    • How it might be improved
  • Discussion of teaching to pass a test, vs. teaching context, depth, and application


Supplemental Instruction (SI) for STEM Courses

Attending: Richard G., Tian C., Emral D., Michael W., Daniel C., Kristin P., Azure F.

Discussion Points:

  • Issues with finance and for SI, as well as funding sources
    • Does tutoring make a difference?
    • Data shows yes — data specific to KCC (Mike W.)
  • Materials cost: textbooks, online assignments/assessment, etc.
    • OERs, Waymaker, ALEX
    • Negotiated prices with publishers
    • Special grants/programs for textbook vouchers
    • Check out from library
    • Are OERs as good as private sources? – Yes, and improving
  • Impact of voluntary nature of SI – MAT 05 is basically mandatory SI (as other institutions have done) for highest-risk-of-failing students
    • MAT 5, while a relatively low level math class, has a lot of resources put into it (7 hours for 3 credits)
    • Rationale: combined remedial & college math, so liberal arts students are not prevented from continuing by M@ (co-remediation, essentially, in one semester)
    • AA degrees – non-algebra track
  • Funding for SIs – probably not enough for wide adoption, or for permanent adoption; and institutional funding unlikely on permanent basis
  • To what extent are administrators influencing what or how STEM instructors teach?
    • E.g., if algebra or calculus is not required to take statistics, but statistics faculty teach or consider statistics in light of calculus.
  • Perkins – needs to see the data for need for tutoring (ask IR) (ABC grades) – discuss w/ M. W. tutoring by appointment (like BIO 11/12)
  • Next meeting – likely in this same time slot/Doodle will be sent


Impact of the 12-6 Calendar at CUNY; Graduation Rates; Advisement


  • Discussion of impact of 12-6 calendar on STEM learning.


  • Dan, Pat, Kristin, Azure, Tara, Raluca, Tian.

Points of Discussion:

  • Pat’s presentation at Hostos, who are being encouraged to adopt a 12-6 (union meeting with admin also present).
  • Questions about impact on student internships (May start) and length of time for propr learning (esp. of calculus).
  • Benefits: Financial (free module), “back up semester” if you fail a class.
  • Disadvantages: Support staff workload.
  • Is this a shift from a few years ago when LCC & KCC were feeling pressured to convert to a 15 week semester?
  • Guttman — Graduation rates higher with 12-6 calendar, so based on these data, there is now a push to convert all the CUNY CC’s to 12-6 calendar.
  • In reality, instead of accelerating graduations with the 12-6, Tara sees students spread 12 credits over the 12+6.
  • Considerations for students who are single parents or have jobs: 12-6 might be better for them.
  • What about online classes? Does 12-6 vs. 15 weeks matter for online learning?
  • Though CC students find online learning far more challenging.
  • Tara asked, is 6 weeks enough for a foundation or gateway course? (Depends on the course and on the student).
  • Socially, students are “told” they can work full-time and go to school full-time; this is not necessarily true (for many or most).
  • All KCC advisement is now decentralized, and also split into 1st year (Freshman services) and 2nd year (2nd is discipline-specific).

Future items:

  • Share a copy of Sara Kraemer’s evaluation report with the STEM FIG.
  • Next semester — 1st meeting focus on Pat’s notes for a STEM FIG report.



Automatic-Algebra.org; Conceptual Quizzes


  • Materials used in gateway math courses.

In-class materials used:

  • Dan’s online conceptual quizzes in MAT 900; hope is to well-prepare students well for later science and math courses.
  • General agreement that conceptual emphasis and not all-multiple-choice computational questions is helpful.
  • Automatic-algebra.org: Dan’s website for timed drills on basic prerequisite skills (negatives, order of operations, set of numbers, decimal comparisons and conversions, etc.)
  • Provides concrete site to refer needy students starting on day 1 od a course.
  • Suggested expansions/improvements for science courses: Matric conversions, serial dilutions.
  • Possibly tracking user data to provide evidence for improved results (would be total overhaul of existing site).
  • Possibly compare 2 sections of a course with/without site integration for evidence.

Supplemental Bio-Math Modules; Math Workshop; Qualitative Reasoning


  • Stats/Prob. modules developed for Bio 33/ab


  • Physical Sciences, Biology, Mathematics, Math Workshop
  • Anna/Emral also teaching a learning community with A&P and math (Bio 50/50).

Discussion of other efforts on campus to support math:

  • Bio learning communities (11 and 33)
  • Bio 13 boot camp (S3)
  • MAT M1/M2 4-day (16 hour) workshops for high-fail students to pass

Feedback on modules:

  • Send the worksheets/quizzes
  • Some technical revisions to these specific modules (suggested by math faculty)
  • Supporting QR vs. calculator skills (e.g.: estimation, rules of thumb such as divisibility by 3).

Center for Math & Technology (previously: Math Workshop)

  • Students can come for math help, including math support for other courses(walk-in help; can get schedule from center for specific tutors with specific expertise)
  • STEM instructors can supply info to CMT, who can assist as much as possible
  • Budget drastically cut

How to improve QR (Qualitative Reasoning)?

  • A long-term proposition, but how to best approach?
  • Relevant examples (like % body fat) — contextualizing an abstract concept
  • Repetition/more exposure
  • Practice examples in various concepts
  • Coordination across faculty (tutors for content course, workshop tutors, faculty, etc.)

Next meeting: Will send out a Doodle(but only for days at 1:50 PM) after spring break.


Dan’s Reading Notes on Krantz

For your consideration; Dan’s reading notes on Krantz’s How to Teach Mathematics (PDF):



Student Expectations; CUNY Remediation Changes; Biology Supplements


  • Steven G. Krantz, How to Teach Mathematics, Chapters 4-6


  • Daniel, Kristin, Tian


  • Students being surprised at learning any new skill in a college math class (after many years of algebra review). Complaints/grievances.
  • Students being accustomed to scaling/extra credit to make sure they pass (instead of rigorous standards & hard work). History of K-12, etc.
  • Major CUNY changes to placement, remediation, low-level courses, and high-level prerequisite accounting (i.e., eliminate high-level courses in STEM majors?).
  • Likely very few M2 courses in future (only for STEM students who do not pass elementary algebra placement). New non-algebra course for non-STEM majors (majority of clientele). For M2, CUNY uniform final exam will not require passing grade (same for English writing test).
  • Begs question: Will placement tests still be given? Will uniform final still be given, or eliminated?
  • Biology department offers 1-2 credit math supplements linked to sections of non-major biology (e.g., BIO 33). Custom workbook.
  • Students pt-in, scattered through other sections.
  • Majors are given a 4-day workshop in math before the semester begins (grant-funded; supplies food, mentors, core textbook at end).
  • Pre- and post-surveys.
  • Referring students with prerequisite deficiencies to consultations in office hours, and/or the math workshop.
  • Are all freshmen now in learning communities?
  • Can we get a supplement section to prerequisite skills for math courses?


Tracking Math; Outreach Ideas; Exercise Ideas; Takeaways


  • Steven G. Krantz, How to Teach Mathematics, Chapters 3-4


  • Daniel, Patrick, Kristen, Aleksandr, Deborah, Eva, Tian (and Sara K.)


  • What else can this group do to move forward with better math teaching at KCC?
  • STEM Vision Committee — team up with them
  • Run a pilot somehow using new strategies to teach math, and then follow students to see how they do in chemistry, biology, etc.
  • With the doing away of math requirements (algebra) for non-STEM majors, we are separating STEM and non-STEM tracks early and with little chance for switching tracks later in education or career without starting over from square one.
  • Elementary Algebra M2 is now a multiple-choice test, with a calculator, and students do not have to pass the test to pass the class. As of next semester, students do not need to even pass this class to graduate.
  • Given all of these things we can’t control, is there anything we can do? Would expanding the Math Workshop help? It would help some students, but probably not a majority.
  • Some research claims remediation never solves the problem — ongoing support will always be needed.
  • What other things can we do? Give more practice — students do know some math, but need practice & feedback.
  • Physical sciences uses ALEKS (others: MathXL, WebWork.)
  • One observation: Even with ALEKS homework 25% of grade, some students still don’t do it. Others find online homework helpful.
  • Another strategy is to spend some time on definitions, so that the words in word problems are understood.
  • Ask students to draw what the instructions say (show them an example; in chemistry, physics, biology).
  • CHE 12 “all about logs”, but only prerequisite is MAT 9; logs covered briefly in MAT 14.
  • Many students are trained to be passive learners, so much so that many consider preparing for class & doing the exercises ahead of time on their own as cheating.
  • How has this FIG affected your teaching practice? For most, understanding what math is needed for science courses, vs. what math is taught in prerequisites, has been revelatory and helpful.


K-12 Preparation; Cultural Study Habits; General Principles at Start or End?


  • Steven G. Krantz, How to Teach Mathematics, Chapters 1-3


  • Aleksandr Gorbenko, Patrick Lloyd, Daniel Collins, Kristin Polizotto, Tian Cai, Deborah Berhanu


  • Question: What did you agree or disagree with?
  • Moore Method: Surely inappropriate for our students.
  • Question: Why are KCC students unprepared?
  • K-12 prep as a problem for KCC students.
  • Math anxiety among K-6 teachers, esp. females, who then communicate this to students (esp. girls who identify with teacher).
  • The students get high school diploma without really learning math.
  • Comparison to teacher qualifications in different countries/states.
  • Specialist K-6 teachers would be the #1 thing to change (DRC).
  • Working in groups outside of class — effective but possibly a challenge for our students — culturally, time constraints, socially, etc.
  • Groups only effective if carefully chosen — someone who knows what they’re doing.
  • Asian students may know how to do the problems & get good grades, but necessarily able to apply or engage with the world with that knowledge.
  • Influence of home environment (in terms of academic discipline) and of social class.
  • Do the suggestions in this book help all students? Effective across the board? (Probably.)
  • Students cannot set up a problem — logically — because that unit is skipped in K-12.
  • Logic not required at KCC (even in math department) — inductive & deductive reasoning is not required.
  • Krantz recommends examples, then building/developing theorem.
  • Other option: Principle/theorem, then proof, then examples (traditional in definition-theorem-proof-application).
  • Daniel thinks traditional is better for students who will not be mathematicians. But Tian/Pat thought examples earlier on was better.
  • Next meeting: Nov-22nd at 12:40 PM (to include outside grant observer).


Prerequisite Challenges; Testing and Time; K-3 Experience


  • Steven G. Krantz, How to Teach Mathematics, Preface


  • Daniel Collins, Emral Devany


(1) Prerequisite Challenges

  • Started with an overview of the book, as some people were just being informed/picking it up today. In future sessions we’ll plan to cover the main chapters, and try to find ways to attract more attendees.
  • Discussed challenges in classes where many students don’t have the expected prerequisite math skills. (For example: Integrated Seminar in Biology, including majors and practicing nurses).
  • Examples: Estimated 1/3 may not be able to compute a percent increase between two numbers (or its inverse). This would be used in a metabolism problem, etc. Note that this was previously tested on the CUNY-wide remedial CEAFE (CUNY Elematary Algebra Final Exam), but was recently removed as it was considered too difficult.
  • Unfamiliarity with efficient conversion methods: Biology, using the metric units (multiplying by 1000 vs. moving point 3 places). Statistics, converting percent to decimal (dividing by 100 vs moving point 2 places).
  • Problems with students knowing algebra but not arithmetic. (CUNY entry testing with COMPASS aborted testing on arithmetic if algebra was passed; this may be reversed with new Accu-Placer test, which combines both in a single test/score).
  • Students passing math via raw, herculean memorization of procedures (much harder). Understanding concepts can make these methods trivial to remember.
  • Problem of instructor not realizing basic things that students don’t know, possibly for many semesters or years (e.g., types of energy, conversions, checking solutions to equations).
  • History of repeating definitions without quantitative applications in some prior science classes.

(2) Testing and Time

  • Test-taking history, where students are mostly exposed to multiple-choice tests and tricks to pass them (Krantz in Ch. 2 strongly recommends non-multiple-choice tests for this reason).
  • Need to test/quiz on exactly the basic skills practiced in class (not more exotic extensions).
  • But: Time constraints on grading, plus assignments, may bias towards multiple-choice tests.
  • Suggest: Tests that are part multiple-choice, part short answer (possibly fewer in larger classes).
  • Suggestion: Using a point-and-click Rubric in Blackboard for quickly grading assignments and providing feedback (e.g. in a programming course).
  • Krantz in Ch. 1: Time management in class: How to avoid an activity that goes long, cut off in middle by end of session, need to pick up in middle next time?
  • Prepare 2-3 short exercises in class so one or more can be cut for time if needed.
  • Permitting students to go early if they complete exercise quickly: Can give extra attention for other students (with reduced anxiety over struggles in front of peers).

(3) K-3 Experience

  • Current student experience in K-6: 1st grade — Test correct performance on several defined procedures. 2nd grade — Give credit for any generation of correct answer, no matter how. Instruction on “how to take multiple-choice test” tricks. 3rd grade — Standardized multiple-choice tests begin, used to assess schools. Seemingly large strategic shift at the point when school needs high grades on standardized tests.
  • Common Core complaints: Often unjustified.
  • College students not knowing 2nd-3rd grade concepts (scientific method, etc.)
  • Passing all students K-12 (no hold backs).