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*Modular Math Program supports student success

The Urban Dictionary defines ‘math anxiety’ as a feeling of slight fear or nervousness when put in front of a math or word problem. 


For many, math is something they would rather not have to deal with; in fact, many people make the conscious decision to just stay away from it.  For those wanting to enroll in college courses, however, that is not an option.


“Students have to pass Math 080 or 085 with a 2.0 or better before they are eligible to enroll in Math 99,” algebra instructor Nancy Goodisman says, “which is a requirement for an associate degree and a prerequisite for most science courses.” 


Unfortunately, many students find it impossible to pass the class with a 2.0 grade point.  Joe Duggan, Assistant Director, Institutional Effectiveness, says that an average of 32 percent of Shoreline students over the last three years have failed the Math 080 course. 


Additionally, Goodisman says that many students enroll in one of the elementary algebra courses so they can then move on to required Math 99, but can’t get through the coursework in 10 weeks. 


All good reasons for the new modular math program that was launched Winter Quarter. 

Science Dean Susan Hoyne learned about a self-instructed, computer-based and modular-based Individualized Elementary Algebra program while attending a conference.  “It’s a perfect solution for our students who were not succeeding in completing the Math 080 class,” Hoyne said, and asked math Instructor Nancy Goodisman to develop the course. 


Goodisman, who has taught math at Shoreline for many years, designed Shoreline’s elementary algebra course in an open style so that students can take more than one quarter to complete it.  “For many, it’s really a timing issue,” she said.  The modular class removes the added stress of having to complete it in only 10 weeks.  Students can register for 1 to 5 credits with an option to add more credits and if the course is completed within 7 weeks, students can enroll in Intermediate Algebra.


The modular Math 085 course was designed into five modules, each with video lectures, online homework, oral quizzes and assessment tests.  Students are required to watch the video lectures and complete online problem assignments before attempting the exams to support their learning, and to go to the lab twice a week so that Goodisman can check on their progress and provide one-on-one help if needed. In addition, there are 15 hours of optional open lab time available per week when students can get one-on-one help or work independently.  The oral quizzes and modular tests are taken during the open lab time.


Additionally, Goodisman says that students can retake quizzes and tests until they pass which in itself reduces some of the anxiety.  Students understand that if they fail an exam they need only to complete a review assignment before retaking the exam.  “They can do this as many times as necessary,” Goodisman says.


Goodisman points out that the program is designed for not only the student who needs more time but for the student who wants to get it done quickly.  “If a student wants to earn the five credits in just one quarter,” Goodisman says, “they can do that by completing a module and the exams every two weeks.”  She encourages her students to do so.  “I encourage them to do it as quickly as possible,” Goodisman says, so they can go on to the next level, “but I understand if they are not in a position to accomplish that and I support their challenges whatever they may be.”


Although the class might appear to some to be an easier route than the traditional classroom class, it is not.  Goodisman says the purpose or goal of the program is to really help students understand algebra. Problem solving is incorporated into the program.  “They have to show me that they understand the process and how they reached the conclusion,” she says.


The modular course was launched at Shoreline Community College Winter Quarter of 2011.  More than 40 students enrolled.   


Richard Ly wanted to finish his Elementary Algebra class as quickly as possible, and he did, completing it in just three weeks.  Ly needed to complete the 085 course before enrolling in Math 99, a requirement for entry into the Toyota program. 


Ly said that he took something one of his grade school teachers told him – to plan a schedule of how much to complete each day in the timeframe selected. 


This was the first time for Ly to take a modular class – and his first math class at Shoreline Community College.  He said that he wants other students to know about the new class.  “It’s really good because if you are struggling in one area you can take your time, and then move quickly through the other modules.”


Ly enjoyed the class so much that he asked Goodisman if he could help out in the classroom.  His volunteer work involves working with students and making sure they comprehend the math.  “They keep telling me I’m their good luck charm,” he said.  “That feels really good.”


The modular program is already proving to be successful. At the end of the quarter, seven students completed all five credits of the 085 course, and Goodisman says that many will complete them this quarter.  “Some of these students have already enrolled to continue in the Math 095,” she says.


The intermediate algebra modular class was added this spring. Limited lab space allowed for only 30 students to enroll, but Goodisman says it is obvious that students need this course as there is a waiting list. “This is really where the most need is,” she says, referring to the intermediate class.  She says there is also a waiting list for the elementary algebra course.


Goodisman says that what she really likes about the new program is that it allows for the individuality of the student.  “The students aren’t pushed ahead until they understand the more basic material,” she says, explaining that developmental math builds on itself and that if students miss any parts, it is really difficult for them to progress.  “For certain students it is making math accessible, and the students themselves appreciate that.”


Volunteer Opportunity for math students

Goodisman encourages students to help out in the labs, saying that volunteering reinforces math skills, supports development of good communication skills and can be helpful on a resume or when applying to a university or college.  Volunteers are committed to two hours a week (minimum).  Morning or early afternoon.  Flexible hours.  Contact Goodsiman at

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