The goal of this pamphlet is to give developmental mathematics students some concrete advice regarding the “journey” in developmental mathematics. This “journey” consists of the many decisions students make (or do not make) in succeeding in developmental mathematics. Generally, students can begin in different places of the “journey” beginning with the first course of developmental mathematics (Basic Mathematics) to the last course of developmental mathematics (Intermediate Algebra). Throughout this “journey” will be many occurrences of both joy and frustration. A challenge for these students is chanelling their frustration. In the math courses that I teach, students are asked about their past and present mathematical experiences. This has allowed me to carefully analyze the decisions that have had the greatest impact on their “journey” in developmental mathematics. As community college students deal with many issues impacting their academic abilities, this pamphlet will in no way address every issue that students face. However, this pamphlet will discuss the issues that are common with most developmental mathematics students. The pamphlet should be read sequentially in that the most significant issue will be discussed first. Students should be sure that this issue has been addressed. If not, the student should work on fixing this issue before moving to the next. This pamphlet will read as if you are a student sitting in my office. From reading this, it is likely that you would like to do better in your mathematics courses. I’m not going to provide you with research studies in mathematics education or expect any complex tasks from you. I am going to give simple advice as well as determining the likelihood that the advice will be followed. As with any problem, it will probably require a significant amount of your time to solve. As you are going through the pamphlet, analyze the decisions that you make as well as the consequences behind your actions. Finally, if you are serious about succeeding at this, believe in yourself! Let’s get to work! Chapter 1: Adjustment in Attitude Let’s try to understand your mindset. Most students that are enrolled in developmental mathematics either do not like mathematics or take any interest in mathematics. What comes to your mind when you think about this course in which you are enrolled? If you do not like mathematics, try to understand why you feel this way. One reason is that you have not been successful in mathematics in the past. Why not? First, do you truly believe that if you give your very best that there is a possibility that you could be successful? Don’t tell yourself that you cannot do it unless you have given everything you got. Also, think about times in which you have been successful. What did you do to be successful during those times? If you believe that you can do the work, are you serious about maximizing your success? What do I mean? I am referring to the urgency of completing this “journey”. How important is it to you? Will your behavior illustrate the importance of pushing yourself through despite potential times of frustration? How will you deal with this? Whatever you do, don’t quit!!! Your success throughout this journey will likely depend on the decisions you make when you handle your frustration. If you are “quicktempered”, do you have a plan in mind as to how you can control your temper? Speaking for all that have completed this journey, there WILL be times of frustration. Understand that you can overcome these times frustration. Let’s try to better understand your frustration. We need to go deeper than “I’ve never been good at math”. We are not going to dwell on the past. Let’s try to go forward with the skill that you have. The only concerns I would have at this point is whether or not you meet the required prerequisites of the class. In other words, do you have the foundational skills necessary for success? If not, you may want to change to a lowerlevel developmental math course. If you have the skills, but have forgotten what you have learned because you haven’t taken math in several years, ask the instructor or the mathematics department to take an old final exam of the course prior to the one in which you are enrolled. As this may cost you more money, it will be beneficial in the long run in terms of your basic foundational knowledge. Remember, you are to be placed in a course that best represents your mathematical skill that you have. You will also gain more confidence by seeing that you may not be as bad in mathematics as you think you are. Being placed in the appropriate math course will more accurately represent your ability and will likely decrease the frustration during your journey. The next possibility in your frustration may be that the explanations given by your instructor are unclear. Now you understand why having the prerequisite skills must be discussed first. If you don’t have the necessary foundational knowledge, then it is possible that the explanations given by your instructor would always be unclear regardless of how many times your instructor tries to explain the course content. Not understanding your instructor’s explanations can be especially frustrating when you need clear explanations to complete homework or other assessments. You can solidify some of the explanations given by your instructor by asking questions or verifying that you understood these explanations.
