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New Mexico State University

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Revised math courses lead to higher passing rates

When college algebra and trigonometry classes at New Mexico State University were revised last year to make classes more student-oriented and less instructor-oriented, Patrick Morandi, academic head of the Department of Mathematical Sciences, predicted higher rates of students passing their math courses.

His predictions have come true.

Alyne Fulte, director of the Math Success Center at New Mexico State University, told the university's Regents, NMSU President Michael Martin and others at today's Regents meeting that the pass rate of students taking college algebra and trigonometry classes has gone up remarkably. She credited a large team of tenured and college track faculty who started working together in the fall of 2005 to improve and enhance the curriculum for Intermediate Algebra (Math 115), College Algebra (Math 185) and Trigonometry (Math 180). These classes, consisting of a lecture format and a mastery format, were closely evaluated and their material was substantially reorganized, leading to a trio of new classes, effective Fall 2006: Math 120, Math 121 and Math 190, respectively. The new classes are taught in lecture format only.

In Spring 2006, 43.9 percent of the students taking the lecture portion of Math 115, Intermediate Algebra, passed the class and 42 percent of the students in all sections (lecture and mastery) of the class passed. These numbers went up in Fall 2006 when 56.4 passed the new course, Math 120.

College Algebra fared even better. The pass rate for the lecture portion of Math 185 was 43.6 percent in Spring 2006 while the pass rate for all sections was 37.4 percent. The new course, Math 121, showed a 70.6 percent pass rate in Fall 2006.

Improved pass rates also were noted in the third revised class, Trigonometry. The lecture portions of Math 180 showed a 61.9 percent pass rate in Spring 2006, while the pass rate for all sections was 57.9 percent. The curriculum enhancement committee recommended changing the course to Trigonometry with Pre-Calculus. The revised course, Math 190, showed a 70.9 percent pass rate in Fall 2006.

In addition to the improved pass rates, about 3,000 students enrolled in the three new classes in Fall 2006 and Spring 2007.

"This was several of our barrier classes for retention and recruitment and I think you've done an excellent job in putting this presentation together and more importantly in improving the math track and success rate," said Laura Conniff, chair of the NMSU Board of Regents.

Regent Steve Anaya asked Fulte how the new courses worked in conjunction with the two-year campuses and other four-year institutions of higher learning in New Mexico.

Fulte said one of the impetuses to change the courses was Senate Bill 161, legislation that required a common core curriculum. Classes were revised to make sure they were easily transferable between NMSU, the two-year campuses and other four-year institutions throughout the state.

"The department remains committed to excellence as it has revised those courses," she said. "It is important to note that we have maintained high mathematical standards during our course revisions."

Name of course
Pass rate - lecture sections
Pass rate - lecture and mastery sections

Intermediate Algebra

Math 115 - Spring 2006

Math 120 - Fall 2006

College Algebra

Math 185 - Spring 2006

Math 121 - Fall 2006


Math 180 - Spring 2006

Trigonometry with Pre-Calculus

Math 190 - Fall 2006