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Algebra 'boot camp' bolsters students' confidence

Dr. Leslie Davidson-Rossier and Dr. Clayton Kitchings devised an algebra "boot camp" to help students place into college algebra.

Aspiring science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) majors on the University of North Georgia's (UNG) Oconee Campus with insufficient test scores received an opportunity to review topics and place into college algebra with an innovative three-week algebra "boot camp" pilot program for the first time this fall.

Dr. Leslie Davidson-Rossier and Dr. Clayton Kitchings, assistant professors of mathematics, used a Summer Presidential Incentive Award to craft videos on 20 college algebra prerequisite topics. Students watched at least one of the videos each day before attending a class session every weekday for three weeks.

Six out of the 15 students in the initial boot camp passed the test at the end of the three weeks to move into a college algebra course for the remainder of the semester.

Davidson-Rossier and Kitchings hope the boot camp can eventually be expanded to other UNG campuses. They believe the videos will also be useful beyond the boot camp for all college algebra students.

"We want to make this assistance available to a wider range of students," Davidson-Rossier said.

Due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols, students were divided between morning and afternoon sessions to reduce class size. The original design called for all students to attend both sessions daily over the three-week period to reinforce what they were learning.

"The boot camp opens a door for several students to move directly into the most appropriate mathematics pathway for their chosen major without losing valuable time taking courses less applicable to their plan of study," said Dr. Dianna Spence, professor and department head of mathematics at UNG. "Leslie and Clay showed tremendous initiative and creativity in developing a solution to better serve this group of students and facilitate their success. Their progress on this project is quite promising."

Davidson-Rossier said the idea was to get students into the initial math course they needed for their major rather than needing an extra course before working on their degree requirements. Davidson-Rossier said she has been excited to see the students who advanced to college algebra continue to excel.

"They are dedicated to keeping up with the course, doing the homework," she said. "They're doing well. They're very motivated."

Deinedra Mensah-Bonsu, a freshman pursuing a degree in biology, was grateful she had this chance and didn't have to pay for an extra class.

"It was an opportunity to prove ourselves," she said. "It gave me even more confidence in my choice of a major."

Kitchings said he and Davidson-Rossier developed the high-quality productions to help students see the importance of the subject matter. The videos came with note-taking guides, and each ended with the phrase "now it's your turn" to direct them to an associated assignment to solidify their learning.

"We wanted students to engage with the videos rather than just watching the videos," Kitchings said. "We wanted to give them skills to be successful in college algebra."

Davidson-Rossier and Kitchings said the intensity of constant practice during the boot camp paid great dividends.

"They carried momentum into the college algebra course," Kitchings said.

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