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ULM changing student outcomes in math with new courses

Published August 03, 2015

The core academic subjects for most students involve general knowledge in English, math, history, and the sciences. In some cases, students are not prepared for the rigor of a college curriculum. Noticing this, mathematics faculty at the University of Louisiana at Monroe changed the way their freshman courses were delivered, and the results have been eye opening.

In fall 2014, ULM implemented the math 1000 course for first time freshmen who did not meet the ACT requirements for college algebra, also known as math 1009.

The faculty decided to dually enroll many students in both courses to boost students’ understanding of course material. The students taking both courses would meet outside of the math 1009 class time to receive extra support.


“We are doing everything we can to increase student success without lowering our standards,” said Dr. Sushma Krishnamurthy, director of the School of Sciences. “By implementing these courses, we are bringing our students to the collegiate level within the first year. This greatly improves their chances of finishing their degrees.”

In spring 2014, the failure rate for college algebra was over 50 percent. In just one semester, the rate dropped to 38 percent with the implementation of the dual course system (math 1000 and math 1009).

“This is a particularly significant result, as over 44 percent of math1009 students were dually enrolled in math 1000,” said Krishnamurthy.

Impressed with the efforts of the math program staff, the Louisiana Board of Regents requested a presentation from ULM mathematics professors on the success of the program with hopes for a more widespread implementation.

The new system is just one aspect of ULM’s strategy toward better math scores. In summer 2015, the university instituted the Warhawk Success Initiative (WSI) to give students a head start on college level mathematics.

The two-week intensive residential program was designed to help students make the transition to the expectations of college. The program consisted of mathematics enrichment (math 1000), and college preparedness, or university 1000 courses.

Students were given lessons on mathematics strategies for success, organization skills, and time management.

Mary Elizabeth Bridges, university 1000 instructor said, “I personally believe it was a great opportunity for students to kick start their college career. In my class, we spent a lot of time focusing on success strategies such as time management, academic skills, goal setting, and motivation. They had an opportunity to connect with other incoming freshmen and start forming relationships that will continue in the fall.”

One student said, “I learned more in this program than through my four years of high school.” Another said that the WSI camp was “One of the best two weeks of my life. I can’t wait to be a Warhawk and enter the year with my new friends!”

In class, students were inspired by the staff to look ahead and stay the course. E’Lexis Mosley reflected on that experience. She said Bridges used famous quotes from English author Samuel Johnson, and the popular Disney movie, “The Haunted Mansion,” to motivate students.

“Johnson’s quote, ‘Great works are performed, not by strength, but by perseverance,” and the Disney quote, ‘You try, you fail; you try, you fail, but the real failure is when you stop trying,’ are what we learned and what I valued most from WSI,” said Mosley. “I’m thankful to the great staff in this newly valued program, and most of all to the best woman and leader I’ve ever met, Mrs. Bridges. I truly learned a lot, and greatly appreciate the help given.”

The success of this pilot program is clear. According to Krishnamurthy, about 85 percent of the participants received credit for math 1000 through the WSI. ULM plans to offer the Warhawk Success Initiative each summer.