Mathematical Literacy WITHOUT a Prerequisite

Starting this Fall (August 2016) my department will begin offering a second version of our Mathematical Literacy course.  Our original Math Lit course has a prerequisite similar to beginning algebra (it’s just a little lower).  The new course will have NO math prerequisites.

So, here is the story: Last year, we were asked to classify each math course as “remedial, secondary level”  or “remedial, elementary level” or neither.  This request originates with the financial aid office, which is charged with implementing federal regulations which use those classifications.  Our answer was that our pre-algebra course was “remedial, elementary level” because the overwhelming majority of the content corresponded to the middle of the elementary range (K-8).  We used the Common Core and the state curriculum standards for this determination, though the result would be the same with any reference standard.

Since students can not count “remedial, elementary level” for their financial aid enrollment status, our decision had a sequence of consequences.  One of those results was that our pre-algebra course was eliminated; our last students to ever take pre-algebra at my college finished the course this week.

We could not, of course, leave the situation like that — we would have no option for students who could not qualify for our original Math Literacy course (hundreds of students per year).  Originally, we proposed a zero credit replacement course.  That course was not approved.

Our original Math Literacy course is Math105.  We (quickly!) developed a second version … Math106 “Mathematical Literacy with REVIEW”.  Math106 has no math prerequisite at all.  (It’s actually got a maximum, not a minimum … students who qualify for beginning algebra can not register for Math106.)  The only prerequisites for Math106 are language skills — college level reading (approximately) and minimal writing skills.

Currently, we are designing the curriculum to be delivered in Math106.  We are starting with some ‘extra’ class time (6 hours per week instead of 4) and hope to have tutors in the classroom.  Don’t ask how the class is going because it has not started yet.  I can tell you that we are essentially implementing the MLCS course with coverage of the prerequisite skills, based on the New Life Project course goals & outcomes.

We do hope to do a presentation at our state affiliate conference (MichMATYC, at Delta College on October 15).  I would have submitted a presentation proposal for AMATYC, but all of the work on Math106 occurred well after the deadline of Feb 1.

One of the reasons I am posting this is to say: I am very proud of my math colleagues here at LCC who are showing their commitment to students with courage and creativity.  We will deliver a course starting August 25 which did not exist anywhere on February 1 of this year.

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  • By schremmer, May 13, 2016 @ 10:59 am


    because the overwhelming majority of the content corresponded to the middle of the elementary range (K-8)

    And there is the escape hatch: By the same token, Number Theory also deals with, say, the Natural Numbers. So, it is not the content but what we do with the contents that makes it K-8 or graduate school. Similarly, if we want the student to write a program that computes the multiplication tables, that is not exactly (K-8) and if we look at a parametric family of dilations, that is not either.

    Given that we are dealing with adults, we can ask them to do things with, say the natural numbers, that children could not do, but thereby learning elementary “facts” about them.

    So, it all comes down to how we want to see our students: as animals to be trained / machines to be programmed or as beings to be helped thinking their way through new situations?

  • By Jack Rotman, May 13, 2016 @ 11:43 am

    Nothing to disagree with … except perhaps the assumption that there is a connection between elementary level and [not] thinking through new situations.

  • By schremmer, May 13, 2016 @ 11:02 am

    I am also curious about this rather sudden (re)introduction of “REVIEW”. Would we, be any chance, be talking about last minute reminding of what’s going to be on the test? Please say “No”

  • By Jack Rotman, May 13, 2016 @ 11:44 am

    No … as the post says, the ‘plus review’ corresponds to the MLCS courses ‘prerequisite’ material.

  • By Susan Jones, May 19, 2016 @ 3:05 pm

    We have, so far, been able to keep our “Transitions” course free for students. We do a *lot* of work building number sense, in the context of what they’ll need to know for our Pre-Algebra course which does qualify for financial aid.

  • By Jack Rotman, May 20, 2016 @ 12:00 pm

    Thanks … Parkland is doing a great job!!

  • By James Vallade, May 24, 2016 @ 9:26 am

    Hi Jack. You mention that the new course does not have a math prerequisite. Does it have a low cut score?

  • By Jack Rotman, May 24, 2016 @ 12:07 pm

    Well, officially the course has a cut score … the minimum possible on the test (zero correct); we use Accuplacer, so the current minimum score is 20 for the arithmetic test.

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