One of the tricks used to increase traffic on a web site is to incorporate ‘hot phrases’ in to the pages and articles. In our field, “acceleration” is a very effective phrase to use. Sadly, acceleration is not that important … by itself.

Like most colleges, mine has some acceleration models — two-courses in one, boot camps, and self-directed study for example. Some acceleration work gets very high press coverage, such as the Austin CC ACCelerator program (see http://sites.austincc.edu/newsroom/accs-accelerator-and-developmental-math-course-wins-praise-of-second-lady-and-under-secretary-of-education/ )

Acceleration is better than not accelerating … or is it?

One of my friends tends to use medical analogies in our conversations. I am envisioning him saying something like this:

A doctor knows that three lab tests being required are without any benefit to the patient (no diagnostic nor any treatment benefit). What the patient needs is a new treatment, but the insurance will not cover the new treatment. Is our profession better served by making the three useless tests quicker for the patient … or by working on fixing the basic problem of getting the right treatment?

Our goal should be to fix the problems. Acceleration is not the basic problem … what needs to be changed is the mathematical treatment provided to students so that there are multiple benefits for students. In developmental mathematics, our work needs to focus on capabilities that serve all college programs with a focus on quantitative reasoning. In college level mathematics, our work needs to focus on empowering students for programs or groups of programs.

Acceleration tends to reinforce the current curricular system by masking a symptom (too long to complete). An emphasis on acceleration distracts us from working on core problems.

I believe that we need fewer courses. We can start with a course like Mathematical Literacy (or Quantway, or “FMR”), with just-in-time remediation as needed. The next level can be a course like Algebraic Literacy (or STEM path I), again with just-in-time remediation for students who did not need an entire course before it). We only need one course to connect that level with calculus I — a deliberate design of a pre-calculus course.

We can do better than acceleration. With new ideas of content and course design, we can provide important mathematics for our students in an efficient manner.

“Needing acceleration” is direct evidence that the basic curricular structure is inappropriate. Don’t worry so much about acceleration — fix the basic problem.

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