Tag Archives: mathematics

21st-century education

I had the privilege of observing Desert Vista Campus Mathematics Faculty Darla Aguilar’s Math for Elementary School Teachers (MAT 147) last week. It was enlightening, as it is a harbinger of the next generation of education, one that combines new technology with evolving teaching styles.

The class was held in a room in Desert Vista’s new Center for Integrated Learning, our beautiful new 21st-century education space. Groups of a half-dozen students gathered at five tables; on the wall above each table was a monitor where the students could collect and display research data on a spreadsheet.

Their research question involved Barbie-type dolls, rubber bands and bungee jumping. How many rubber bands does it take for a Barbie to bungee-jump a distance without hitting her head on the ground?

The assignment enables the students to think about math with an elementary-school mindset, while honing skills involving manipulatives that will be critical when they enter the classroom. It also emphasizes teamwork and communication as the groups decide the best approach to solving the problem. (Some students captured their Barbies’ rapid descent on slow-motion smartphone video.)

Also noteworthy is that Darla has replaced the traditional lecture with an interactive, student-centered approach in which the instructor serves as a facilitator and coach.

Darla’s class is a prime example of how new technology and innovative pedagogy add up to a great learning experience for our students.

Connecting early and often

Overall 2As we at PCC know, the road to college begins early in a student’s formal education. Last week I had the pleasure of attending two events that help propel middle school and high school students along the path to further academic achievement.

The College is a supporter of the Sunnyside Unified School District Foundation, and at the organization’s annual Pathways to Success Luncheon, PCC and a wide range of community partners learned how the Foundation is furthering educational aspirations of the district’s students. Particularly inspiring were Sunnyside’s middle school orchestra students, whose achievements illustrate once again how the power of the arts extends from the stage or concert hall to the classroom.

Diane Lussier

Diane Lussier

On Oct. 23, we held our 10th annual High School Mathematics Competition, with more than 130 high school mathletes, some coming from as far away as Yuma and Willcox, taking part. For a decade, Diane Lussier, Downtown Campus Mathematics faculty, has been the driving force of the event, with math faculty from all six campuses involved.

The impact of Diane’s longstanding collaboration with our area K-12 districts became especially clear this year, when a former participant, now a high school math teacher, brought a team to the competition. At PCC, supporting community partners in order to foster a culture of educational excellence, and connecting with students years before they graduate from high school, is important work, and some of the most rewarding.

Visiting our campuses

I kicked off the spring semester by holding office hours at PCC’s campuses. I have had the pleasure of meeting with faculty, staff, and students at West Campus, Community Campus, and earlier this week, Desert Vista. Although each of our campuses has its own feel and personality, they all in some way are making a positive impact on the lives of our students.

At Desert Vista, commendable work is being done throughout the campus, especially through the Pathways to Healthcare Program, funded by a federal Health Profession Opportunity Grant, and the campus’ MAT 089-Foundational Studies in Mathematics course.

Pathways provides support services and other assistance to eligible, low-income, Pima County residents seeking to complete training and work in healthcare. The College partners with Pima County One Stop to identify and enroll students. The holistic nature of the support services is a strong point of Pathways, which covers costs of uniforms, bus passes and licensure testing. In addition, students can take a 10-week College Readiness course, an adult basic and developmental education course with a healthcare context. College Readiness teaches study, time management, career exploration and other skills needed to be a successful student, as well as incorporating activities to foster community.

MAT 089 teaches fundamentals and applications of basic math, and elementary and intermediate algebra. The course is taught at all of our campuses using the emporium model, which puts students in control of their education. Students complete assignments online in a classroom setting. The curriculum is divided into 35 modules. Learning is “self-accelerated” rather than self-paced. Students can go as fast as they want but have the flexibility to slow down when they have not understood the content. Class attendance is mandatory. Students must master the content before moving to the next module. There is plenty of support in the labs, with instructors, staff instructors, proctors and peer tutors on hand to help.

MAT089 covers subjects that in traditional classrooms take four semesters to cover. Motivated students have finished the modules in one semester, which saves time and money. Students that need more instructional time can take the course up to four times without having to purchase a new textbook.  MAT 089 is an example of how a smart structure and quality support can empower students to succeed.

While I was on campus, a student asked me about laptop computers. Like many who attend PCC, he was of modest means, and didn’t have the money to purchase a laptop. The student asked if the College would supply laptops to students who couldn’t afford them.

The student’s question was an excellent one that the College will explore. We are constantly seeking new ways to help students progress during their academic journey at PCC. My visit to Desert Vista clearly showed that we have excellence in abundance to build upon.

A promising partnership that helps veterans

Helping U.S. military veterans who attend Pima Community College successfully transition to academic life is a priority for PCC. That is what makes a new collaboration between the College and Raytheon Missile Systems, matching student-veterans with volunteer tutors from Raytheon, such an important and promising endeavor.

More than a half-dozen Raytheon engineers have volunteered their time to tutor student-veterans in mathematics and science courses this fall. The partnership is headquartered at Downtown Campus, which recently hosted a lunch to connect students and tutors for the fall semester.

Downtown Campus President Dr. Luba Chliwniak and Vice President of Student Development Jerry Haynes expect about 20 student-veterans to take advantage of this valuable resource. More than 1,400 student-veterans attend PCC each semester. As a veteran of the U.S. Army, I can assure you that the perspectives and experiences these women and men can share with their fellow students and PCC employees will enrich our campuses immeasurably.