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Issues for Community Colleges

by Bobby Righi, Seattle Central Community College

In the setting of the community college, articulation is complicated by the fact that students come from diverse mathematical and educational backgrounds. We are in the position of having to articulate an incredible number of factors.

Many students have been out of school for a while or did not take much mathematics when they were in school. For these students, effective articulation provides a context in which they can learn mathematics they need for their job or personal enjoyment. They do this, most commonly, while working, raising children, and sometimes supporting extended families.

An increasing number of young students just out of high school enter our mathematics program at various levels. A surprising number enter at the level of basic mathematics or beginning algebra even after having two or three years of high school mathematics. This reveals serious non-articulation between school and college, but there are so many factors involved that it is hard to say what the problem really is. These young students don't seem to know what it means to know something. They don't have the metacognitive skills to think about how they learn and to judge when they have command of a concept or a skill. How do we make them aware of these things?

I am interested in learning more about the mathematics used in various careers. I know these uses are constantly changing, and mathematics classes would be more interesting and relevant if they were better connected to current uses. However, I don't think that teaching specific content for specific jobs is what we should be doing. We have to teach so as to give students the power to read and discuss mathematics, and ask questions about what they don't understand so they can learn new skills as needed.

Bobby Righi is in the Mathematics Department at Seattle Central Community College.

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Last Update: 02/21/96