Accelerated Workshop Approach to Remedial Mathematics Using Problem-Solving (WARM UPS)

In Fall 2009, some colleagues and I were awarded a grant of $75,555 through a competitive process as part of the CUNY Improving Undergraduate Mathematics Learning Initiative. Below is the abstract we submitted for this grant. More details of this exciting project will be made available in the future.

As part of this project, we also wrote a textbook, Arithmetic WARMUPS: Workshop Approach to Remedial Mathematics, for use in the new class this grant is studying.  We recently launched a website to accompany this project. Check it out.

Principal Investigators:

Dr. G. Michael Guy, PI with CO-PIs with Dr. Jonathan Cornick, Dr. Robert J. Holt and Mr. Andrew S. Russell, all of the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science at Queensborough Community College.


Students entering Queensborough Community College are placed into mathematics courses based on their scores on the COMPASS mathematics exam: If they score less than 30 on S1 (arithmetic), they are generally required to take MA-005, a semester long remedial arithmetic course. The passing rate for MA-005 is less than 35%, and only 8% of students who take the class graduate within three years.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that many students who ‘almost’ pass S1, fail or drop out of MA-005 because they are discouraged by a course which attempts to reteach them material they have already seen for several years in high school. These students often do not reenroll in the following semester and fail to make progress towards a degree despite their initial desire to do so. To meet the needs of such students and prepare them for a credit bearing course, a new course, MA-005M (modular workshop), was developed in Summer 2009 and offered for the first time in the Fall 2009 semester. It is a 4-week, 20-hour workshop including 4 computer lab hours, in which the emphasis is on students practicing and improving their arithmetic skills. Students must have a score of at least 25 on S1 to enroll, and at the conclusion of the course they take S1 again. If they score at least 30 on their second attempt, then their arithmetic remediation is complete, and they may register for a remedial algebra course in the following semester.

The main goal of this project is a four semester (Fall 2009 – Spring 2011) statistical analysis and comparison of S1 exit scores for students taking MA-005M and MA-005, in order to to identify subpopulations of students who can benefit from the workshop format, and who can thus sufficiently improve their skills and exit mathematics remediation more quickly. The project will include continual development, revision and improvement of MA-005M course materials and training for instructors who teach the workshop.

We believe this project has a strong potential to benefit a large population of students at other CUNY community colleges as well as similar institutions elsewhere. Since other community colleges within CUNY offer similar courses with entrance requirements based on COMPASS scores, this project, if successful, is easily scalable to many campuses in a relatively short time.

Preliminary Results Presentation Slides:

  1. Accelerated WARM UPS: Doing more with less time used differently. Remedial Arithmetic in as Little as 20 hours. 2011 Joint Mathematics Meetings. MAA Session on Developmental Mathematics Education: Helping Under-Prepared Students Transition to College-Level Mathematics. New Orleans, LA. (Slides here)
  2. Accelerated WARM UPS: Improving Math Learning Project Update Luncheon (Slides here)
  3. Reforming Remedial Mathematics: An Evidence Based Approach. Spring Convocation of the College focused on “Are We Making a Difference? Using Research to Inform Practice” (Slides here)