FIU supports success of Mastery Math Program with new faculty hires

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In an effort to improve student success at FIU, the university this year has hired 8 full-time math instructors for lower division math courses. This initiative is part of FIU’s determination to improve student retention and to explore other improvements in teaching that will be implemented with the 2015 - 2020 strategic plan. "We are proud to have these new faculty who are dedicated to engaging our students in active learning," said Hamid Meziani, chair of the Department of Mathematics and Statistics. "Some are even volunteering on weekends to offer review sessions."

These new Mastery Program instructors will be more available to support student learning outside of class, will have the opportunity to collaborate with their colleagues in ongoing efforts to improve classroom experiences, and will become more knowledgeable of the campus, the FIU community, and the needs of their students. “This commitment by the university is a message to the instructors that FIU supports them and recognizes that what they do in the classroom makes a difference. It also tells students that the university values who is teaching them,” said Mastery Math Program Director, Leanne Wells.

The high-tech, high-touch Mastery Math approach implemented in 2012 for College Algebra and Intermediate Algebra is structured so that students spend time working on math with expert help available at hand. The program encourages students to have frequent personal communication with their faculty and undergraduate Learning Assistants. The Mastery model has resulted in a 30% increase in passing rates along with a steady decrease in drop rates.

The eight new instructors were hired in 2014-2015 in order to expand the Mastery Program to include a number of other lower division math courses that are critical to the retention and success of FIU’s students. Changes to some sections of Finite Math were rolled out in Fall 2014 with a revised, reordered curriculum, and new textbook and instructors, resulting in an increase of 13% in the pass rate. The conversion to the Mastery model continues in Spring 2015 with new sections of Social Choice Math being designed to apply to students’ personal experiences such as unit conversions, personal finance decisions, and logic. For students pursuing interests in politics, government, history, and social studies education, there are sections of Social Choice Math that include topics such as fair division, voting systems, and Game Theory.

“It is very exciting to take part in such a meaningful endeavor, and my colleagues and I in the Mastery program are privileged to be working among such outstanding scholars and practitioners of teaching,” said Visiting Instructor Jerry Hower. “The considerable support the university is providing us to achieve these goals is invaluable.”