The Math Emporium: Effective for whom, and for what?
This study explores three aspects of a math emporium (ME), a model for offering introductory level college mathematics courses through the use of software and computer laboratories. Previous research shows that math emporia are generally effective in terms of improving final exam scores and passing rates. However, most research on math emporia does not investigate 1) whether the emporium serves certain populations differently than others, 2) the nature of mathematical learning that occurs in the ME, or 3) how the emporium is perceived by the enrolled students. In this paper, we used mixed methods to investigate each of these aspects in the case of a single ME serving nearly 300 intermediate algebra students. We found that the emporium appeared to best serve students with higher math achievement, who enjoyed mathematics, and who spent more time taking their exams. In terms of mathematical learning, the emporium appeared to improve students’ ability to recall and use formulas for familiar problem types, but had limited impact in terms of developing meaning for symbols or flexibility in solving unfamiliar tasks. In addition, students expressed mixed feeling about the autonomy provided by the structure of the emporium.
KeywordsMath emporium College algebra Students’ perceptions Computerized learning environments
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