Math literacy course gives students unique perspective

Jacob Kenter

Staff Writer

Sitting in math class many students have wondered if they really needed to learn this and how it was going to be useful in their future. The Parkland College Mathematics Department has worked together to create an entry level math course that is more applicable than standard algebra courses.

According to first year professor Cody Marlar,

“This class is more centered on group work as opposed to him standing in the front of the class room lecturing for the entire 50 minutes. The students really seem to enjoy it.” That is one of the things that makes this class quite unique and also makes it is good alternative to other entry level math courses.

Parkland mathematics professor Dr. Erin Wilding-Martin has recently received the Central Region Outstanding Faculty Award, which she got for her role in starting the mathematical

Photo by Zonghui Li | The Prospectus The Central Region Outstanding Faculty Award winner Dr. Erin Wilding-Martin sits in her office on Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015. Wilding-Martin received the award for her role in starting the mathematical literacy course at Parkland College.

Photo by Zonghui Li | The Prospectus
The Central Region Outstanding Faculty Award winner Dr. Erin Wilding-Martin sits in her office on Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015. Wilding-Martin received the award for her role in starting the mathematical literacy course at Parkland College.

literacy course at Parkland College. Wilding-Martin started her career at the University of Illinois where she taught for nine years before coming to Parkland College.

“At the University of Illinois I realized that I wanted to teach math as opposed to doing other things with math, there are two differences like over there they are more focused on the research side of things as opposed to teaching,” Wilding-Martin said.

Wilding-Martin also said that she likes how at Parkland she has the ability to get to know the students in her class, as opposed to the U of I where she was teaching 200-person lectures.

She has been teaching the math literacy course since it first started at Parkland three years ago.

“Anyone who goes into teaching never does to win awards, but getting the recognition for the hard work that they put in was nice,” Wilding-Martin said.

The math literacy course’s use of group work helps the class have a more real world feel, because it allows the students to work with a variety of partners, which teaches them to solve problems and work with people with whom they might not have the closest relationship.

“This course is designed to prepare non-stem courses. By non-stem I mean students who don’t need a whole lot of math in their program area,” mathematics professor Brian Mercer said.

That makes this a great course for students who are going for a liberal arts degree, or more of a technical degree.

According to Mercer, the reason they started this course was that for a long time every student has had to take beginning and intermediate algebra in order to be deemed ready to take transfer-level courses.

Now at the state and national level, educational leaders have decided that rather than having the students retake algebra courses, they can create a class that better prepares them for statistics and liberal arts math, because those programs don’t need a lot of algebra to complete them.

The goal of creating the mathematical literacy course was to create a class that was challenging and different; a course that has a lot of math in it, but wasn’t all algebra.

According to Mercer, these were the basic guidelines they started with, then from there they wanted to create a course that allows them to work on the skills that businesses want students to have, like the ability to work in groups and good communication.

To accomplish these goals, the students do a lot of reading and writing, plus explaining of their reasoning to work on communication skills.

“The course helps improve the students excel, which is a skill companies want students to have,” Marlar said.

Math literacy has been around for three years now and offers a unique perspective on math giving students more real world problems to better prepare them for their future endeavors.