Mathematics Department Policies
(last modified August 2015)
A. General Philosophy for Developmental Courses (Basic Math, Algebra, and Geometry)
We believe quite strongly that when teaching the developmental courses, every effort must be made to get the student back on track mathematically. The material must be patiently presented, not just "run by" the student. Students' questions must be given the highest priority. Students should never be made to feel that they or their questions are stupid. Other policies may have to be adjusted to meet this concern. For example, students could be allowed to retake chapter tests on which they score poorly. To help in this area, computer generated exams for Basic Math and an Algebra I test-generating program are available in the Math Learning Center (MLC). Contact the MLC Coordinator in Hyman Hall, Room HH-218 or HH-219 (extension 6215) if you have any questions.
Your grading policy might also take into account the time that a student spends working on computer programs in the MLC. Numerous programs are available to supplement our courses and you will receive a printout at the end of the semester to verify time spent on the computers by your students. In short, whatever the instructor can do to encourage and motivate the student should be given top priority. We also believe that the topics assigned on the coverage sheet are the maximum that can be covered in the allotted time. If you have time to cover more, you probably have moved too quickly through the material. On the other hand, a few sections might possibly be omitted if deemed necessary for better understanding.
B. General Philosophy for Transfer Courses (above Algebra II)
In teaching the transfer courses, however, we see the need for a more consistent and uniform approach. Whether a class is taught by a full-time or by a part-time instructor, the student should encounter similar demands, policies, and expectations. This means that the course content as outlined in the coverage sheet must be covered. Sections must not be deleted nor supplemented. Instructors should not skip a topic listed on the coverage sheet, even though they think that it should have been learned in some previous course or even if it is covered in another course. We are not suggesting that student questions need to be ignored or left unanswered due to pressure to cover your topics. You may occasionally have to refer questions to outside class time or perhaps to a tutor in the MLC when the completion of the course content is in jeopardy. In no instance should a student's question be treated as unimportant.
First, we believe very strongly that there should be frequent testing. Tests should allow for partial credit and not be predominantly made up of multiple choice or true-false questions. Take-home tests should rarely, if ever, be given. Also, the Department generally discourages open book and open notes testing. It is recognized that in a few courses it might be appropriate to allow a page of notes or even an open book, such as in some statistics chapters, or 101C. However, in courses below this level, most of the material should be learned well enough to be recalled. Final exams must be comprehensive and taken at the scheduled time. No final exam should be completely take-home.
Written assignments must be given and some motivational device used to ensure that students do them. Some instructors may choose to grade homework and to assign a percent of the course grade to the quality and/or quantity of the assignments submitted. Others may choose to delete a poor test score if the homework record was good. There may be considerable variation in the way this is handled, as long as the student is made to see the importance of doing the homework. You should be aware that some solution manuals are available for student use in the MLC. However, it is Departmental policy not to grant permission for students to purchase these from the publisher.
We believe that there are two obvious extremes that instructors should try to avoid. Students should not become so dependent on the calculator that they do not understand the underlying mathematics. Neither should its use be ignored, as it is an important tool.
F. Word Problems
Whether teaching developmental courses or transfer courses, the Math Department strongly feels that word problem applications are a very important part of the curriculum and should be given due emphasis in class and on tests.
To achieve some uniformity and consistency within the Department, we ask that you follow the guidelines presented here. If any new instructor or part-time instructor has any concerns or questions about a particular course or Departmental policy, he/she should feel free to contact Andy Bloom or the Dean of Science, Engineering, and Mathematics, or a full-time math instructor.