EvCC looks for ways to solve students’ math problems

EVERETT — Math can be a barrier for students seeking a college degree.

To help figure out which strategies work best to help students succeed in math, Everett Community College has been awarded a $39,500 grant.

The grant is from College Spark Washington, a Seattle-based foundation that pays for programs to help low-income students get ready for college and earn their degrees.

The research will begin this summer, building on work that’s been done over the past five to six years, said Christopher Quarles, a math instructor at the college.

The majority of students who come to community colleges in Washington state, including EvCC, need help with remedial math, said Rachel Clements, program officer for College Spark Washington.

One of the biggest stumbling blocks for students, particularly those from low-income families, is graduating from high school. Once that hurdle is cleared, standardized tests show they’re not ready for the rigors of college-level classes.

“They’re not ready for college-level math,” Quarles said. “So the question is how can we help these students get to college level math?”

Of all the students who go into remedial classes in either math or English, fewer than 20 percent ever go on to earn college-level credits in those subjects, Clements said.

Students have to pay for the remedial classes, which are non-credit. “They’re putting in time and money and not earning credits toward a degree,” she said. “A lot get discouraged and leave. A number don’t make it through the course work.”

Completing a math course is a requirement in a number of fields of study, from engineering to social science and liberal arts majors, Quarles said.

One of the questions he is trying to answer with the grant is whether changes made to restructure the math course over the past few years have been effective and whether more changes still need to be made, he said.

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or salyer@heraldnet.com.

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