Grossmont College Math Department’s New Initiatives Add Up to Student Success
Abel Abarca and Math Professor Nemie Capacia work on a math problem.
Abel Abarca had not studied math for nearly a decade when he decided to enroll as a computer science major at Grossmont College in the fall of 2022. The 26-year-old Navy veteran was returning to school after more than six years of military service and admittedly was a little anxious about an upcoming pre-calculus class.
Grossmont College’s Veterans Services department let Abarca know about the Math Department’s new Math Jam, a four-day summer bootcamp that helps prepare students for math classes. Abarca immediately signed up.
The focused preparation made all the difference. Instructors at the Math Jam reviewed key concepts that Abarca said he is still using in his classes.
“The Math Jam went over all the concepts I needed to succeed in my pre-calculus class,” he said. “If I hadn’t done the Math Jam, I would not be doing as well as I am now.”
The specialized student support is part of a significant restructuring of Grossmont College’s Math Department. The changes bring the department under full compliance with AB 705, a state law signed in 2017 that immediately places California community college students into transfer-level coursework in English and math when they enroll.
Following passage, Grossmont’s Math Department began planning to both discontinue pre-transfer level, standalone classes in the department’s two pathways of business STEM and statistics and liberal arts and expand offerings of the transfer-level courses. Fall 2022 is Grossmont College’s first full semester fully implementing AB 705. All students start at transfer-level math.
“Before AB 705, we were placing students based on an assessment math test, a very high stakes math test,” said Math Department Co-Chair Jenny Vanden Eynden. “Too many students were getting caught up in basic skills classes and they couldn’t get through. Now, we’ve cut all those basic skills classes. We gave students one transfer-level class with support and we’re working to get students through their math requirement faster.”
The Math Department is also offering classes with supplemental support sections, called “O” classes. These “O” classes have boosted equitable outcomes by increasing the number of underrepresented students enrolled in transfer-level courses. The Math Department has also transformed its student assessment by replacing the assessment test with a quick, three- question assessment of the student’s highest-level math class completed and grade in it, as well as their overall GPA.
This semester, the Math Department is also embedding mental health counselors from the college’s Health and Wellness Center in the Math Department’s support classes. The mental health counselors provide mental health support to the students including meditation, breathing exercises and more to help support their emotional wellness.
“This is for the students,” said Susan Working, co-chair of the Math Department. “That’s why we created the Math Jam, and we’re creating workshops, and putting embedded tutors in the classroom. We’re going to do everything we can to make sure our students succeed.”
For Abarca, the support from the Math Department is already producing tremendous results.
“This is the first time in my life I’ve held an ‘A' for this long in a math class,” Abarca said. “The Math Department, the Math Jam and the Math Study Center have been fundamental to my success.”