College Prep Utilizes Teaching Method with Superior Results

The College Preparatory division at Piedmont Technical College has introduced a new method of teaching math, called the Emporium method, that is producing a success rate nearly twice that of the national average.

“At PTC, student success has always been our primary concern,” said Lisa Martin, dean. “As our enrollment continues to grow at PTC, we have to look at new ways to deliver instruction to a very diverse population.”

The Emporium method utilizes diagnostic tests and creates individual learning plans for students. The method is based on two principals: the subject should be focused on what the student needs and to learn math you have to do math. Rick Judy, math coordinator in the College Preparatory division, implemented a pilot of the ideas of the method into his math 032 class in Laurens during the spring of 2012.

“Nationally, the success rate for this type of course is 45 percent. So 55 percent of the class fails,” said Judy. “With developmental students, a large percentage of that 55 percent are not going to come back because they’ve just proven to themselves what they always thought they knew- that they were bad at math.”

The pilot class proved to be a success. The success rate for that class was close to 80 percent, an increase from the college’s average of 47 percent. With that success, the pilot was expanded to Greenwood. The program was implemented in all math 032 classes in Greenwood beginning summer 2013.

The class begins like most college classes with a 20-30 minute lecture. Unlike other college classes, after the lecture the instructor becomes an on-demand tutor. The students are doing the math problems that they need to do.

The program is working. At the end of the summer 2013 term, the success rate was 70 percent, a 49 percent increase in the number of students who successfully completed the program. The success rate numbers could rise as high as 81 percent as final grades are completed.

“I tell the students learning math is like riding a bike. You don’t learn to ride a bike by listening to someone talk about it, watching someone ride a bike or reading a book,” Judy said. “You get on the bike, you fall off and you get back on until you learn to ride a bike. Math is the same way.”

Judy said they are stepping up their efforts to provide students with more opportunities to do the work. For the fall, they will introduce a flipped classroom. This will utilize lecture capture videos that will be embedded in D2L. Students will come to class having already seen the video lecture, leaving more time for classwork and one-on-one assistance from the instructors.

“It is a two-pronged approach of the Emporium method, only working on what needs to be worked on and actually doing the math instead of talking about it,” said Judy. “By flipping the classroom and providing even more time to do the math, we are hoping for even greater success.”