Acceleration in Mathematics (AIM)

Photo_Anderson Foxley

JP Anderson, Ph.D., & Kristen Foxley

JP Anderson (Ph.D., Rice) and Kristen Foxley (M.S., University of Houston—Clear Lake) have been teaching math for over 20 years. They share not only a passion for teaching, but for running as well, and have been running together for the past 10 years. Both JP and Kristen were part of the original design team for AIM and have been co-teachers since its beginning in 2012.  In addition to working with students, they enjoy providing professional development for faculty on ways to incorporate active learning in the classroom and presenting on AIM at conferences at the local, state, and national level. 

Nationwide, over 40% of students enter college needing one or more developmental courses. Unfortunately, traditional methods of remediation are not successful in preparing students for success in credit-bearing courses. In Texas, for example, only 12% of community college students who begin in developmental math courses will pass a gateway math course, such as college algebra, within 2 years (Complete College America, 2016). Although counterintuitive to some practitioners, many colleges have improved success through accelerated course offerings (Jaggars, Edgecombe, and Stacey, 2014), with corequisite models showing particular promise (Complete College America, 2016).

After implementing such a model, Acceleration in Mathematics (AIM), in Fall 2012, San Jacinto College has seen a significant improvement in student success. A study of seven long semesters’ data showed that 64.1% of AIM students passed college algebra with a grade of C or better, compared to 44.8% in traditional college algebra classes. This is especially notable since the majority of AIM students who are placed into developmental math courses are one or two levels below college algebra. Moreover, AIM narrowed the success gap for Hispanic students—approximately half of our student population—from 6% to less than 1%. In addition to AIM’s impact on students’ cognitive learning and academic success of students, a separate study showed improvements in their attitudes, feelings, and mindset regarding their mathematical abilities (Campbell, 2015).

Acceleration in Mathematics is a one-semester corequisite pairing of math courses that allows students who are not college ready in mathematics to complete all developmental requirements as well as college algebra in a single semester. Students who take AIM sign up for two classes: a three-contact-hour developmental course and a four-contact-hour college algebra course.  A typical AIM section meets Monday through Friday for a total of seven hours each week. AIM is team-taught by two instructors, one experienced in teaching traditional college algebra and one who specializes in developmental math instruction, both of whom are in the classroom for all class meetings and who share equally in the teaching duties.

  • Just-in-Time Remediation. Unlike traditional multi-semester or accelerated sequential remediation models, which teach basic skills weeks or months before they are needed in college algebra, AIM integrates these skills right before they are needed in the college algebra curriculum. For example, simplification of radical expressions is introduced just before the quadratic equation.
  • Streamlining. AIM focuses on learning objectives prescribed by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. Some skills that have been part of the traditional developmental math curriculum, but which are not needed for college algebra, such as rationalizing the denominator, have been eliminated.
  • Active Learning. Daily lessons alternate brief lectures with small-group practice activities. To maximize student interaction and foster a sense of community, instructors use a technique called “clock partners” to pair students with a different practice partner each day.
  • Low-Stakes Assessment/Prompt Feedback. AIM students turn in daily homework assignments of approximately 25 questions. A portion of the problems are graded, and the assignments are returned the following day. Answer keys are available online for the ungraded problems. Students are tested every other week, for a total of seven unit tests and a final exam. Each unit test counts only 9% of the semester grade, making it possible for students to recover from one or two setbacks.
  • Cumulative Review. Every homework assignment and exam contains review problems to help students maintain essential skills throughout the semester.
  • Learning Resources. AIM students have online access to instructor-authored videos providing examples of all topics and worked-out solutions to the exam review sheets. San Jacinto College’s Student Success Center has a designated AIM table for on-campus tutoring. Also, thanks to the strong sense of class community, AIM students often form study groups on their own.

AIM has proven most successful for students required to take college algebra for their associate’s degree. To support students who would benefit from an alternative math pathway, however, the college has begun offering corequisite courses for developmental students seeking credit in a statistics or quantitative reasoning course. Early results show that these pathways show similar promise.


Campbell, P.S. (2016). Self-Efficacy in a Co-requisite Model of Developmental Mathematics and College Algebra: A Qualitative Analysis of Student Perceptions (Doctoral Dissertation). Retrieved from

Complete College America. (2016). Corequisite Remediation: Spanning the Completion Divide. Retrieved from

Jaggars, S. S., Edgecombe, N., & Stacey, G. W. (2014). What we know about accelerated developmental education. New York, NY: Columbia University, Teachers College, Community College Research Center.


Beyond Pro and Con: Re-thinking MOOCs

william j barry profile 2016 (1)

William J. Barry

While pursuing his research interests, which include effective technology use, especially among students in transition, William J. Barry teaches developmental reading at St. Edward’s University.  He also trains adult educators in partnership with the Texas Center for the Advancement of Literacy and Learning (TCALL), and teaches first-year seminar at Texas State University, where he is a PhD candidate in developmental education.

Questions of access and affordability remain at the heart of the developmental education discussion (Braun, 2016; Floyd, Felsher, & Ramdin, 2016), and as the results of Moore’s Law continue to bring the world increasingly powerful technology, stakeholders turn to ones and zeroes for answers.  Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) represent one such proposal enjoying ample coverage in the literature (e.g., Bastedo, 2016; McClure, 2016).  Advocates say MOOCs increase the accessibility of high-quality education while decreasing the costs (Carey, 2012; Teo, 2015), and critics point to the low academic rigor of MOOCs, while suggesting they profit at the expense of faculty and students (Axmann & Atkins, 2016; Marshall, 2014).

Despite this crucial debate, MOOC critiques rarely consider college students’ perceptions and attitudes.  While administrators, faculty, and media argue apace, it remains unclear how students view MOOCs.  As an educator in the developmental space, I consider students the primary stakeholders.  As such, I expect MOOC policy to benefit students first.  I expect researchers and faculty interested in MOOCs to focus on how students perceive these issues.  After all, their education faces significant transformation in the face of widespread MOOC implementation.

Such expectations drew my attention to a recent study (Cole & Timmerman, 2015), which examined students’ MOOC perceptions.  Using thematic analysis, Cole and Timmerman (2015) suggested students believe MOOCs hold the potential to augment lifelong learning, even though they serve as inferior alternatives to traditional coursework.  Students made their determinations based on several interesting criteria (see Figure 1), which suggest a deeper appreciation for what works in education.  These kinds of nuanced student responses also suggest the value of asking deeper questions regarding MOOC utility, rather than yielding to seductive pro/con binaries.  Answers to such questions inform decisions with regard to the place of MOOCs in higher education, and those decisions stand to affect each one of us in yet unseen ways.

Figure 1.

bill barrys infograph

Click on image to enlarge.


Axmann, M., & Atkins, R. (2016). Online community-based practices for massive open online courses (MOOCs) at Open Universities Australia: A case Study. User-Centered Design Strategies for Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), 83.

Bastedo, M. N. (2016). American higher education in the twenty-first century: Social, political, and economic challenges. Baltimore, MD: JHU Press.

Braun, H. (2016). The dynamics of opportunity in America: A working framework. In The Dynamics of Opportunity in America (pp. 137-164). New York: Springer International Publishing.

Carey, K. (2012, September 7). Into the future with MOOCs. Chronicle of Higher Education, 59(2), 29.

Cole, A. W., & Timmerman, C. E. (2015). What do current college students think about MOOCs? MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 11, 188-201.

Floyd, D. L., Felsher, R. A., & Ramdin, G. (2016). A retrospective of four decades of community college research. Community College Journal of Research and Practice40(1), 5-22.

Marshall, S. (2014). Exploring the ethical implications of MOOCs. Distance Education, 35, 250-262. doi:10.1080/01587919.2014.917706

McClure, M. W. (2016). Investing in MOOCs: “Frenemy” risk and information quality. In Globalisation and Higher Education Reforms (pp. 77-94). New York: Springer International Publishing.

Teo, T. H. (2015). Just-in-time teaching visual instruction for cohort base interactive learning for engineering course. GSTF Journal on Education (JEd)3(1).