New MOOC from the Carnegie Foundation aims to revamp math education

Aside from the scarce few with a natural aptitude for the language of numbers, students have a tendency to list math among their least favorite subjects. A new MOOC coming this fall from the Carnegie Foundation and NovoEd has its sights set on breaking down these barriers in mathematics instruction.

The principal trouble for math-averse students is that success in certain mathematical courses -- college math and statistics in particular -- is often necessary for continued education at the postsecondary level. Put simply, students who have a hard time doing math may also have a hard time continuing to the upper division and completing their degree requirements.

Developmental math classes do exist for students who struggle with the pace or methodology of conventional mathematical coursework, but there's trouble there too. According to the Carnegie Foundation, nearly three-quarters of developmental math students never complete their courses. The Foundation presumed this egregious statistic might be a deficiency in the courses rather than in the students, so they've produced a MOOC designed to help sort the problem out.

Entitled "Numbers for Life," the Foundation's revolutionary MOOC is the product of a partnership with online course provider NovoEd, and was designed not to award credit but to gather feedback from students and use it to inform new math MOOCs for 2014. NovoEd has previously produced MOOCs in the fields of business, medicine and computer science -- disciplines that already require advanced mathematical skills -- and they recognize that trouble with developmental math has the potential to deny legions of bright, capable students the ability to fulfill their educational ambitions.

Carnegie senior managing partner Bernadine Chuck Fong heralds the partnership as an opportunity for the Foundation to have a significant effect on overall mathematics education. According to Fong, the Foundation hopes to leverage NovoEd's student-centered, collaborative methods of learning and pedagogy into a long-term educational strategy that Carnegie's Statway and Quantway learning platforms can use to encourage lifelong mathematical understanding. The course aims to add to Carnegie's already formidable record in developmental math instruction, which includes a tripling of student success in such courses over the last two years.

The Numbers for Life curriculum focuses on the importance of numbers in everyday situations, using commonly experienced numbers from current events and advertisements to help students understand the ways that numbers can be used. The five-week online course begins in late October.

"Carnegie Foundation Partners with NovoEd to Address a National Crisis in Mathematics Education," Carnegie Foundation, September 2013
"Numbers for Life," NovoEd Courses, 2013
"Carnegie Foundation, NovoEd Partner on Developmental Math MOOC," Campus Technology, September 24, 2013, Joshua Bolkan
"NovoEd and Carnegie Quantify the Power of Partnerships," EdSurge, September 24, 2013