MAC5:  Math Across the Community College Curriculum

at Columbia College


What We Did Last Summer


At the MAC 3 Summer Institute, Columbia College initiated the seed efforts in starting a Math Across the Curriculum program at Columbia College, to reach a broad audience of students seeking vocational certificates, degrees and transfer to a four year institution. Our project focused on developing a pilot for our plan to meet the quantitative skills needs of vocational students (attached) and solidifying mathematical connections in general education courses. 


Our plan to address the mathematical needs of vocational students involves infusing their coursework with instruction in problem solving and mathematics.  A module detailing Polya’s problem-solving process was developed at the summer institute and is being delivered by mathematics faculty using the context of problems in the pilot vocational course, Payroll Accounting.  The mathematics instruction varies depending on the class and student needs. 


Payroll Accounting was the first vocational course enhanced by this infused model of instruction this Fall semester.  Thus far, the mathematics instruction has included an introduction to problem solving, number sense in the context of error detection, decimals and percentages in the context of withholdings and the use and rearrangement of formulas for supplemental payments.  Continued use and rearrangement of formulas will soon be used in the context of penalty calculations and the use of problem solving strategies will be revisited in decision making regarding payroll accounting practices.   Clearly, it has required considerable collaboration to execute a “just in time” approach to the problems students encounter in their vocational classes, and this work began at the summer institute with regard to the pilot course, Payroll Accounting.


Continuing the MAC5 Plan


At the winter institute, we plan to continue to develop the infused model of instruction by revising the problem solving module for use throughout the vocational curriculum and further developing our plan to identify and address the quantitative skills needs of our vocational students.  The infused math instruction approach assists us in identifying some students needing further math instruction in our vocational programs but we hope to design an assessment instrument and process at the winter institute to use in the Fall that will reach a broader audience.  We would recommend students not meeting the workplace expectations for math competency take a course currently under development, Applied Math for the Workplace, which will help students succeed in achieving Work Readiness Certifications recommended by Workforce Investment Boards and various advisory groups at the local, regional and state level.  The team expects to make significant progress in the development of this course as a hybrid offering at the winter institute.  We envision this hybrid course to be a short, late start course, offered in part online but with face to face meetings for instruction and support.  


At the MAC3 winter institute we hope to:


ü      Revise the problem solving module, prepare to print a preliminary edition for use in vocational programs with continued use of the infused instruction model.


ü      Design an assessment instrument and process for identifying vocational students in need of mathematics instruction as many currently do not assess their skills in mathematics.


ü      Develop a hybrid course “Applied Math in the Workplace” that is well coordinated with vocational programs.


The course, Applied Math in the Workplace will include the following topics at various levels of difficulty presented in workplace contexts:


·         Measurement, Time and Money

·         Ratios, Proportions and Percents

·         Fractions, Decimals and Percents

·         Rates, Averages and Formulas

·         Area, Perimeter and Volume (Geometry)

·         Data displays


A sample of how the content of the course can be coordinated with some vocational programs is summarized in the table below:



Targeted Course

 (if any)

Application Focus

Math Content

Business Administration

Payroll Accounting

Wages, Taxes, Penalties

Decimals, percentages, formulas, data displays

Hospitality Management

Restaurant Math

Meal Planning, Recipes, Cost Analysis, Waste Management

Ratio and proportions, measurement, percentage increase


Forest Surveying

Surveying, Indirect Measurement, Slopes

Measurement, ratio and proportion,  right triangle trigonometry

Child Development

Advanced Child Care Administration

Budget, Payroll

Measurement (time and money), decimals, percentages

Fire Tech


Standard operating procedures, water pressure, ladder deployment

Measurement, estimation, rates, formulas, ratios,  data displays



Diagnostics, forms

Measurement, proportions, formulas, data displays



Blueprints, setup scenarios, troubleshooting

Measurement, geometry, proportions, formulas


This course should extend the infused mathematics instruction with contextual instruction.  Coordinating the scheduling of this course with assessment and program offerings is essential to effectiveness.


Institutional Practices and Support


Columbia College has embarked on a college-wide effort to promote academic wellness and basic skills development.  This together with the recommendations of employers and community advisory groups for Work Readiness Certifications which include academic competencies in reading, writing and mathematics, there is wide spread institutional support for Math Across the Curriculum at Columbia College. 


A college committee, Academic Wellness Educators (AWE), was formed to ensure collaboration with regard to learning support. The mission of this committee is to promote academic wellness in a climate of growth and improvement throughout the entire college community for students at all levels of preparation. Academic wellness implies a broad approach to student learning and support.   It is proactive, pervasive, and holistic, much as wellness is to health.  The notion of academic wellness encompasses skill development, application of knowledge, navigation of the collegiate and/or work environment and all components that contribute to the overall development of the successful lifelong learner. The AWE committee, chaired by our Vice President of Student Learning, supports the team’s participation in the MAC3 institutes by integrating this project into planning documents as well as showcasing MAC3 in an e-bulletin on the AWE webpage which is linked to the college homepage.  AWE also sponsored a FLEX (staff development) activity during our in-service day this fall by our team encouraging instructors to use and require graphical displays of quantitative information in their courses.  This activity helped to raise the awareness of the quantitative skills required of college students and opened the dialogue necessary to connect mathematics with other courses in a variety of ways. 


The Dean of Vocational Programs is highly committed to providing students with the opportunity to acquire the skills necessary to find and retain positions in the increasingly demanding workplace.  He continues to support our team’s attendance at the MAC3 Institute, the implementation of the infused model of instruction, staff development activities as well as assessing and addressing instructional needs in mathematics.  Being a small college, the teaching and learning communities developed from this effort will likely remain informal since hard linked courses greatly impact our schedule, but teaching under the infused and contextual models of instruction are both promising and practical.


Should our team be selected to participate in the winter institute and reach our goals of revising the problem solving module for vocational courses, developing a plan for assessing student needs and a hybrid course to address them we will be well on the way to a successful Math Across the Curriculum program at Columbia College. 



About the team


The Columbia College team was brought together by a common interest in the academic well being of our students, dedication to student success and recognition of the importance of mathematical/quantitative literacy. 


Anne Cavagnaro, Mathematics Instructor and member of SIGMAA QL (Special Interest Group of the Mathematical Association of America in Quantitative Literacy), AWE (Academic Wellness Educators), Career TOOLS for Excellence Committee and Columbia College Curriculum Committee.  I’m responsible for this application, collaborating on revising and delivering the problem solving module within vocational courses, coordinating the assessment process mentioned and developing the math content for the hybrid course “Applied Mathematics for the Workplace”, submitting it for curriculum approval and will likely teach the course in the Fall 2008.


Ida Ponder is a Business Administration and Computer Information Systems instructor and active member of the Career TOOLS for Excellence Committee.  Ida supports the plan to address the quantitative needs of vocational students, agreed to pilot the problem solving module and team teach a portion of her courses with math faculty. She will assist with the necessary revisions to the Problem Solving module.  Ida is an enthusiastic advocate for our Math Across the Curriculum project, the infused and contextual models of instruction and has suggested it as the theme for the next fall Instructional Skills Workshop.


Casey Bonavia is the coordinator of Columbia College’s Math Resource Center.  Casey conducted the initial review of vocational curriculum and assisted in the development of the problem solving module for vocational students.  She will continue to be an integral part of our Math Across the Curriculum program and provide ongoing instructional support for students in math and non math courses throughout its implementation.  Since she is familiar with the curriculum in many vocational programs and the associated expectations of math competencies she is best suited to design an assessment instrument and will be a valuable resource for contextual problems for the Applied Math in the Workplace course.  


Melissa Colón is an Instructional Technology Instructor, teaching in the Computer Science Department and coordinating our Instructional Technology Center.  Melissa also serves as the California Educational Technology Collaborative (CETC) ambassador to Columbia. As an active member of the Career Tools for Excellence Team, Academic Wellness Educators, Technology Committee and chair of the Distance Education Committee she is ideal to assist with developing the online environment for the hybrid course and continue to keep Math Across the Curriculum efforts highly visible with her multimedia talents through the AWE webpage. 


In closing, Columbia College is in the early stages of an effective Math Across the Curriculum program.  Our project is focused on common interests in student success in the collegiate and work environments.  We have included key people throughout the planning process and gathered an excellent team for implementation.  This winter institute will provide us with valuable and much needed time to collaborate with each other and those with more experience.  Thank you for your consideration, we hope you will accept our application to participate and anxiously await your decision.