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Editorial: UNM Math Plan Adds Up

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It is a given that the University of New Mexico gets its students after they have completed their elementary and secondary educations, that its freshman-level instructors and professors may have to adjust based on the incoming students they are handed each semester.

But it is not a given that those instructors and professors, and thus their students, will succeed. In fact, the first college math course most students take at UNM, Math 120, has a shocking 50 percent-plus failure rate.

New UNM President Bob Frank has weighed the odds and pushed through adjustments to improve them. The Math Learning Lab, which UNM had been considering, kicks off as a pilot program this fall and should be fully implemented in January. It replaces straight lectures with a three-phase computer lab that has students learning at their own pace with the support of teachers and tutors. The point is for students to finish the course — and ultimately their degree programs — successfully.

UNM suffers from a below-average third-semester retention rate, around 74.1 percent, and a six-year graduation rate of 45 percent.

Some of the blame for those abysmal numbers lies with the state’s K-12 system, strengthening the argument that the state needs to choose a path of reform so students who graduate high school are ready for college.

But the Math Learning Lab shows that universities can and should step up as well, supplementing a desire to provide access to a wide range of students with a goal of ensuring they have the tools needed to complete their degrees.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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