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Dr. Ward teaching math
Dr. Ward and students

Do the math!: Jacksonville University introduces Just-In-Time math modules to accelerate student learning

Just-In-Time teaching is a well-established method of instruction designed decades ago to accelerate student learning through the use of classroom activities and work that students do at home in preparation for class. It has been widely and successfully implemented across the nation.

Jacksonville University is incorporating this philosophy in a new initiative.

Made possible through I-DID grant funding, professors Dr. Daniel Franz, Dr. Amanda McGraw, Dr. Daniel Moseley, and Dr. Erika Ward are developing a site with videos and problems for students to review mathematical concepts for various courses both at the undergraduate and graduate levels. 

These faculty members are meeting a need on campus: an efficient method for students to refresh the specific math skills needed for higher level courses, without having to take another course or spend valuable class time on prerequisite knowledge. After socializing this idea on campus, they found that this need extended to other disciplines such as chemistry and psychology. 

“We were finding that students who had taken prerequisite classes in the past were struggling to apply the skills in their classes, whether due to the time since the class or just the different context. This led to us brainstorming about a way to help these other departments. Along the way, we decided we could help our own students in the math department as well,” says Dr. Franz.

In many cases, it has been years since students first learned foundational math concepts, and in high school, they might not have had the opportunity to apply the skills they learned in practical scenarios. Dr. Ward gave an example, “Just because a student learned about lines in an algebra class doesn’t mean they remember how to interpret slope as a rate of change in an Economics class.”

Dr. Franz is leading this project as well as coding the online modules, which are accessible through a website. Each module contains a short video lesson (about 5 minutes) and some interactive questions for students to practice. Dr. Amanda McGraw from Psychology is the co-PI and is obtaining useful assessments from students and faculty to help measure the success of the project and improve it for future use. 

“When asked to participate in the JIT math project I was extremely excited, largely due to my background studying math anxiety (and working with my colleagues in the math department). I thought this project would be a great opportunity to create a resource for students who need a refresher on math topics,” says Dr. McGraw. 

McGraw added, “I am interested to see how variables like math anxiety, math utility, and math confidence relate to students’ perceptions and usage of the JIT Math materials. I believe that creating low-stakes, non-stressful math aids like JIT Math could help combat the negative impacts of math anxiety on math performance. I’m excited to see what we find from this project.”

Mathematics professors Kevin Mierzwinski and Chieu Duong are recording the videos and writing the problems. Students will also be involved in the video editing and coding processes as the professors increase the scope of the project.

“We are treating this semester as a pilot for the project and are very excited to expand to other courses and disciplines in future semesters. The goal is to use feedback to continuously improve the effectiveness and delivery of existing modules and to help with the development of future modules. We see a role for this project in any discipline that uses prerequisite math skills and would love to work with other departments across campus,” says Dr. Franz. 

“Professors from any discipline could reach out to have a module created on a particular topic,” added Dr. Moseley. 

This project was funded through an internal grant program called I-DID: I Did It Differently. Funded by the Florida State Department of Education, the I-DID grant program is an EPIC-supported initiative that is managed by the Jacksonville University Office of Research and Sponsored Programs.

By Jenna Blyler