The Department of Mathematics and Applied Mathematics is beginning a new program called the Math Exchange, designed to deliver innovative Pre-Calculus (Math 151) instruction. The Exchange employs up-to-date software developed by ALEKS, born from a National Science Foundation grant on the study of knowledge spaces, an area within artificial intelligence.
This cutting-edge software breaks down the myriad of skills and techniques within a topic and scaffolds them according to their various relationships with one another. Then it simultaneously challenges and assesses students along these lines, helping students to master material by identifying and repairing weaknesses along the way. ALEKS continues to reinforce methods as well, in order to build long-term mastery.
Due to the success of its use at nearly 3,000 universities and colleges, VCU has invested in developing it here. With 2,000—2,500 students taking Math 151 each year as a prerequisite to studies in disciplines from STEM to Business, the Exchange has the potential to affect roughly one third of all undergraduates, impacting almost every major on campus.
With some lucky timing, sufficient space opened up on Grace St. just as the Department of Mathematics was in the midst of planning the Exchange. Campus police moved into their new environs between the Medical and Monroe Park campuses this past Fall, and reconstruction of 940 W. Grace St. (between N. Harrison St. and the Grace St. Theater) began immediately.
The new interior includes a variety of group-oriented study and seminar spaces, through which instructors and teaching assistants can move to assist individualized learning. Plans are also in the works to incorporate both recorded and live video for supplemental learning support.
To better develop, improve, and master our implementation of the Exchange, mathematics education expert Dr. Aimee Ellington will study the program over the course of three semesters. Half of our sections will be traditional and half will use ALEKS. Feedback from students, along with their results in Pre-Calculus and subsequent courses, will help to inform our direction as we grow and include more components.
Inauguration day is Tuesday, January 17 — stop by and peek in!