The effect of computer tutorial software as a mode of instruction in intermediate algebra

Georgia Stratton Miller

Abstract

A self-paced intermediate algebra course with computer tutorial software as the mode of instruction was implemented at a private four-year liberal arts college in the fall semester of 1998. The course was designed to provide a review of algebra for students whose mathematics placement test scores indicated that they were not prepared for college level mathematics. The purpose of his qualitative study was to investigate the impact of this computer assisted instruction (CAI) on students' knowledge of mathematics prerequisite to college algebra. Case study methodology was used to discover and describe (1) the impact of the tutorial on the students' ability to solve algebra problems successfully, (2) the experiences students have using CAI, (3) how this mode of instruction compares to that in previous mathematics courses, and (4) the strengths and weaknesses of such a course. The subjects in the study consisted of 12 students who were recommended for placement into intermediate algebra during summer placement testing and registration. During the data collection process, the following groups emerged: five participants, two drop-outs, three college algebra students, and two nonparticipants. Data were collected through interviews of four participants, participants' scores from tutorial sessions and chapter tests, and an interview with one college algebra student. Correspondence with academic advisors, dropouts, and college algebra instructors also provided data. Interviews were audio taped and transcribed. These transcriptions were reviewed by the participants. The data were coded and analyzed by the researcher and a case study report was developed. The main points concerning CAI that emerged from the study were the benefits to students of immediate feedback from the computer, the value of interaction with the computer as a means of learning mathematics, and the advantage of individualized instruction. The study indicated that the primary weaknesses of the course were the self-paced format and the lack of academic credit for course completion. The strengths of the course included clear and consistent instruction, promotion of student involvement, and instructive feedback. Recommendations for the college's intermediate algebra course included the continued use of CAI, the addition of a classroom component, and the award of credit for course completion.