Seeking mathematics success for college students: a randomized field trial of an adapted approach

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International Journal of Mathematical Education in Science and Technology







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Many students enter the Canadian college system with insufficient mathematical ability and leave the system with little improvement. Those students who enter with poor mathematics ability typically take a developmental mathematics course as their first and possibly only mathematics course. The educational experiences that comprise a developmental mathematics course vary widely and are, too often, ineffective at improving students’ ability. This trend is concerning, since low mathematics ability is known to be related to lower rates of success in subsequent courses. To date, little attention has been paid to the selection of an instructional approach to consistently apply across developmental mathematics courses. Prior research suggests that an appropriate instructional method would involve explicit instruction and practising mathematical procedures linked to a mathematical concept. This study reports on a randomized field trial of a developmental mathematics approach at a college in Ontario, Canada. The new approach is an adaptation of the JUMP Math program, an explicit instruction method designed for primary and secondary school curriculae, to the college learning environment. In this study, a subset of courses was assigned to JUMP Math and the remainder was taught in the same style as in the previous years. We found consistent, modest improvement in the JUMP Math sections compared to the non-JUMP sections, after accounting for potential covariates. The findings from this randomized field trial, along with prior research on effective education for developmental mathematics students, suggest that JUMP Math is a promising way to improve college student outcomes.


college mathematics education, developmental mathematics, remedial mathematics, JUMP math, explicit instruction


Mathematics and Statistics