This summer, I am helping to develop a new mathematics course, Intro to Workplace Mathematics. The motivation for, content of the course, and context of the mathematics are all designed to graduate technical students who are ready to enter the workforce with the appropriate mathematical skills.
The motivation of Intro to Workplace Mathematics is to have a course that gets technical students prepared for their technical mathematics course without extra material and with real-world context for all of the mathematics. When Kentucky adopted the Common Core Standards, the Council on Postsecondary Education, which oversees all two-year and four-year colleges and universities in Kentucky, decided that developmental education should also match the same standards. The result was the addition of mathematics topics that are geared solely towards students preparing for College Algebra or other general education mathematics classes at a four-year college. However, these additional topics are not required by students who are seeking a two-year technical degree. Techical students have a different set of mathematical requirements, which focus on applied mathematics problems.
In developing the course, input for the content of Intro to Workplace Mathematics came from two different courses. The first source was a survey of technical faculty and industry representatives. The second source was a review of the competencies of the technical mathematics courses offered by KCTCS. The competencies of the course are:
- Convert between units of length.
- Use significant digits to show the accuracy of a measurement.
- Use and interpret scientific notation.
- Simplify algebraic expressions using the properties of algebra, including the distributive law and combining like terms.
- Solve linear equations in one variable.
- Translate verbal statements into algebraic expressions.
- Solve literal equations for a given variable.
- Solve problems with percentages, ratios, and proportions.
- Plot points on a rectangular coordinate system.
- Graph lines from their equation.
- Find the intercepts of a line from the graph or equation.
- Calculate the slope of a line from the graph, equation, or two given points.
- Interpret slope as a rate of change in applications.
- Simplify algebraic expressions using the rules of exponents.
- Use appropriate technology to solve application problems.
- Solve applied problems using the above competencies within appropriate contexts.
For me, the most fun will be developing the real-world context for the course material. The goal is to make the question “When are we ever going to use this?” irrelevant. This summer, I will be spending my time combing through technical textbooks and conferring with technical faculty to find the best applications of the mathematical content. My guiding principle is the work done by Dan Meyer on pseudocontext, which is math word problems that would never occur in a real-world context.
I am looking forward to working on Intro to Workplace Mathematics. Students in technical programs provide a vital service in the US workforce. By developing a mathematics course with the motivation, content, and context requried by these students, they will be better prepared for their future employment.