A study comparing a pre-algebra approach versus a basic math approach of presenting fundamental arithmetic and algebra skills to remedial mathematics college students

Linda June Hester Marable, Tennessee State University


This study investigated the effect of resequencing topics in a college remedial mathematics class. One sequencing was referred to as the prealgebra approach and presented algebra topics early in the semester. This approach provided longer exposure and more practice throughout the semester time period than the traditional sequencing which was referred to as the basic math approach. The participants of the study were the students who enrolled in the daytime remedial math classes (RSM 0703) at Nashville State Technical Institute for Fall 1993. The classes met three times a week. Placement of students into the remedial math classes had been made on the basis of the mathematics subtests of the Academic Assessment and Placement Program (AAPP) tests. There were eight class sections in all. Four of these sections were randomly chosen to be the prealgebra classes (RSM 0703-A). The prealgebra group was composed of students from these classes. The students in the remaining four classes became members of the basic math group (RSM 0703-B). At the end of the semester, the prealgebra group and basic math group were given the arithmetic portion of the AAPP test as a posttest and a departmental test designed to assess mastery of the algebra content of the RSM course. A t-test was performed on the AAPP posttest scores to compare the arithmetic skills for the two groups. The null hypothesis that there was no significant difference between groups in arithmetic skills was supported. A second t-test revealed that there was also no significant difference between the prealgebra group and the basic math group in algebra readiness as measured by a departmental test. The analysis of the final grades received by the RSM 0703 students revealed no significant differences in the pass rates or in performance level of successful completers as measured by grades received. Chi-square tests of significance were used in this analysis. The second phase of the study included all students who completed RSM 0703 successfully and enrolled in elementary algebra (DSM 0803) in Spring 1994. The pass rates and performance levels of the basic math group and the prealgebra group were again compared using chi-square tests of significance. No significant differences were found. Although no significant differences were found for the six hypotheses that had been posed, the prealgebra students performed at a higher level and succeeded in the elementary algebra at a higher rate. Based on the findings and observations made in this study, the prealgebra students seemed to have a better understanding of beginning algebra than did the basic math students.

Subject Area

Mathematics education|Higher education

Recommended Citation

Linda June Hester Marable, "A study comparing a pre-algebra approach versus a basic math approach of presenting fundamental arithmetic and algebra skills to remedial mathematics college students" (1994). ETD Collection for Tennessee State University. Paper AAI9608779.