Many high school students across Nebraska and the country struggle with math skills, a challenge that increases as they enter post-secondary institutions. In order to assist high schools in their efforts to find a solution, the six Nebraska community colleges joined forces to develop a program to help high school students become college-math ready by the time they graduate.
The Nebraska Math Readiness Project (NMRP) was developed by the community colleges to provide a bridge to success for high school juniors and seniors needing to improve their math skills before enrolling in a college-level math course. The statewide project began in 2018 and WNCC has been onboard since its inception with Alliance, Gering, and Scottsbluff high schools taking part in the pilot. In the Panhandle, the program continues to grow in just its third year with 90 students enrolled.
All eight students at Alliance that enrolled last fall completed the Basic Math-Level I; 19 of Gering’s 29 students completed the Basic Math Level I and two completed the Introductory Algebra-Level II. Scottsbluff had 53 students enrolled, with 34 successfully completing Level I and four completing Level II.
Laurie Parker, a math teacher at Gering High School, helped launch the program at Gering. She said one of the biggest challenges was identifying the key audience that the classes would help. Once that audience was identified, the program took off.
“The biggest challenge at the beginning of implementing the course at Gering High School was figuring out which students would benefit from being placed into the program,” Parker said. “Once we figured out our target audience, our numbers have continued to grow. We currently have two sections with 31 students and are looking to add additional sections next school year.”
WNCC math instructors like Amy Winters and Andrew Shiers support the high school teachers in developing curriculum and material while monitoring the progress of students. Ellen Dillon, associate dean, is the lead of the NMRP at WNCC and assists in coordinating efforts with the regional schools and the state director Corey Hatt, of Central Community College. While the courses are not for college credit, the students improve their math skills and are better prepared to enroll in a college course.
“We are in our third year of the program and I think it is awesome that students have this opportunity,” Winters said. “The program allows them to move through the material they know and focus on the areas where they need more practice. The high school teachers involved with the program do a great job with their students.”
The project has proven effective in its three years, with 219 total students in the Panhandle taking part in the project. More than 130 of those students have gone on to enroll in at least one math class at WNCC.
“NMRP has given students in Gering a course that allows them to work on strengthening their math skills, with the idea of preparing them to be ready to move into college level courses,” Parker said. “The biggest advantage of this course has been that students are able to work at their own rate and focus on their particular weak areas.”
As the program continues to grow, the NMRP is planning to add more high schools for the next academic year.