'Adding It Up' Part 1: 'The Hurdle of Remedial Math at a Community College'

Monday, October 05, 2009


Community colleges serve almost half of all college students in the nation. Graduation rates are low, hovering around 30% after 3 years, and a majority of students need remedial help, especially in math. This is the case in New York City where community colleges are seeing a huge influx of new students. This semester, WNYC’s Beth Fertig is visiting a remedial class at LaGuardia Community College in Queens, to see why math is such an obstacle.

Listen to Part 1:

Hear more voices and see some of the students here.

About Remedial Math

So what is remedial math? Community college students at the City University of New York wind up in remedial math when they fail an assessment test called COMPASS. Incoming students who scored at least a 75 on their high school Math Regents, or above a 480 on their Math SAT, are exempt from taking this assessment. Students who have previous degrees are also exempt.

Community colleges often refer to remedial courses as “developmental education” classes. There are two levels of developmental math at LaGuardia Community College. The lower level (Math 095) includes signed numbers, fractions, decimals, percents, basic geometry and some algebra. It’s about the same level as middle school math and it’s intended for students with little or no algebra background. The second level (Math 096) is considered “a careful treatment of elementary algebra” and covers ninth and tenth grade math. For those who don't remember, that's graphing, linear equations, functional concepts, rules of exponents, factoring, and complex fractions. Students use a textbook which is also available online. There are online homework assignments and quizzes in addition to those in class.

This report was compiled with assistance from the Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media at Columbia University.


More in:

Comments [8]


Best of luck to these students. They are trying to learn and improve which is the important thing.

Jun. 04 2010 03:57 PM
Prof. M. Millman

LaGuardia Community College of the City University of New York is a scandal waiting to explode. You are invited to visit to see the deleterious effect of administrative corruption on education and, in particular, how cronyism, rampant grade inflation, fraudulent course material and fraudulent remedial exams have rendered the Mathematics and English Departments dysfunctional. With more than 158,000 visits to date, the website aims to inform all colleges, education associations, interested taxpayers, elected officials and news media in the New York City vicinity.

Dec. 20 2009 10:14 AM

My comment is for the reporter, Beth Fertig. After her many years as a reporter, I was appalled at her poor pronunciation of hispanic-rooted names. I'm not asking her to pronounce them with an accent, as it is clear she doesn't speak Spanish, however when interviewing people that have hispanic names, i.e. Jesus, Ms. Fertig should at least try to pronounce them correctly. For example, Jesus, as most people know, is pronounced Hey-zooz not like "jeezus" as Ms. Fertig pronounced it in her interview If she had bothered to practice her pronunciation, her report wouldn't have sounded like nails on a chalkboard.

Editor's Note: WNYC reporters pronounce names the way their interview subjects say them.

Dec. 18 2009 09:03 AM
WNYC - WNYC News Blog » Adding It Up

[...] ‘Adding It Up’ Part 1: Confronting Math Fear Community colleges serve almost half of all college students in the nation. Graduation rates are low — hovering around 30 percent after three years — and a majority of students need remedial help, especially in math. This is the case in New York City, where community colleges are seeing a huge influx of new students. WNYC News Blog: Meet the Class of ‘Adding It Up’ WNYC News Blog: The Hurdle of Remedial... [...]

Dec. 11 2009 01:13 PM

Excuse me Debbie but who are you to judge me or anyone else, I took algebra 30 years ago when I was 11 years old!!

Nov. 15 2009 10:36 AM

Excuse me, I meant to type *course*

Oct. 29 2009 09:42 AM

Debbie, Im not sure you really do understand. I happen to be in this particular class and Math has not been the strongest of subjects for me but I excel in all other disciplines. I have a 3.9 grade point average, I have a full coarse load, I work, supporting myself and I am not the only one. Just because someone does poorly in one subject is no way to analyze a persons character or capacity to learn. You know why these 'folks' are college material? Because they are there despite everything everyone told them- like not being college material.

Oct. 22 2009 03:27 PM

None of these folks seem to be college material. Now I understand the new community college sitcom. I would rather see the money used to lower the amount qualified students have to borrow to attend college as opposed to government subsidies to these folks who clearly should never have received a high school diploma.

Oct. 08 2009 08:09 PM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.


Latest Newscast




WNYC is supported by the Charles H. Revson Foundation: Because a great city needs an informed and engaged public


Supported by