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CA college adopts WVU Parkersburg's model for infusing math into technical courses

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Sierra College of Rocklin, Calif., has adopted West Virginia University at Parkersburg's IGNITE model (infusing general education into technical education), WVU Parkersburg announced Friday.

The Sierra team chose to infuse basic math skills into its welding curriculum based on WVU Parkersburg's pilot of infused mathematics.

WVU Parkersburg began the IGNITE program in 2009 as part of a National Science Foundation Applied Technology Education project. The program's focus is to make mathematics relevant and meaningful by infusing mathematics skills and competencies directly into the technical content that students are learning.

Preliminary results are positive and encouraging, according to senior vice president for academic affairs Rhonda Tracy.

"We believe we have a national model that we can share with other colleges, such as Sierra College," Tracy said in a news release. "We will continue to explore innovative and research-based models for improving the mathematics skills of our students. We have excellent, creative faculty who can make this work."

Sierra College formed an interdisciplinary infusion team consisting of the welding and math department chairs and the director of the Center for Applied Competitive Technologies (CACT), an economic and workforce development initiative funded by the California Community College chancellor's office.

Feedback from regional employers in northern California region revealed that a majority of their skilled employees lack the ability to effectively apply fractions, whole numbers, decimals, adding, subtracting, multiplication and division into their work skills, according to a WVU Parkersburg news release. The IGNITE approach would allow students to engage in hands-on, applied learning methodologies that better meet students' learning styles and preferences.

The belief is that students will learn better by applying the math strategies in a work-type setting.

WVU Parkersburg's IGNITE program will expand to include the infusion of writing skills into technical coursework, and further funding to support this enhanced focus is under way.

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