Exploring best practices in developmental mathematics

Date of Award


Degree Name

Ph.D. in Educational Leadership


Department of Educational Leadership


Advisor: Michele M. Welkener


Currently, many community colleges are struggling with poor student success rates in developmental math. Therefore, this qualitative study focused on employing best practices in developmental mathematics at an urban community college in Dayton, Ohio. Guiding the study were the following research questions: What are the best practices utilized by a group of developmental mathematics instructors at an urban community college? How do these instructors employ such practices to enhance student learning? Participants consisted of 20 developmental mathematics instructors from Sinclair Community College in Dayton, Ohio who had taught at least six developmental math classes over a two-year period and who self-reported success rates of at least 60% during that time. This study employed a pre-interview document and a face-to-face interview as the primary research instruments. Using the constant comparison method (Merriam, 2002a), the researcher constructed findings from both approaches regarding best practices in developmental math. Such practices included communication with students, the art of organization, collaborative learning, frequent low stake assessments, technology supplements, the use of mnemonics and memorable wording, and manipulatives, visuals and real-life applications. When addressing the topic of acceleration, the participants reported that this strategy is a proper fit for some students but not all. The following conclusions were based on the findings from this study. Effective communication should be established between developmental math instructors and students as well as among developmental math instructors. Developmental math faculty ought to work with their students in developing their organizational skills. Developmental math instructors should couple the implementation of frequent low stake assessments with student outreach. Collaborative learning can be beneficial to some developmental math students, but instructors must take into account the composition of the class as well their own comfort level with collaborative learning. It is also important for developmental math instructors to employ some creativity in their classes. Accelerated instruction should be reserved for higher ability developmental math students with a strong work ethic. Lastly, college administrators must recognize and respect instructor comfort level. The findings from this dissertation will assist both new and veteran developmental math instructors with implementing practices that will enhance student success in their classes. The findings are also intended to aid community college leaders in gaining an understanding of the culture of developmental math and assist these leaders in the implementation of policy and practice regarding developmental math.


Mathematics Remedial teaching Case studies, Mathematics Study and teaching Case studies, Community colleges Study and teaching Case studies, Education; mathematics education; developmental mathematics; remedial mathematics; community college mathematics; mathematics education

Rights Statement

Copyright 2013, author