Mathematics is an integral part of the curriculum in the Ontario community college system. Most students are required to take at least one, often several mathematics courses during their college studies. Almost all students enrolled in business and technology programs take several courses in mathematics. Most colleges administer some form of placement/diagnostic math test. At some colleges, the results of the test will help in the proper placement of first semester students into a developmental (remedial) math course or a first semester math course. For a variety of reasons, many of our students struggle with math. According to the College Mathematics Project report 2009,i 33 per cent of our students received a D or F or withdrew
from the course. College faculty who teach mathematics come from diverse backgrounds.
Education levels range from baccalaureates to PhDs with degrees in mathematics, business, engineering, and education to name a few. Many of our faculty members have had little formal training in education. An opportunity to share, discuss, and learn from one another about teaching and teaching practices can therefore benefit both faculty and students. The Ontario College MathematicsAssociation Math Knowledge Exchange Network (MathKEN) has created an environment in which Ontario college mathematics educators can share exemplary teaching practices and resources in business math, developmental math, technical math, and statistics. It is important that teaching methods be shared amongst faculty to help in identifying and disseminating exemplary teaching practices. These teaching methods or practices could be something that has been tried in the classroom and the teacher feels that it is promising and would like feedback from colleagues on whether they have experienced similar results. For example, students coming into the Ontario college system come with the expectation that their studies in college will prepare them with the skills to immediately be successful in their careers.
For many of our students, contextual learningii is very important, not only for how they learn, but also for making their studies relevant to their personal and professional lives.
Faculty have learned about ways to teach from their own education and professional training, from their own learning and teaching experiences, attending courses, workshops, and conferences. Many mathematics faculty in Ontario colleges have the opportunity to share teaching practices by attending meetings and conferences sponsored by the Ontario Colleges
Mathematics Association (OCMA). Unfortunately, there are also many who are not able to attend face-to-face meetings and so miss the opportunity to share resources. For those who do attend, the long periods between meetings can lead to stagnation and de-energized teaching. Many teach in isolation, without the benefit of input and feedback from others who share the same concerns, challenges, and successes.