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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Failing college: Covid kids can't do the math

Photo: Karolina Grabowska/Pexels

For a year or more, their high school classes were online. Perhaps they returned to an on-and-off schedule with frequent quarantine breaks. Now they're in college, and many don't have the academic skills, knowledge and work habits to pass college classes, especially in math, reports Eliza Fawcett in the New York Times. Furthermore, they're struggling to stay focused, to seek help and even to participate in social activities. Jazeba Ahmad learned very little math in her last two years of high school in Columbus, Ohio, despite being enrolled in an international baccalaureate program, Fawcett writes. Now Ahmad is "floundering" in her algebra class in community college.

Professors are lowering expectations and focusing on fundamentals, they told Fawcett.

At Texas A&M University, some math classes saw higher rates of D’s and F’s, as well as more withdrawals, over the course of the pandemic. The problems have been particularly bad for first-year students, said Paulo Lima-Filho, the executive director of the university’s math learning center, which provides tutoring.
Students of all kinds seemed to lack sharp foundational math skills and rigorous study habits, he said. And some students had flawed understandings of basic concepts, which particularly worried him.

Writing instructors say students show "higher levels of anxiety and a reduced willingness to find support" when they need it, reports Fawcett. For example, fewer first-year students are going to Auburn's writing center. At the University of Oregon, many students harbored a “level of apathy” toward college, said Amy Hughes-Giard, an assistant vice provost focused on supporting new students.

Weak skills and passivity make a bad combination.

High school teachers are under pressure to "make this easier," CC comments. "Challenging kids is bad, and leads to panic attacks (cause they have never been challenged). . . . There are lots of teachers walking around patting themselves on the back for all the social emotional, 'student centered' stuff they are doing, when in practice they're just making things easier and pretending that's what success looks like."


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