Adult Student Learning Behaviors in a Roadblock Mathematics Course
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Adult students are a growing population on college campuses. Adult students have lower graduation rates and longer times to graduation than traditional-age students. The ability to pass a college level mathematics course is a key factor in the graduation rates of all students. Past research has identified developmental mathematics, college algebra, and calculus as courses that have impeded students in realizing their educational goals. The purpose of this study was two-fold. First, through an analysis of transcripts of a cohort of students at Texas State University-San Marcos, the mathematics course that served as the greatest roadblock to the original educational goals of adult students was identified. Second, using a social constructivist framework, the behaviors of four adult students enrolled in the identified course were examined in hopes of understanding what made the course difficult for adult students. The results of the transcript analysis pointed to Math 1319-Mathematics for Business and Economics 1 as the course that served as the greatest roadblock for adult students in the cohort. In the second, qualitative portion of this study, the adult students who struggled in the roadblock mathematics course had limited participation in classroom activities. Factors that inhibited participation included fear of embarrassment, the fast pace of the classroom discussion, and the perceived lack of adequate responses from the instructor to questions posed in class. An important indicator of adult student success in Math 1319 was the quality of the high school mathematics background of the adult students. Even though several adult students progressed successfully through the developmental mathematics program before enrolling in Math 1319, several continued to struggle and believed that they did not possess the same mathematics knowledge as their younger classmates. Continuing academic support for adult students in college level mathematics courses may be needed to ensure the success of adult students in reaching their educational goals.