NROC Developmental Math

Math is the gateway subject.  Requiring competence in algebra even to earn community college credit is traditional and mostly rational.  To double the number of low income and minority college graduates in the U.S., we’ll need to dramatically boost algebra completion rates. Toward that end, there are several promising approaches to personal developmental math (code language for ‘didn’t get it the first time’).
With support from Gates and Hewlett, Monterey Institute’s National Repository of Open Content launched a development math initiative.  In a recent NROC Network blog, Claudia L’Amoreaux described an extensive process of gathering and incorporating customer feedback into Developmental Math–An Open Program.  Here’s what the team learned:

  • Students often recognize their preferred learning style & want to be able to learn in a style that meets their needs
  • Students like the self-paced and always available nature of digital curriculum.
  • Real-world examples and application are a key to engagement
  • Students appreciate and identify with the presenters and real work examples
  • Puzzles, animations, simple illustrations, and problem sets are important
  • Humor and idioms trip-up or confuse struggling students especially English language learners
  • Keep it simple: struggling students and English language learners value simplicity

Developmental Math–An Open Program is modular and media-rich. Like Virtual Nerd, it relies heavily on a mediagenic instructor.  It’s sounds partially adaptive.  Claudia served up several overviews,” You’ll find a short overview here (pdf format), a June 30, 2010 webinar about the Developmental Math course–Building Bridges: New Mathematics Resources for Developmental Educators, and a recent presentation at the Sloan Consortium by MITE Special Projects Manager, Ahrash Bissell, explaining MITE’s development approach. In a follow up post, we’ll cover what instructors and administrators said they need and how the new courses address their requirements, especially the professional development challenge.”
Speaking at Sloan, Ahrash described NROC intent to offer a free personalized learning for every student, to build community of users, and build a sustainable enterprise.  NROC is attempting to bring organization and usability to open education resources (OER) but their membership fees for institutions rub some OER adherents the wrong way, but I appreciate the fact that they are working last mile problem (a great desktop user experience) and attempting to build in sustainability.
There’s not much public information about the rollout, but Ahrash described a successful pilot program at Sierra Vista Alternative High School. NROC math will certainly be an improvement over traditional approaches.  However, some folks taking a game-based and visual-conceptual approach to math instruction think they can do far better than didactic video.
For more on developmental math see:


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Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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1 Comment

Ruth Rominger

Tom, Thanks for writing about Claudia’s ConnectedPD blog post ( on the new NROC Developmental Math project. ConnectedPD is part of NROC’s open professional development community.
The NROC Network is a membership community that helps to support the and projects. Membership is open to any educational institution or agency interested in being a part of a sustainable OER project. The fee actually supports the public, open access, where any individual can access the NROC content.


Tom Vander Ark

Thanks Ruth. We appreciate NROC's effort to create quality content on a sustainable platform. Other folks have a different view of OER.

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