More Than Rules: College Transition Math Teaching for GED Graduates at the City University of New York

This paper describes how the College Transition Program (CTP) has attempted to strengthen GED graduates’ transition into The City University of New York (CUNY) through a semester of reading, writing, mathematics, and academic advisement. More precisely, this paper focuses on math teaching and learning in CTP.

S. Hinds
Author(s) Organizational Affiliation
Adult Literacy/GED Program and College Transition Initiative, The City University of New York
Publication Year
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Number of Pages

This paper describes how the College Transition Program (CTP) has attempted to strengthen GED graduates’ transition into The City University of New York (CUNY) through a semester of reading, writing, mathematics, and academic advisement. More precisely, this paper focuses on math teaching and learning in CTP.

CTP has worked almost exclusively with GED graduates, but the early results will be interesting to a variety of programs working with students who enter college underprepared in math including GED programs more widely, college remedial math departments, and high schools. This paper is for instructors and administrators who work in these settings as well as for researchers, policy makers, and funders. At times, some technical math teaching language may be used but the bulk of these instances are limited to the footnotes and appendices. Much of this paper should be readable by a wide audience.

The paper contains twelve sections.

  1. Basic Skills, Math Proficiency, and Retention at The City University of New York
  2. Why the COMPASS Math Exams Are Challenging for GED Graduates
  3. Remedial Math Outcomes at CUNY
  4. A Brief History of the CUNY College Transition Program
  5. Content of the COMPASS Math Exams
  6. Teaching and Learning in Remedial Math Classes
  7. Math Content in the College Transition Program
  8. Math Teaching and Learning in the College Transition Program
  9. The Living Curriculum
  10. Instructor Recruitment and Development
  11. Recommendations for GED Programs
  12. Recommendations for College Remedial Programs

The recommendations for GED programs and for college remedial math programs in the last two sections will be of particular interest to groups implementing transition programs. These recommendations focus on content, pedagogy, intensity, curricula, staff development, research, and student placement.

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What the experts say

The goal of helping students continue with their life transitions after achieving the GED, whether it is a career goal or a postsecondary goal, has been a focus of adult education in the last decade. This document is a very thoughtful and complete description of the rationale and practice needed to increase student success in continuing on to college level math classes. 

The document outlines the present outcome of placement testing for GED students and then illustrates how intense and interactive mathematics instruction in pre-algebra and algebra can improve those scores.  The information on what colleges expect and what tests such as the COMPASS contain would be very useful for a GED teacher who is preparing students to continue on to postsecondary.

The classroom strategies provide teachers with an opportunity to reflect on their own practices.  Finally, the specific illustrations of teaching strategies in the multiplication of terms with exponents, the explanation and computation of slope, the use of context in instruction, an introduction to the distributive property, and the relationship between addition and subtraction are lesson-plan ready for teachers to incorporate into their own classes.

This resource is of value to the field of adult education because it further confirms the theory of andragogy.  Sometimes, math instructors focus more on the content and getting the information out to the students instead of investing in the process and building connections to ideas that are relevant to the learner.  This study removed a bunch of content from the traditional math classroom and began to focus on developing ideas and more on the process of math than on the content.  This is very useful to both new and old instructors in the field of adult basic math literacy because it can serve as a call for change from the traditional lecture class to a class that is interactive and develops into a problem-solving team.   Additionally, the information in this study would serve as a good model for developing an effective transitional mathematics course/ curriculum.

Related citations:
Strengthening Mathematics Skills at the Postsecondary Level: Literature Review and Analysis, U.S. Department of Education, Office of Vocational and Adult Education, Division of Adult Education and Literacy, 2005, 

Postsecondary Education Transition: A Summary of the Findings from Two Literature Reviews, U.S. Department of Education, 2010.

F. Cos,The Relationship of Study Skills and Mathematics Anxiety to Success in Mathematics Among Community College Students. (Ph.D. dissertation), 2002, Delta State University.

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