Press - 08/1/2016

Innovative Program Helps Students Tackle Math

Since 2011, 72 percent of students who take the math placement test at MiraCosta College are placed in pre-transfer-level math courses, which means they have to take extra math on their way to earning a college degree. That number is even higher for traditionally underrepresented students, including black/African-American and Hispanic students.

“I recognized the need to provide the means to bridge that gap,” said Leila Safaralian, longtime MiraCosta College math instructor and designer of the Bridge to Success in Math Program. “When I started designing Bridge to Success in 2013, I had one goal in mind: prepare more college students for the mathematics placement test.”

That goal has been reached.

Since June 2014, more than 250 students have enrolled in the program and, of those who completed it, most placed in transfer-level math courses. This successful program can now expand, thanks to a three-year Basic Skills grant of nearly $1.5 million.

The program works by helping students tackle obstacles that often prevent successful test taking.

“There are numerous reasons students are not placing in transfer-level classes,” said Student Success and Testing Services Coordinator Lisa Menuck. “Sometimes students who come in to take the placement test haven’t practiced math in years and others have test anxiety. We’ve actually had students opt to take the lowest level math class just so that they don’t have to take the placement test.”

The program has been a blessing to students like Anthony Wright, who says math is the main reason he has not been able to earn an associate degree in ten years.

“I’ve been here so long because of math,” said Wright, 34. “I did well in pre-algebra, but not so much with elementary algebra. The concepts were just too hard to understand.”

Wright took Math 30 (Elementary Algebra) four times and failed every single time. In summer 2016, a counselor encouraged him to enroll in Bridge to Success in Math (BTSM). After a week of the program, which included taking a math anxiety workshop, Wright retook the math placement exam and scored high enough to earn the competency requirement and graduate.

“It was really an accomplishing feat,” said Wright. “To finally earn a college degree is like having a giant weight lifted off my chest. Bridge to Success in Math was worth all the hard work.”

Marlesha Keys, who has worked for the program as an instructional aide since 2015, says she sees many students who have given up on math succeed because of BTSM.

“I am amazed at the transformation the students undergo in just seven days of intensive instruction,” said Keys. “For these dedicated students who embrace the challenge, math becomes a tool instead of an obstacle, and that is a powerful thing.”

For more information about the Bridge to Success in Math Program, contact or visit

Bridge to Success in Math Program is just one of many summer programs offered at MiraCosta College.

Others include Summer Bridge, a six-week program designed to serve the unique needs of African-American students with an emphasis on African-American themes.

Students who take part in Summer Bridge receive intensive academic preparation, highly individualized academic advising and enrichment programs. Summer Bridge students also have an excellent opportunity to strengthen their academic skills, develop a peer support network and familiarize themselves with the demands of college life. Students who successfully complete the program earn six transfer-level credits.

Click here for more information about the Summer Bridge program.

Another summer preparation program offered at MiraCosta College is the new Biotech Summer Institute (BSI). The free, four-day program for high school students was held at the Oceanside Campus and offered a biotechnology experience that helps develop interest in the field.

“BSI currently focuses on fundamental techniques related to biotechnology,” said Mike Fino, dean of math and science. “The activities that we've developed are accessible to anyone with an interest in biotech.”

The program is funded through a grant from the National Science Foundation and complements the biomanufacturing bachelor's degree, which will begin in fall 2017.

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