Do the Math SAILS into Tennessee High Schools

By John Squires

This month, the number of students potentially ready for college in Tennessee got a significant boost as a version of Chattanooga State College’s “Do the Math” project, one of NGLC’s “Building Blocks for College Completion” grantees, expanded its reach to the high school level and across the state. On Wednesday, May 1, the state of Tennessee launched the statewide SAILS project, which I had described in an earlier NGLC blog post.  This important initiative by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission brings together all appropriate parties from both higher education (through the Tennessee Board of Regents - TBR) and K-12 (through the Tennessee Department of Education – TN DOE) in order to improve math education throughout the state's high schools and colleges.  The project's timeline is ambitious, impacting 7,500 students in the first year, 15,000 students in the second year, and over 30,000 students in the third year. 

SAILS embeds TBR's Learning Support Math (developmental math) in the high school bridge math course, giving students across the state the opportunity to gain a head start on their college career.  This turns the senior year math class into a meaningful experience while eliminating the high-stakes testing cycle that so many students get caught up in.  Also, by introducing a model of blended learning and providing individual assistance to the struggling student, SAILS promises to change the way that high school math is taught, giving at-risk students the hope of finally learning math through a new approach.  The project has been piloted in 2012-13, with 4 community colleges working with 20 high schools and impacting over 600 students throughout the state.  The results have been impressive: for example, at Chattanooga State, over 80% of the students in the pilot will enter college ready to take a college level math course. 

What does this mean in the long run?  Once implemented statewide, instead of 75% of the students testing into developmental math and needing remediation, over 75% of the students in Tennessee will enter college ready to take a college math class.  The need for remediation in the state's colleges will be cut in half, which will have a significant impact on retention and graduation rates.




John Squires is the Math Department Head at Chattanooga State Community College.  As the director of Do the Math, he works with colleges and high schools throughout the nation to utilize technology to improve student learning. Please see Do the Math’s grantee page for information about the work that he led under the Wave I NGLC grant for this project.  If you would like more information, you may contact him at Additional contacts for the SAILS project include Robert Denn (, Dean of School Relations at Chattanooga State Community College and project director for the statewide expansion, and Kim McCormick (, Associate Vice President of Academic Affairs at Chattanooga State and team leader for SAILS.

Photo: Ship-Sails-Boat by Jon Sullivan


I conduct this class through Vol State CC in middle TN and it is a spectacular hit. I wish all the seniors eligible had access to this class and the technology needed to conduct the course. It is making a huge impact on our students.

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