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Friday, November 13, 2015

Do the math - Campus Stories by Ann Manser and Juwan Montalvo

"New math learning lab offers one-stop shop for student success." according to University of Delaware.

The new Mathematics Science Learning Laboratory offers students help with classwork, tutoring and advising. Photo: UD Daily

If there’s a University of Delaware department that really knows how to rely on numbers, it’s Mathematical Sciences, and faculty members there have been seeing some worrisome data — a large proportion of freshmen failing or dropping their beginning math courses and, too often, difficulties with math causing interested students to abandon STEM classes altogether.

“We know that, nationally, a large number of students enter college with an interest in STEM [science, technology, engineering and math], but those numbers drop off,” said John Pelesko, professor of mathematical sciences and interim associate dean for the natural sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences. “A lot of that attrition is due to negative experiences in college math classes, so we decided to address it. We realized that we can’t fix this problem by doing the same things that got us here.”

The department and the college came up with what they think is a solution. They established a dedicated “one-stop shop” to provide innovative teaching, specialized classroom space and tutoring, advising and test-taking services for students taking basic, foundational mathematics courses.

The Mathematical Sciences Learning Laboratory (MSSL) occupies a former physical therapy clinic in McKinly Lab. It remodeled the area and introduced its services last spring and began operating on a full schedule this semester.

Its large classroom is modeled on the instructional space in the Harker Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Laboratory, with movable desks and chairs to encourage small-group problem-solving and embedded technology to allow students and faculty to easily share and discuss their work.

Two foundational mathematics courses are taught there, and four faculty members who teach those courses have moved their offices to the space as well. An adjoining room is used for testing, with the goal of easing stress on students who no longer have to attend class, take tests and meet with professors or advisers in three or four different buildings.

Students say they like the convenience, said Dawn Berk, assistant professor of mathematical sciences and founding director of MSLL, and she noted that interactive, problem-based learning is an effective teaching method. But, she said, by far the most popular service is the drop-in tutoring offered in MSLL when formal classes aren’t using the space.

Source: UD Daily