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February 24, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Stuck on a math problem? WSU’s math center offers instant help

A white-coated math lab tutor helps students at WSU. Photo by Shelly Hanks.

A white-coated math lab tutor helps students at WSU. Photo by Shelly Hanks.

Even college students stumble over math. More than a year ago, Washington State University decided to make it easier for students to get immediate help whenever they got hung up on a problem. The program, WSU says, is helping students advance quickly through the required college math track.

The Mathematics Learning Center offers free tutoring for students enrolled in undergraduate math courses and is open 56 hours a week. Tutors dressed in white lab coats roam the room, looking for raised hands. The tutors are either math majors in their last years of college or graduate students working as teaching assistants.

Tutors at the math center are adept at helping in all levels of math. About 10 to 15 percent of WSU students require a developmental math class because their skills aren’t yet up to college level-math.

Nathan Hamlin, director of the center, said some students use it as a kind of study hall, bringing math homework with them and working through problems; if they encounter an issue, they raise their hand for help. Others bring a list of issues they’re having to work through all at once. And still other students gather at the center in teams, working through a set of problems and calling for aid if they need it.

The center opened 18 months ago, and use has grown dramatically since that time. Last semester, the center averaged 1,729 visits from students each week. Overall, nearly 26,000 student visits were counted over the course of the 15-week semester, and students stayed for an average of 1.5 hours each time they dropped in. 

“I think this is one of the most important things WSU has done for undergraduate students in the 25 years I’ve been here,” said Sandy Cooper, associate professor of mathematics and associate chair of the Department of Mathematics, in a statement.

Comments | More in Math and science, News | Topics: higher ed, math, Washington State University

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