Tutoring center helps math students

By By Michael Olson, Staff Writer

By Michael Olson, Staff Writer

Daniel Crawford spends hours trying to keep up in his quantitative analysis class, but the more difficult math classes make algebra look like basic addition.

“It’s not like I don’t have the time,” said Crawford, a junior marketing major. “I guess I don’t want to admit I can’t do it on my own.”

Crawford said he knows about resources on campus where he could get help with his math assignments, but he has not taken advantage of them.

The math department recently held an open house to make U counselors aware of the free tutoring offered to students for all 1000- and 2000-level math classes.

The Mathematics Center, which was developed two years ago through a $1.8 million donation, offers help with higher-level math classes.

Angie Gardiner, director of undergraduate services in the math department, said lower-level classes take priority because there are usually more students in the class and teachers have a more difficult time helping every student.

Aaron Peirce, a senior in electrical engineering, said the size of his math classes can affect a student’s ability to learn.

“Math classes naturally have students asking a lot of questions, so students in larger math classes may not have the opportunity to get some of their questions answered,” Peirce said. “Also, it’s very crucial to see the math written on the board up front, and in auditorium rooms, it’s very hard to see what’s written when sitting near the back of the classroom.”

To help students better understand the math, Gardiner said the center selects tutors based on their ability to explain complex math to others. When Gardiner interviews students to be tutors, she asks them to explain some math problems to her, she said.

“If you have someone who gets all A’s in their classes and they are fabulous at understanding the problem but they can’t communicate that to the students, that is not going to do the student any good,” Gardiner said.

The Eccles Foundation donated money in 2006 to construct the center, which is located in Presidents’ Circle. On average, the math department hires 15 to 20 tutors. The center’s staff consists of undergraduate and graduate students, as well as a retired U alumnus who works there because he enjoys helping students.

“Our tutors come out of the math, physics, various engineering departments and computer science departments,” Gardiner said.

The center hires tutors from a variety of fields so students in fields such as engineering can receive help from an engineering tutor who uses math in the same context.

Gardiner said tutors must have at least finished the entire series of calculus classes and preferably a few other upper-level math courses.

The center can comfortably hold 30 students at a time, and students can also sign up for weekly group tutoring sessions, Gardiner said.

“If you come down here shortly before finals, you’ll find all the study rooms packed,” said Aaron Bertram, professor and chair of the math department.

Bertram said it is better for students to ask for help throughout the semester rather than just before finals.

Bradley Coltrin, a senior architecture major, said he uses the tutoring center every day.

“The combination of the text, the tutors and the teacher’s time, both in and outside of class, helps me understand the material a lot better,” Coltrin said.

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