When 1 plus 1 equals a community

Who hasn’t had difficulty in a math class and wished there was a place to get help? Even mathematicians need help from time to time. Enrollment numbers show that more students are taking higher level mathematics courses than ever before; but success rates could be much higher.

The Math Community Center, also known as MC2, is the answer to this problem. ASU’s School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences, in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, teaches more than 30,000 students each year. The Math Tutor Center provides assistance for a range of lower level undergraduate courses up to calculus. With enrollment in higher level courses rising sharply each year, students need more help in their courses. This is the idea behind the Math Community Center, a one-stop learning environment that assists students with math while building a community with faculty and graduate students.

“Our basic philosophy,” says Wayne Raskind, director of the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences, “is that students need to interact more with the people (faculty and graduate students) whose expectations they have to meet in order to succeed in these courses. Traditional tutors try hard to help students, but often they become intermediaries who dilute the message from the instructor to student.”

The goals of MC2 are  to provide students with a resource where they can get on-demand assistance with the concepts from their math courses and to build a stronger community between the faculty and students. In addition, the center will host special seminars, career workshops, and become a home for the growing number of mathematical and statistical sciences student clubs.

In order to accomplish the goal of refurbishing the space necessary for the new community center, the school was awarded a $50,000 grant from the ASU Foundation for a New American University’s Women & Philanthropy program,

“The MC2 idea really resonated with Women & Philanthropy and our proposal was the highest rated of all the ones they received this year,” Raskind says.

Work began this fall semester with the installation of new doors. The purchase of new furniture is planned for the near future and more extensive remodeling and improvements will begin next summer.

Tutors working in the Math Tutor Center will continue working at that location,  while graduate teaching assistants will spend their office hours in the new Math Community Center. Faculty will contribute a portion of their office hours in MC2 to better assist students.

The founding director for the community center is Dongrin Kim, senior lecturer in the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences. Kim joined ASU in 2001 after completing his doctorate in mathematics at the University of Southern California. Kim’s initial plan is to set up the schedule for the center, which will cover a broader level of courses that haven’t been offered in the past.

“The most important benefit,” says Kim, “is that undergraduate students will get help from graduate students and professors who are struggling in their math classes.”

MC2 is a collaboration with the Math Tutor Center and will be located in the Physical Science Center A-wing, rooms 116 and 303. PSA 116 will focus on lower division courses, while PSA 303 will include more of the upper level courses. MC2 will be open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Kim’s hope is that the center will extend its coverage to include all math courses, even graduate courses in the future.

More information about the Math Community Center is online at http://math.asu.edu/MC2.

Formed in 2002 by a small group of women, including several ASU alumnae, the ASU Foundation for a New American University’s Women & Philanthropy program brings together influential women committed to becoming advocates and philanthropic supporters of the university. To date, the organization has invested more than $1.7 million in ASU initiatives, programs and scholarships. More information about Women & Philanthropy is online at http://asufoundation.org/womenandphilanthropy.

Caleen Canady, cali@asu.edu
School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences