Math lab replaces basic algebra courses

Megan Wilkinson

The second floor of the library, which used to be lined with books, now houses a math lab filled with Dell computers, artsy new furniture and more than 200 basic algebra students on class days.

These students do not come to the lab to study; they come to the lab for class.

The math department received a makeover with the arrival of the new Math Emporium, which teaches students basic math using a computer program.

Provost Robert Frank said the $1.2 million spent on renovations to the library was reasonable for all that was improved.

“I think this is one of the most important things we’ve done for students so far at Kent State,” Frank said. “We went from having a library filled with books to a new academic program.”

The lab contains 247 computers, which can only be used by students in the new Assessment and Learning in Knowledge and Spaces classes. Andrew Tonge, chairperson for the mathematical science department, said between 3,300 and 3,500 students benefit from the Math Emporium this semester.

John Dubiel, freshman French translation major, is one of the students who uses the Math Emporium, but he said it is difficult for him to learn math in the new environment.

“It’s a good place and tool to study math, but the problem is it takes a teacher out of the equation,” Dubiel said. “It kind of makes me angry that I don’t get as much teacher contact, and I’m not someone who can learn math by reading it on a computer.”

Students enrolled in ALEKS classes are required to attend 20 hours of class in the emporium and 20 hours outside of class for the semester.

The end goal is to have every student who leaves the program be at the same level of math so they can start taking college level courses. They work at their own pace to complete assignments and must finish by the end of the semester.

If students reach that goal level before the end of the semester, they no longer have to come to the math lab as long as they have put in their 20 hours.

Lorree Meyer, a lecturer of mathematical science, said several students enrolled in this program have already completed the course requirements within the first week. She said students who do this are able to move on to higher math courses such as Modeling Algebra if it is early enough in the semester.

Rachael Fanady, freshman integrated social studies major, said she finds the course setup confusing.

“While registering for class, my adviser went into the ALEKS program with me but not enough,” Fanady said. “I didn’t understand how class hours worked.”

Tracy Laux, a lecturer of mathematical sciences, wrote in an email interview that though students may have a negative first impression of the new lab many will change their minds with time.

“Through my experience with this model, I have found that most students who are initially negative change their minds after they accept the shock of having to do the math,” Laux wrote. “The software and instructors continually inform students of their individual progress so that they can see the list of topics they have mastered.”

Some students said they learn better in the Math Emporium. Kyle Kline, a freshman exercise science major, said though math never interested him in high school and was one of his weaker subjects, he feels more comfortable learning with the ALEKS program.

“I’m definitely learning with ALEKS,” Kline said. “You can work specifically on things you don’t know, and it has explained more to me than my high school math teachers did.”

Tonge said students who are struggling should still try to give the new program a chance. According to the National Center for Academic Transformation, success rates for using ALEKS and the Math Emporium approach are at least 25 percent better than the traditional lecture approach.

“Change is often uncomfortable, but if things aren’t working out, change may be the only way forward,” Tonge said.

ALEKS is a computer program that is used to teach Basic Algebra 1, 2, 3 and 4. Mary Kellermann, a lecturer of mathematical science, said the new lab is set up in a way to help students learn individually, so that no student will either fall behind or become bored with course material.

“The lecture method face to face wasn’t working,” Kellermann said. “Going to the Math Emporium, every single student can be reached.”

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