Russ Petricka, Supervisor
For more information on the Math Skills Center, visit our website.
For a student's view of the Math Skills Center, visit the Admissions page of student video blogs.
The Math Skills Center continues to provide a hub for students to work on math and math-related homework, alone, in groups, and, most importantly, with the assistance and tutoring of Russ Petricka, Math Skills Center Supervisor, and a staff of approximately 30 peer student tutors each term. The role of the Center continues to grow as services extend beyond the primary focus of open tutoring.
This report contains a detailed summary of the Math Skills Center activities for the 2010-2011 academic year and is organized as follows: Section I outlines the students serviced this past year in open tutoring; Section II outlines One-on-One Tutoring; Section III outlines additional services offered during the year.
Section I: Students Served in Open Tutoring
This year the Center was open on weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.; on Saturdays from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.; and on Sundays from 2:00 to 11:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday the Center was staffed by Russ and one student tutor from 8:30 a.m. to 1:45 p.m.; Russ and two students from 1:45 to 5:00 p.m. and 7:00 to 8:00 p.m.; Russ and four students from 8:00 to 10:00 p.m., and Russ and two student tutors from 10:00 to 11:00p.m. to finish out the night. On Fridays, the Center was staffed by Russ and one student from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and from 7:00 to 11:00 p.m. On Saturdays the Center was staffed by two students from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. On Sundays the Center was staffed by three tutors from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m., from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m., and from 10:00 to 11:00 p.m. (Russ being one of those three night time tutors), Russ and four tutors staffed the Center Sunday nights from 8:00 to 10:00 p.m. This provided 75.5 hours per week of open tutoring and an additional 12 hours per week when the Center was open yet unstaffed. During fall and winter terms, we had a "floating time spot" on Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday nights, when a tutor could come in during our busiest hours to help out with the "night before a-day" rush.
Table 1 lists the average number of students serviced each day of the week, with standard deviations in parentheses. It should be noted at the start that students are not required to sign in and that we therefore get about a 2/3 sign-in ratio in the fall, with that dropping during the school year to less that ½; during spring term. Separated by term, Table 1 first lists the total number of times students came to the Center for assistance during the term followed by daily averages in attendance; first a general daily average and then an average for each day of the week. Notable in this table is a trend in daily attendance. Attendance is highest on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, as most mathematics classes for which students are completing homework assignments are offered on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
By separating the data from Table 1 at a per course level, we can see the type of student who seeks assistance at the MSC. This is represented in Table 2, which shows the number of sections offered for each of the core Mathematics courses each term along with, for each course and section, the percentage of visits to the Center by students enrolled. The last column represents attendance from all other courses in which students identified as being enrolled. These courses are identified below the table.
Note that students signing into the Center often do not specify in which statistics course (Math 115 and 215) or Calculus I course (Math 101 and 111) they are enrolled; consequently, the data cannot sufficiently inform us of the level of assistance to students in each specific course. Because we are only able to observe the aggregate sums, the two statistics courses are counted together and the two Calculus I courses are counted together. Furthermore, the sign-in sheet is voluntary and hence underestimates the real level of traffic in the Center, especially during Spring term.
Students continue to visit the Math Skills Center primarily to receive open tutoring assistance for their math courses. Often tutors help students with difficult homework problems. Test preparation remains a principal component of the help offered. This is reflected by an increase in visits during the third, seventh, and eighth weeks of each term, when students are preparing for midterms, and a decrease fifth and sixth weeks, when exams have recently been administered (see Figure 1). This trend is similar to last year's, in which upswings came during the third, seventh, and tenth weeks of the term. Although the data are unavailable, many past annual reports (06-07, 07-08, 08-09) have reported upswings in attendance during the fifth, ninth, and tenth weeks.
One salient feature of the data is the decline in attendance from Fall Term to Winter to Spring (a trend that has occurred in, at a minimum, the past four academic years). We propose two explanations for this trend. First, the number of mathematics courses offered decreases from Fall to Winter to Spring Term (17, 13, and 9, respectively). Second, the type of course offered naturally changes as the academic year progresses, shifting from a large concentration of 100-level and Calculus principles courses in the fall to primarily 200- and 300-level courses in the spring. (Recall from Table 1 that over 30% of Center visits during Fall and Winter terms were by students enrolled in Calculus II (Math 121), and over 60% of Spring term visits were by students enrolled in Calculus III (Math 211) and Linear Algebra (Math 232). Students tutored Fall Term are more numerous because of the higher number of students enrolled in mathematics classes and because those students are, on average, less experienced with mathematics than those who continue to enroll in courses through Spring Term. This will naturally lead to more tutorial assistance being sought at the beginning of the academic year than at the end.
Section II: One-on-One Tutoring
This year we continued to offer one-on-one peer tutoring to students. Sessions were self-scheduled by the tutor and tutee, generally occurring once or twice per week. Table 3 details, for each course in which a student sought one-on-one tutoring assistance, the course's number of one-on-one tutees accompanied by the course instructor's name. Again, the data are separated by term. Unlike previous years in which one-on-one tutoring was requested for all mathematics course levels, this year's one-on-one tutoring was requested only for Calculus classes. We offer no explanation for this.
Section III: Additional Services Offered
We continued to offer the following services:
- A freshman diagnostic exam and the subsequent placement of freshmen into Math 101 (Calculus I with Review) or Math 111 (Calculus I without Review). The exam is now conducted online, but we continue to monitor and oversee the placement process.
- Equipment for viewing course-related films and slides along with statistics and math related videos and computer software.
- A lending library containing course-related texts, workbooks, and CDs designed to prepare students for their graduate entrance exams.
- A magazine rack containing professional journals in Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science as well as popular Math and Computer Science magazines.
- An area of the magazine rack where professors can keep course-related materials such as binders containing worked solutions to homework problems.
- A closed reserve section containing copies of the textbooks currently being used in classes and other course-related readings that professors want to make available to students.
- A four-hour Tutor Training Program (introduced three years ago) offered the day before Fall Term classes begin. This workshop was supervised by Dr. Sam Patterson and Russ.
This year, in addition to Russ and his student worker staff, the MSC was joined by David Runkle, whose partner was a visiting professor at Carleton. David volunteered several hours per week in the MSC.
Russ also continues to assist Kathy Evertz in the coordination and supervision of the Prefect Program. Russ assists Kathy with two three-hour Prefect Training Workshops at the beginning of each term and then supervises the Math and Computer Science prefects during the term. Kathy and Russ also coordinate two prefect lunches throughout the term, designed to supplement the training workshops and to provide intern-type training. This year we trained the first prefects to be requested by the Math Department. Specifically, Helen Wong requested them for her winter term Linear Algebra classes. We also continued to coordinate the Prefect Program for the Computer Science classes 111 (Intro to Computer Science) and 201 (Data Structures) throughout the year. Prefects met two to three times per week with students in groups and provided individual help when needed. Table 4 lists this year's Math and Computer Science prefects and their respective courses and instructors.