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Math Success Center offers assistance, community to Northeast students

Math Success Center offers assistance, community to Northeast students

NORFOLK, NE - Abdoul Sore, Northeast Community College student and a tutor in the College’s Math Success Center, says math is a subject where students often need some additional encouragement outside the classroom.

“When many people hear about math, they don’t even want to try it. That’s the problem. So if you’re on their side, helping them, maybe they’ll get better and start liking it,” Sore, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, said.

Students enrolled in any math course at the College, including online courses, can visit the Math Success Center for help in understanding concepts as they complete their assignments. The center is designed to provide open assistance to students on an as-needed basis.

The center is staffed by professional tutors who hold a degree in math, many of whom are retired college math instructors, as well as peer tutors, including Sore.

Up to three tutors may be working in the center at a time, and tutors are also available to students by appointment. The Math Success Center is open from 8 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m.-2 p.m. on Fridays and 6 p.m.-9 p.m. on Sundays.

Kelly Wemhoff, math instructor, said the center’s hours were designed with students’ busy lives in mind.

“On Sundays, we felt (the students) needed a place to come if they’re studying that night for their Monday tests. And being the college that we are, with so many nontraditional students, many of our students have full-time jobs. So if their job ends at 4 or 5 p.m., they still have some time to come in here.”

Stacey Aldag, math instructor, said the Math Success Center has its origins in a for-credit course called Individualized Math, in which four to six students worked with an instructor for additional help with other math classes they were taking. Northeast’s math instructors then began to offer free, non-credit help to all students on a drop-in basis. They later toured a math lab at a college in Tennessee with plans to replicate the model at Northeast.

Sore said he was inspired to start tutoring by his brother, who helped him through his own math struggles when they were growing up.

“I wasn’t that good in math, but he was always by my side, trying to help me be better than I was. I want to give that same opportunity to students.”

Cade Halvorson, another peer tutor who is originally from Fruita, CO, said Beth Welke, his math instructor, encouraged him to start tutoring in the Math Success Center. He enjoys the “laid-back” atmosphere and said students shouldn’t feel intimidated to visit the center.

“It’s not a judgmental place. Everyone is here either to get help or give help.”

Wemhoff said the Math Success Center not only offers an advantage to students but to instructors as well.

“Students have their teacher in their classroom, but there’s always a different way to explain a difficult concept. Something might just click with a professional tutor or a peer tutor who explains the idea differently than the instructor. That can be a huge advantage for teachers and students alike.”

Wemhoff said one of her favorite aspects of the Math Success Center is watching “the lightbulbs go on” when students grasp a concept.

“I like the idea that when you help somebody, and they finally understand, it’s like, ‘Yay! I got it!’ You get to work one-on-one with that student. If you’re standing in front of a classroom, you don’t always see the lightbulbs go on, or students are afraid to speak up. Here, once they get to know you, they’re more likely to ask more and more questions.”

Aldag also cited “the lightbulb factor” as a primary reason she enjoys the Math Success Center.

“The one-on-one tutoring is fun because when you’re in the classroom, you have a certain way you have to be. But here you can sit down face-to-face and actually get to know the students a bit more, and work with them, and see where their thinking is. Sometimes it helps me to realize I need to explain things differently in the classroom, and it can help me see how I can improve my teaching.”

Wemhoff said the one element that makes the Math Success Center successful is “our students coming in and using it.”

“This is a nice place for students if they want to work with someone in their class but may not know them that well. It’s a safe place for them to come in and collaborate. We’ve seen that as the semester goes on, students will form study groups and work together.”

“The goal of the center was to build a community where you help one another,” Aldag said. “And if you see someone who’s working on the same assignment, it’s cool to see them connect. Math isn’t any fun when you’re struggling by yourself.”



PHOTO CUTLINE - Math Success Center


Cade Halvorson (left), Fruita, CO, assists a student with a math assignment at Northeast Community College’s Math Success Center. Halvorson is one of several peer tutors who assist students in understanding concepts as they complete their math assignments. (Courtesy Northeast Community College)