New program bolsters math skills for incoming technology students

May 29, 2013

An email Courtney Hall read in January highlighting a new math refresher course intrigued him. Though he had taken a math class in the years since he had been in high school, the Indiana State University student wasn't entirely confident of how to apply his newly attained skills practically.

He thought the new program might be a good chance to hone those skills as he pursued his bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering technology. He became one of the first-year graduates of the program designed to improve students' math skills as they embark on a degree in the College of Technology.

Hall, a senior from San Francisco who currently lives in Indianapolis and takes classes at Indiana State and Ivy Tech Community College via distance education, participated in the math preparation program this spring as part of a pilot group. The program is now available to all incoming first-year and transfer students majoring in a program through Indiana State's College of Technology.

"It was really just my desire to make sure that I was on top of every single concept of mathematics," said Hall, who completed the program while also taking coursework toward his major. "That really drove me to participate in this program. It was really like a heavy duty refresher course for me."

David Sivley, math intervention specialist and coordinator of the student mentor program in the College of Technology, developed and implemented the program. Sivley tested it with pilot groups from two semesters of transfer students. While any technology major can take the program, it is now required of new students who score a 15 or lower on the Maple TA exam.

"Many of our students in the College of Technology will face classes with high math demands. Others need help preparing for the university's general math requirements," Sivley said. "We want all our students to do well in their classes and go on to complete their educational goals. That's what this new math preparation program is all about. It is already making a difference in students' ability to succeed."

Participants start by taking an online assessment to determine their knowledge of math-related concepts. Based on their answers, the program follows up with questions at different levels to determine what lessons the student will need. They do not repeat lessons that they already know.

"This has to be individualized because every student is different," Sivley said. "Every student has a different need, a different weakness. To restore that student's math skills, the foundation has to be built back up. This requires an investigative approach to education which follows up with the exact training and support the student needs."

The program is free to students who want to participate.

"It offers such a good service to the students in helping them graduate in four years and making them successful," said Kara Harris, associate professor of applied engineering and technology management and director of undergraduate academic student services. "That's something that we want to make sure everyone realizes. We're offering students this opportunity, and it's a golden opportunity because it costs them no money."

Though the program is new, students who have graduated have already started experiencing success. Those who completed the program in the fall ultimately earned a 3.55 grade point average in classes at Indiana State, Sivley said.

Hall noticed a difference in his math skills almost immediately. He felt more confident in calculating the formulas he used in a chemistry class required for his mechanical engineering technology major.

The new program is available solely online, which helped Hall in several ways. He was able to complete the program on his own timetable, and the computer system provided many great examples and step-by-step explanations of how to complete math problems using the skills that are being taught in that particular lesson, he said.

"(The program) made the difference in my success, personally," he said, noting he preferred the system to learning math lessons from a textbook. It "is a very good tool for anybody who may either have not been in school in a long time or math is not their stronger study."

It is a six-week program, so potential participants will need to consider that when deciding on when to start the program. There is no official start or end date, though Sivley hopes that students will participate during the summer to help them be better prepared when fall semester classes start in August.

"We've made it as flexible as possible so students can begin when they have time," Sivley added. "Our hope is they'll take the time to get ready, and realize that everybody who has participated in the program has been able to strengthen their math skills."

For more information about the program, visit the Technology Student Services page of the College of Technology website at http://technology.indstate.edu/tss/

Photo: http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/Campus-Scenes/Campus-Scenes/i-WKFtncS/0/L/_DSC2491Campus-L.jpg John T. Myers Technology Center at Indiana State University, which houses the College of Technology

Contact: David Sivley, intervention specialist and coordinator of the student mentor program, College of Technology, Indiana State University, 812-878-4910 or david.sivley@indstate.edu

Writer: Austin Arceo, assistant director of media relations, Office of Communications and Marketing, 812-237-3790 or austin.arceo-negrich@indstate.edu

Story Highlights

David Sivley, math intervention specialist and coordinator of the student mentor program in the ISU College of Technology, developed a program to help students who will face classes with high math demands.

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