1-on-1 Tutoring Adds Up at NCC Math Lab

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Dave Paone
Campus News. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Algebra. Calculus. Logic and set theory. Advanced calculus. To many college students these math courses can be quite intimidating or down right frightening. So where can one go to keep his head above water in the endless sea of cines and cosines?  At Nassau Community College, it’s the Math Success Center. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The center, which is open Monday through Saturday, is staffed by 11 tutors (called “coaches”) whose gift is in math. While some are professors and others are students themselves, each has a thorough understanding of at least one type of math. Should a student wander in (since no appointment is necessary), chances are there will be a coach on hand who has intimate knowledge of the genre of math he needs help with. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Depending on the demand for coaches at that particular time, the student could very well have a one-on-one session as he does his homework. Should a coach wind up helping three students with different assignments at the same time, it’s still practically a private lesson. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The center, which is run by John Earnest, opened in January of 2009 specifically for remedial math students who needed extra help. The school already had a math lab designed for the other math students. However, students on all levels have discovered the Math Success Center, and they’re welcome to drop in. If there’s a coach who can help, he will. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
One such student is freshman Cindi Gonzalez who is studying to be a special education teacher. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
“I’m good at everything except math; that’s why I need help,” she stated. “And you’ll be surprised because my brother takes graphic design but you need math for all of that.” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Another first-year student, Roselyn Brown, is a liberal arts major. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
“Even though this is my second time at the math lab, I feel more confident… I’m going to feel more confident going to my class this Thursday. I do like math. I think before I didn’t like math because I was afraid of it.” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The coaches at the center have varied backgrounds. Dr. Steve Sun, originally from Taiwan, holds a Ph.D. in math. Although Eda Kuscakoglu is a student at NCC, she holds a BA in statistics from her native Turkey. Fei Chiang, originally from China, has a masters in engineering and was a both a middle and high school math teacher. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
“In a classroom you have to take into account everybody’s different abilities. Whereas in tutoring, I can sit down with you and know your strengths and know your weaknesses, and I’ll concentrate in dealing with them,” said Mr. Chiang who’s also an adjunct professor at NCC. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
“It’s really fantastic when you can explain a concept to a student that he couldn’t understand before and his eyes light up.  It’s a fantastic feeling,” continued Mr. Chiang. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
In addition to Mr. Earnest and the 11 coaches, there are six student aids. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The layout of the room may not be what one would expect when he hears “math center.” While there are piles upon piles of colored printer paper to work out problems on, calculators strewn about and 26 computers with Internet access, there’s also a microwave oven, a refrigerator, a wizard hat (Mr. Earnest is a self-proclaimed Math Wizard), all kinds of “math toys” (such as large dice to aid in statistics and probability lessons) and for some reason an antique three-hole punch that weighs about five pounds and may very well be made out of cast iron. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Some of the staff at the center are a bit concerned the school’s administration doesn’t see how vital their services are. “It’s still not being recognized at the highest level,” laments Mr. Chiang. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Since each student must sign in with his school ID upon entry and sign out upon exit, statistics are recorded and sent up the ladder. (No one knows exactly who sees these figures.) Additionally, students on the remedial level are asked to fill out a “Student Progress Record” at the end of their session. The information gets entered into the “Success Tracker” computer program. This is a way of monitoring the progress made (or not) during each visit. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
“Most people say that we’re really good in helping them. Only when it gets busy and people have to wait a long time that’s when we get the bad reviews,” said student aid Christine Sheh, a second-year student and media major.
Several professors encourage their students to utilize the center, including making a general announcement the first day of class. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
As Ms. Brown states, “I try to tell the younger kids in my class I work two jobs, I have two children, plus a husband, I also have a niece who lives with us so I really have three kids, and I have a full-time job, and I work six days a week, and there’s no excuse not to do it because the math lab is open six days a week, and they’re open late night.” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Sometimes at the end of the semester students who frequented the center will return to tell the coaches their grades which are usually at least passing. As Mr. Chiang affirms, “It’s just icing on the cake!”
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