Math Tutoring Lab works well, but needs more room

By Natalie Perez


The University of the Incarnate Word’s Math Tutoring Lab, separate from other tutoring services since 2010, is currently overflowing with students as finals are coming up for this fall semester.

The Math Tutoring Lab — located in Room 222 of Henry Bonilla Science Hall —  is open 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 7-11 a.m. Fridays.

The lab, a nook inside a recessed wall, is nondescript; during closed hours, its only discerning features are its printed-out name plaque, attached above the wood grain door with pushpins, and its taped-on information giving the hours of operation.

However when open, the small room bursts with students and tutors. Sitting round-style, with four outdated computers and a white board, students are able to come into the lab and raise their hand when in need of assistant.

Senior chemistry major Roland Hinojosa, a tutor at the Math Tutoring Lab, said, “We try to fill in the gaps of what you did or did not understand from your professor. It’s actually really fun (to tutor).”

Dr. Zhanbo Yang, chair of the Department of Mathematical Sciences, said, “The current targeted areas, due to the number of courses offered at UIW, are developmental mathematics –Math 0318 and 0319 — and other freshmen- and sophomore-level mathematics courses up to Calculus 2. However, we are currently limited to serve even those students.”

Many students leave the lab with their questions answered; their only complaints have been centered on how long it took to answer them.

Yang says, “The facility that the Math Tutoring Lab is currently utilizing is rather small. It can seat, at most, a dozen students at a time. The current budget allows about 650 hours payment to student tutors. If we hire three tutors, the 650 hours averages to about 13-14 hours per tutor per week, so the number of seats and tutors are rather limited at this time.”

Dr. Carlos Garcia, dean of the School of Mathematics, Science and Engineering, said, “Long-term, from a strategic perspective, we need to address the size of that lab and augment it with additional computers. The problem is that this place (UIW) has exploded, and where do we find space is the question, but it’s a good problem to have.”

“I think the Math Tutoring Lab has been an absolute necessity to the UIW student population,” Yang said. “The convenient lab hours and location, the walk-in, no-appointment-necessary rule and the knowledge and skills of the tutors led by our lab director, Shayn Weidner, have proven to be invaluable assets to the students who need help.”

Garcia said tutors in the lab are students who have taken the classes, and who have, even at times, struggled with math but are now much better.

He said, “Students will respond to a faculty member differently then they will respond to a peer tutor.”

Math Lab tutors will connect with students in a different way, and if it’s done positivity, faculty members and peer individuals both serve as student resources, he said.

“We feel like that’s getting the best of different worlds,” Garcia said.

It has become a struggle between supporting the huge numbers of students that come in requiring basic algebra help and providing tutoring resources to students who are beyond Calculus 2.

Garcia said, “What we’ve opted to do was to concentrate and offer resources at the lower-division level because that’s where a lot of students are.”

Dealing with tutoring the upper divisions of math, and the Math Lab in general, Garcia said, “It has become a struggle for attention, a struggle for ‘I’m gonna raise my hand,’ a struggle for ‘I need to be there and have somebody answer my math question.’”

“When a student does have some issue with their mathematics learning, their first option should always be to utilize their current instructor for that course,” Yang said. “Their specific instructor has the best knowledge about the expectations for that class and the materials covered in that class. The Mathematics Tutoring Lab provides additional help for students who are in the courses targeted by the Math Lab. Other faculty members from the math department are also ready to provide help.”

On a corkboard bulletin outside the lab, posted on spiral notebook paper, is the information for private math tutor Joenan Krautheim — no affiliation with UIW. Krautheim, who has a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Georgetown University, offers tutoring in algebra, geometry and pre-calculus.

Krautheim said, “Math is everywhere around us in our daily living. I am interested in a student’s learning, will use as many different approaches as needed until the student fully understand the materials, and I’m flexible with time.”

“If a student can afford to pay somebody, more power to them,” Garcia said. “We always see it as ‘Let’s see how many resources we (UIW) can provide the students (instead).’ ”

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