Highline College

Wednesday, June 03, 2020

Math Resource Center helps students survive

Terry Meerdink
Faculty Mathematics

Joseph Robeye Staff Reporter April 14

Tutors at the Math Resource Center help students solve unfamiliar math equations and succeed in their classes.

Between 20 and 25 math tutors do their best at providing students the help they need to ace complicated classes.

If a student is fighting with a tricky problem or concept, the tutors will go out of their way to make sure it’s understood by going over a work-along example, then assist the next student.

“I would give them an example, and then they can apply that same skill to their homework,” said Highline math tutor Hau Cantwell.

Each tutor is specialized at a specific high-level math course. Some of the tutors are limited to Calculus 1, and there are only a few who were taught up to Calculus 4. Terry Meerdink, the MRC director, is a useful resource too.

“I can mostly help from 151, which is Calc 1, and below,” said an anonymous tutor. “As for right now, I can’t help with stats, because I never took that class, or anything above 152.”

Another factor that influences the tutoring outcome is how the student’s instructor teaches, including the tutor’s previous instructors. Since there can be endless ways to solve one math problem, big or small, it’s important that both parties can meet at a similar page.

“We’re just tutoring what we took in past quarters,” said Highline math tutor Minho. “If you teach in a different way, then we get more confused.”

The tutors mostly help students with homework questions and prepare for exams. They cannot just simply give answers or help with quizzes as that doesn’t serve any kind of learning purpose.

“And sometimes, they would take a quiz or something and they’d ask for help,” said Hau Cantwell. “I can’t.”

Commonly, the tutors see more students needing help with math classes under 100 compared to calculus students. One anonymous tutor explained how being first exposed to math can take a while to handle, unlike others who already got the idea.

“I think, the higher-level math you are, the more the student has a higher skill and is ready on their own, whereas with lower math students, they kind of just started learning math,” he said.

Students said the tutors do a pretty good job at guiding them to victory. How the student performs in the long-run really determines how effective they were assisted by a tutor, including the quickness of problem-solving and if the question being asked is familiar to the tutor. Some students find that working on math face-to-face is more comforting.

Highline student Merary Flores said she goes there to use a computer and get online homework done.

“Things that I wouldn’t be able to do on my phone, I would be able to do it on computers, because I don’t really have access to that at home,” she said. “So I feel like that’s really helpful.”

Other students get together with classmates and guide each other through when stumped.

“It’s my class where we have group quizzes, and so to help finish and work on them, I usually come here so that way I can help with students in a group, because it’s a good place to be just to do math,” said Highline student Joseph Wolfe.

Tam Trinh said Lead Tutor hours are for students and tutors wanting to ask questions. It’s also for students interested in applying for a tutor position, interviewed by Terry Meerdink. She explained what a lead tutor does.

“Also, those hours are for lead tutor to observe other tutors while they are working and prepare to make the tutor evaluation by the end of the quarter,” she said.

During the workshops, Terry Meerdink said a tutor works with a small group of students, shares information about how to do something and then have the students try and recreate it.

“For instance, if it is a calculator workshop, the tutor will demonstrate how to use the calculator do things like graph functions, find intercepts, etc, and then have the students try,” she said.