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Math Assistance Center Serves Key Role in Success of Students Across Campus
Kevin Berkopes, new director of the IUPUI Math Assistance Center, gets it. Math is hard for many college students. Some people are “scared of math like they are scared of spiders,” he said.
The key thing to remember is that math doesn’t have to be looked at as if it’s a deadly illness or something to fear, he said. New initiatives at the Math Assistance Center (MAC), which employs students who understand the anxiety connected to the subject, are intended to make math more accessible, enjoyable and achievable for the 1,000 students across the IUPUI campus who visit each week.
“No other campus offers what we do here at the MAC,” the largest student employer on campus, Berkopes said. “Other schools may have volunteers or graduate students, but we have nearly 70 employees (split evenly between hourly workers and scholarship employees) who are dedicated to helping students succeed. Some of those have been recommended by professors for a specific course, and they can really target the subject matter for students struggling in that course.”
Berkopes was hired as director in February, becoming the first Ph.D. to hold the position. He also will teach as part of the Department of Mathematical Science.
One of his first initiatives was to revamp the MAC website, which now has expanded online tutoring for students based on course number and soon will incorporate tutoring videos to help students tackle typical issues in the most popular or required courses. Students can either visit the MAC, in the lower level of Taylor Hall, or chat online with a trained tutor during business hours.
The new site, www.mac.iupui.edu, features course information, solutions sets to practice examinations and interactive note cards specifically designed for each course. The site also integrates student clubs and campus communications and hosts campus-wide events such as the bi-annual Exam Jam.
“If someone had been here in the past and were to come in again, they would see a total difference in our capabilities,” he said.
Admittedly, Berkopes has a secondary motive for enhancing the MAC impact on campus. He sees the MAC experience as having a direct influence on future teachers on campus, especially those who could potentially make their way into math classrooms.
“Once students learn how amazing teaching can be and the impact they can have a on another math student, it will be hard to not want to teach,” he said. “This is one way IUPUI is attacking the issue of math education.”
The 30 Math Scholarship Mentors, who receive tuition assistance for their math tutoring work, enjoy dual benefits. They help students overcome fears and challenges in math while also learning how to best solve complex problems in a teaching environment.
“I love mentoring because I empathize with the students taking the course,” said mentor Jake Jungeman, a senior management major at IUPUI. “I was a little intimidated with Finite Math and had heard all the horror stories. This offers me a way to give back to the university and help students by offering my personal experiences.”
Junior Ivette Olave, a psychology and neuroscience major in the School of Science, agreed: “The MAC is so beneficial because it gives students a peer to talk to rather than a professor, who might seem intimidating.”
The MAC creates a comfortable environment in which the students can learn, said forensic science major Jessica Espino. “It could have been easy for me to forget much of what I already learned in math class, but I decided to help others understand a subject I now love.”