Growing numbers: Inside the Math Learning Center

Junior Erick Rossi De La Fuente tutors freshman Mitchell Laybourn in calculus

Junior Erick Rossi De La Fuente tutors freshman Mitchell Laybourn in calculus

It’s 10 a.m. on a Monday and campus has yet to experience its daily rush of students.

There are plenty of vacant spots in the parking lot and only a handful of students line the hallways of the College of Arts, Sciences, and Letters (CASL) Building.

But inside Room 2076, it’s hard to find an open seat. Some students are fixed to a computer screen, while others scribble numbers on notebook paper as they plug away on their calculators.

Welcome to a typical day at University of Michigan-Dearborn’s Math Learning Center.

“Lots and lots of traffic in here,” said Mike Lachance, mathematics and statistics department chair, as he circled through the center.

During the 2011-12 academic year, the center attracted about 14,000 visits from UM-Dearborn students. And judging from Monday morning’s attendance, Lachance suspects this year’s numbers will top 14,000.

“The Math Learning Center is essential to the success of many of our students,” said CASL Dean Jerold Hale. “The combination of motivated students and outstanding tutors working in collaboration with supportive professors is a recipe for improved performance.”

The center was established in 1998 after the university received grant funding from the National Science Foundation. The university delayed construction of the center until 2000 when CASL moved into its new building.

Since then, tens of thousands of UM-Dearborn students have benefited from the center, which offers free tutoring, computer access, reference books and videos, as well as a test proctoring service.

“There’s one discipline here and it’s math,” Lachance said. “Just breathing the air outside the learning center will make your grades go up. It doesn’t mean the learning center causes success. It means students who want to be successful go to the learning center. The bottom line is, students who use the center do well.”

Emma Slonina can attest. The recent UM-Dearborn graduate has worked at the center since 2009 and considers it “one of the most invaluable resources” on campus.

“After almost three years as an office assistant, I’ve watched countless students come in for tutoring or just to study, and their grades reflect that,” Slonina wrote on a bulletin board outside the center.

Positive student feedback, along with increased demand among students, prompted the center’s director, Inessa Karasik, to extend operating hours last year.

“We have some students who wouldn’t pass their classes without our help,” Karasik said. “They come every day, every semester to get help.”

Learn more about the Math Learning Center.

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