Return to the MAC: Thousands of IUPUI students count on mathematics center for help
Sep 18, 2019
Description of the following video:
[Words appear in upper-left corner: IUPUI presents]
[Video: A student tutor at the Math Assistance Center (MAC) helps a student with his math homework. He is sitting at a table, studying from an iPad. The tutor is standing above him. Next, another tutor at the MAC is seen writing a math formula on a whiteboard. Later, a close-up of an iPad with math formulas can be seen, along with a close-up of a student’s hands, writing on a piece of paper. Lastly, Kenda Hamersley, associate director of the Math Assistance Center, is seen helping two students with their math homework.]
Hamersley speaks in voiceover: The thing is, when you see students who, all of a sudden, the lightbulb goes off, that’s just like a thrill for me. In teaching college especially, the classes I taught are considered developmental. These are students that struggle with math …
[Video: Hamersley appears on camera.]
[Words appear: Kenda Hamersley, Associate Director of the Mathematics Assistance Center (MAC)]
Hamersley speaks: … and to hear students say for the first time, “I get it,” and you are a catalyst – that’s all I am, is a catalyst in it – what a thrill.
[Video: Hamersley helps two students with their math homework. She is working at a whiteboard table. Later, she is seen talking to a group of students while sitting on a table. Lastly, she is seen helping a large group of students with their math homework. She is writing on a whiteboard table, and a close-up of her hands is shown.]
Hamersley speaks in voiceover: I graduated from IUPUI in 1996 with my bachelor’s in math education. And then I started teaching here as an adjunct. Literally, I’ve been teaching, starting August of this year …
[Video: Hamersley appears on camera.]
Hamersley speaks: … it’ll be 23rd year that I’m starting my teaching endeavors.
[Video: Hamersley helps a large group of students with their math homework. She is standing, looking at a piece of paper. Next, a “Welcome to the MAC” sign is shown. Later, two MAC tutors are shown helping various students at the center. One is helping a student while they both look at a laptop computer, while the other is writing a math problem on a whiteboard.]
Hamersley speaks in voiceover: The tutors and everyone here are wonderful. I have a wonderful staff that are very knowledgeable, that do a great job of helping all of the students that come through here …
[Video: Hamersley appears on camera.]
Hamersley speaks: … and we celebrate with them. We’re excited for them. We always tell them, you know, ultimately it was your choice …
[Video: A tutor at the MAC is helping a student with her math homework. The student is writing on a whiteboard. A close-up of the whiteboard can be seen while she writes on it. Lastly, Hamersley and a student can be seen smiling toward the camera.]
Hamersley speaks in voiceover: … to come in, you chose to put in the work, therefore, really, you’ve done it. We were just here to help guide you.
Mechanical engineering technology sophomore George Koustoumbardis scrawled problem No. 17 on the table in green dry-erase marker. An upcoming exam at the end of the second summer session had him and several other students feverishly solving equation after equation. But No. 17 presented a roadblock.
Enter Halle Chilton. The junior mathematics major was one of several tutors on duty at the Mathematics Assistance Center, also lovingly known as the MAC.
Chilton broke down the problem, added her expertise and showed where Koustoumbardis’ solving attempt went wrong.
“I was combining a trig function – a cosine – and factoring,” he said. “My issue was that I got caught up in a certain step. She told me, ‘Hey, think about it this way,’ and it helped a lot.”
Breakthroughs like this one occur tens of thousands of times a year at the MAC, and each is significant. Those metaphorical and mathematical lightbulbs are always flashing over students’ heads at the center’s dozens of tables. The MAC’s staff are addicted to squeezing out those “aha!” moments.
“I look at math as little puzzles, and you have to solve them,” said Chilton, who is also balancing a computer science minor.
By the numbers
Kenda Hamersley, associate director of the MAC, has been at her post for a year. She said the center welcomed around 9,000 unique students for about 15,000 sessions in the 2018-19 academic year. She oversees a staff of 120 graduate students, mentors and tutors.
“The tutors and everyone here are wonderful,” said Hamersley, who teaches an online algebra class for IUPUI as well. “Tutors are evaluated. They’re hired in for lower-level math classes as well as to be tutors with specialties such as trigonometry and finite math.”
Bring books and a positive outlook
The MAC welcomes undergraduate students taking algebra, trigonometry, calculus and finite mathematics classes from 183 sections. Elementary education math students get their needs met in their own room within the MAC. Every table can be written on, and new outlets keep laptops powered up.
Students can show up without an appointment. They find a table and chair in the area for the subject in which they need assistance, and they raise their hand when they need help from the several tutors at the ready.
Photos by Liz Kaye, Indiana University
While the center provides study sheets and displays posters of foundational formulas for concepts like conic sections, trigonometric identities and unit circles, students must bring all of their materials from class. They must also carry an open mind.
“You sit down and have a conversation with them,” said Hamersley, who has taught middle school, high school and now college mathematics for more than 20 years. “I make points like, ‘We all have things we struggle with. Don’t get hung up that you’re struggling.’”
Students who enter with a hopeless feeling usually don’t leave that way. Hamersley and her staff get email and texts from students proudly announcing the results of a test. The thanks they get brings more job satisfaction for the MAC staff.
“I get to hear stories like ‘If it wasn’t for the MAC, I wouldn’t have made it,’” Hamersley said. “But really, it’s ‘You decided to come here. You put in the work, and we were here just to guide you.’”
Chilton added: “A student who comes in here all the time just texted me that he got 80 out of 100 on his test. It’s really rewarding when you have people come in and say they’re doing better now.”
Mutually beneficial mathematics
Duncan Hitti’s two years working at the MAC earned him a managerial position. The applied mathematics senior revealed that the constant flow of problem-solving at the center has helped him in his advanced classes. He and his fellow tutors must be nimble and knowledgeable, and that has translated to high performance in Hitti’s major.
MAC Stat Center
“It’s been huge. There have been a lot of things I’ve learned just by teaching,” he said. “It helps me review and remember stuff. It’s helped me a lot in classes I take.”
‘I’m always here’
The rise of math standards has been noticed at the MAC. More classes are requiring more math. High schools are teaching more advanced math to prepare students. Still, the MAC has become a second home for many of them.
Nyasha Chinembiri and Ayo Betiku were utilizing a whiteboard and the table to work out trigonometry problems before their exam. Both students are major proponents of the MAC.
“I’m always here,” said Betiku, a sophomore studying biology. “It helps me pay attention. Sometimes the teachers don’t teach everything, so you get more help.”
A biomedical engineering junior, Chinembiri said students need the MAC – even if they don’t think they do.
“If you are here, you have a better chance of passing – and passing well,” she explained. “I’m concentrating much better here than being at home and trying to do it by myself. So, it’s good.”