|It's fair to say Shanna Moody has always had an aptitude for mathematics and for helping others to understand it. She taught her first math class at age 12.
Her seventh-grade math teacher was out sick, and the substitute teacher wasn't very familiar with the material, so school administrators - knowing Moody's standing as the top math student in her class - cleared her schedule for the day and allowed her to teach. It felt natural to Moody, who would go on to graduate from college at age 20 and make a career out of mathematics education.
Moody's mission, she says, is to disprove the notion that math is just too hard for some people to grasp. On June 1, Moody took over as the new director of the Department of Mathematics' Math Learning Resource Center, or Math Emporium. She has made it her job to dispel the myth that mathematics is something to be feared or simply endured on the way to obtaining a college degree.
"Everybody can do math. They may not think so, but they can do it," Moody said. "They just need the right instruction. Right now, our public K-12 education system often leaves gaps in students' mathematical education, and a lot of them come to college with a fear of math. That's part of the mindset I want to change."
In an attempt to help students clear what is for many the biggest hurdle to graduation, the UT Arlington Department of Mathematics opened the Math Emporium in August 2012. The emporium is a tutorial lab with computer software which supplements and reinforces classroom instruction and allows students to receive help from instructors and graduate teaching assistants in areas where they are having difficulty. It is based on a model provided by the National Center for Academic Transformation (NCAT), which has produced often dramatic results at other institutions that have implemented it.
College algebra was selected as the initial course because it is one taken by a large number of college students from numerous divisions and one which has high failure rates nationwide. A second course, Statistics, will be added as a pilot program in Spring 2014.
"Our goal is to increase success rates across the board in mathematics courses, and with the emporium, we're focusing on algebra and statistics," Moody said. "We want to boost students' success rates while also helping them to improve their analytical and critical thinking skills, along with basic math skills."
Moody, who was born and raised in Odessa, came to UT Arlington from Weatherford College, where she worked for almost six years, including the last two and a half as assistant chair of the math department. Before that, she spent five years teaching mathematics, at Tarleton State University (three years), Angelo State University (one year) and in the Coleman Independent School District (one year). She earned a B.S. in Mathematics from Angelo State and an M.S. in Mathematics from Tarleton State.
The Math Emporium will be even more beneficial to students starting in the Fall 2013 semester thanks to the implementation of a new software program, MyLabPlus. It will include an information system which tracks student course performance and will give both instructors and students more information on the strengths and weaknesses of students' math skills, and suggest practices to help them improve. It will also register students for access to the lab as soon as they register for the course.