Math Emporium aims to improve algebra scores
The University's College Algebra Math Emporium, a
5,000squarefoot space in Pickard Hall, opened in August
and had its official grand opening on September 7.
The emporium, a tutorial computer lab where students
will spend twothirds of their class time, is based on a
model provided by the National Center for Academic
Transformation (NCAT).
The emporium model has students spend onethird
of their class time in normal classroom instruction and
the other twothirds in the lab, where they have access
to computers with specialized software and can work at
their own pace. Graduate students serve as tutors and
four will be available at all times when the lab is open.
The room contains 102 desktop computers.
UT Arlington and NCAT began collaborating two
years ago on implementing the model and the Department
of Mathematics was the first unit to step forward
and participate. Revising the way college algebra is
taught was a perfect place to start, said Michael Moore,
the University's former senior vice provost.
"This truly is a national problem. The biggest hurdle
for students trying to graduate from college is math,"
Moore said. "We want to thank the math faculty here
for really signing onto this and helping make this a reality.
The president and provost are solidly on board with
this. It's on their radar and you have their full support."
Other courses could be added to the program,
based on the results derived from the Math Emporium.
Jianzhong Su, chair of the math department, also
emphasized that algebra is the right place to begin in
testing the new program, because the failure rate
among students nationwide is high, and few other remedies
have provided much success thus far.
"College algebra is at the forefront of the discussion
right now," Su said. "The New York Times recently had
an article about how hard it is and how many students
are failing, and asked why not just eliminate it? I'm glad
the administration understands the importance of college
algebra to the next generation of students. It will
be difficult, but I think by putting our strengths together,
we can do it."
David Jorgensen, associate professor, oversees the
emporium as part of his duties as associate chair of the
department and serves as the emporium's acting director.
"Almost universally, other comparable universities
implementing the emporium model report roughly a rate of students obtaining a C or higher as 75 percent," Jorgensen said. "We would like to see a similar
rate for our college algebra students, while simultaneously having confidence that the students have a better understanding of the subject. I believe we can
accomplish this under the emporium model.
"In the traditional model of lectureonly college algebra, the students were primarily spectators rather than participants. In our emporium model, the
students do their homework in lab with numerous resources at their disposal, including those built into the software, as well as the lab instructors. Because
of this structure, the students receive immediate feedback while doing their homework, and the learning process is much more engaging."
