College of Science

Moody brings passion for math to emporium director role

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.



Shanna Moody, here in the UT Arlington Math Learning Resource Center, has extensive experience with the emporium model of teaching.

"The Math Emporium is a new technology-assisted teaching methodology," said Jianzhong Su, College of Science math department chair and professor of mathematics. "Led by David Jorgensen, associate math department chair, and Darlene Campbell, a recipient of the 2013 UT Arlington Provost's Award for Excellence in Teaching, the transition from the traditional model to the emporium model has gone very smoothly, and the new learning model is well-received by most of the students. Students have become active participants of the learning process, and they have put a lot of effort into mastering algebraic manipulations and mathematical concepts. We plan to continue this forward momentum and upgrade the math emporium system for Fall 2013, aiming at further increasing students' success.

"I am very glad that Shanna Moody is joining the UT Arlington Mathematics Department as director of the Math Learning Resource Center," Su said. "She is a leading expert in using the math emporium model in teaching, and has been very passionate about lower division math courses. The faculty search committee selected her from a nationwide search, and highly praised her excellent record in teaching and her experience in managing math emporium courses in her previous position at Weatherford College. She will be a valuable asset to the math department and UT Arlington."

Moody says that while not every student will go on to take advanced math courses or earn graduate degrees in mathematics, there's no reason why they can't master the basics. When they get the help they need, some might even find that they have a real knack for math and decide to go into a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) field.

"Everyone has different skill sets and different things they're good at," she said. "I had three years of Spanish in college, but I know I'll never be fluent. I know enough Spanish that I could find my way around in Mexico if I needed to. That's the same thing we're trying to do here with math. We're trying to help those students who are struggling to reach a level where they can succeed, and we also want to provide more of a challenge for those who are already strong in a certain area."

Posted June 27, 2013