Online course takes unique approach Reply

By Max Schochet – 1851 Staff

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Professor Neil Hatem (Center) helps students in MATH106. During construction the math labs have been moved to Alden Lab in Brennan Library. Photo by Max Schochet

For many students, the thought of taking a math class can send shivers down their spine. “Typically speaking, students view math as more of a task or a chore. [It’s] something that they dread,” said Professor Neil Hatem, Chair of the Math & Science Department. Thanks to a new online math program, that perception has changed.  

Hatem recently implemented the Lasell College Math Lab, an innovative, interactive, personalized online math tutorial where students can learn and progress at their own speed. “What makes this unique is there’s a lot less lecturing and a lot more self-learning,” said Hatem. “When students use the tools to figure out how to solve problems on their own, the learning becomes more meaningful and longer lasting.”

The classroom is the Alden Lab, located in the basement of Brennan Library. Students use Mac computers with the software MyMathLab, a program created by Pearson Education, a British publishing company. The course is self-teaching in structure, with students solving a variety of problem sets, supplemented with math videos to help explain and teach. If students need additional instruction, Hatem or the Teacher’s Assistant is there for guidance and clarifications.

“They get to do it at their own pace in a structured environment,” said Hatem. “Instead of kids struggling, we found a software package that not only grades for you, but gives you feedback and tells you how to answer correctly.”

The core class taught in the lab is MATH106 – Algebraic Operations, which is mandatory for all incoming freshmen unless they test out of it. Hatem said this course has had a positive impact on students.

“I’m definitely not one of those people who sits down and says, I like math,” said Kaitlin Johnson, who took MATH106 last semester.  “But I definitely liked the learning experience. I learned a lot out of it [and] it was kind of nice to do it at your own time.”

The program has also been used by Middlesex Community College and Kent State University, where Hatem experienced the lab first-hand at a teacher’s conference. Since the program has been implemented, there have been significant improvements in student’s overall math achievement rates. “We have seen a nice upward trajectory of kids succeeding in this class,” said Hatem. The students are able to comprehend it more easily, “with less stress,” he added.

In 2013, before the math lab was implemented, the percentage of students receiving a “C” or better was 62 percent. By 2016, that number has skyrocketed to 94 percent. One reason is because of the online accessibility, which helps students retain the lesson material. “Students can do this in their dorm, they can do this in the library, and if you need extra time, you can do it at home,” said Hatem.

“It’s a resource you can use all the time’” said Johnson.

The math lab, according to Hatem, has been instrumental in putting the math department “on the map.” That success has led the department to consider expanding and adding some additional courses. Hatem said, “We are now in the process of ‘how do you bring it to the next level?’” Future opportunities could include implementing the model into pre-calculus and calculus classes, and with the new academic building being constructed, there is a likelihood of adding an additional lab, according to Hatem. Funding for the current lab is from a $160,000 grant awarded to Lasell from the George I. Alden Trust, for whom the lab is named after.

The lab had previously been located in Wolfe Hall, but was relocated to Brennan due to construction. The move appears to have created a more positive environment for students, indicated Hatem. With a spacious, white-walled room surrounded by large windows, being in the library is more peaceful. Its close proximity to the Academic Achievement Center also gives students access to resources for additional help, if need be.

“It’s kind of cool. We learn more in a way, and we’re more engaged with it. For students coming in, I say give it a try because the overall system is really good,” said Johnson.

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