SMC Math Lab offers great resources for students
Whether a student wants to take it or not, a math class is a requirement in order to graduate from college. Students grit their teeth and let out a heavy sigh whenever they walk into their gut-wrenching pre-algebra class, spending most of their time sitting in confusion during lecture. Mathematics already comes with a high probability of failure when it comes to students’ interests, but the Math Lab at Santa Monica College is quickly changing that probability from a failure to a success. The Math Lab, located in the Math Complex on the main campus of SMC, is a free resource available to students to help them prepare and hopefully pass their math classes. From tutoring appointments to private workshops for each subject, the Math Lab is creating an environment for students to not only succeed in their core class, but to also have fun while learning.
The woman at the forefront of this helpful solution is Judith Mosher. Mosher is the Math Lab Coordinator who eats, sleeps, and breathes math. “I love math. I came to SMC to only take a few courses, but the community here won me over, and I get paid to solve math puzzles.” The stigma for students all across the country is that math equals torture, but Mosher’s mission at SMC is to change that outcome; trying to make math something enjoyable. “Math can be fun,” exclaims Mosher. “And if you have more fun, then you’re going to want to study, and you’re going to get better grades.”
The Math Lab has been available to students since the 1970’s, but just this past year the Math Lab has broken itself up into two distinct groups in order to better serve students’ needs. Students now have the option to attend workshops and tutoring services for either intermediate math courses or college-level courses. In each of these options, there are three types of services that students can choose from: tutoring appointments, drop-in help, or workshops.
Tutoring appointments consist of a one hour one-on-one session with a tutor, and these appointments can be made online by going to SMC.edu; choosing “Math Tutoring” under the “Campus Resources” tab. Students may make up to two appointments a week.
Drop-in services are available for anyone who has a quick question about any math problem. These sessions last between five-ten minutes; however, students can sign in multiple times a day for drop-in sessions.
Lastly, SMC instructors host workshops every week for one hour. Students are welcome to attend these sessions and ask professors any questions regarding their coursework. SMC student athlete, Kirsten Ortega, who’s enrolled in Math 20, says, “Once a week we come in for study hall for about 2 hours. We just do any homework that we need. We all help each other out and we use the books that they have here if we don’t have one with us. I think they have a copy of each book for every subject.”
In accordance with her mathematical spirit, Mosher spends each month tracking how many students utilize the Math Lab’s services, and she says, “3569 students came in during the month of September, with the majority of those students being enrolled in college-level classes. I’ve been tracking these stats for 3 years now, and the lower-level students come in by far the lowest amount of times.”
As helpful and resourceful as the Math Lab may be, based upon Mosher’s findings, it is still something that students aren’t completely aware of as an alternative to their class struggles. This facility remains to be somewhat of an enigma because the Math lab doesn’t have the proper funding to service large proportions of students at one time. Mosher explains that in order to help more students the Math Lab needs more money: “More money equals helping more students, and more funding equals better help and more hours.” Bill Baumert, a long-time tutor for SMC’s Math Lab, says, “People need help, and I think it’s very useful. A lot of people don’t know about the math lab; it’s a great resource; tuition pays for it.”
Mosher proudly says, “The culture of thinking for math needs a shift. We have to customize the strategy for students by having more of a variety of learning methods.” It’s important for students and instructors to work together in finding the correct answers in an impactful and enjoyable manner, and that is exactly what the Math Lab is setting out to do. “We need to motivate the students,” Mosher says passionately. “I’m not expecting them to love math, but if they can walk away understanding it, and liking it better than before, I can be happy.”