The Poly Archives: New math mentor program develops

A mentoring program for undergraduate mathematics students has been started this fall through a collaborative effort between the Department of Mathematics, Residence Life, the Advising & Learning Assistance Center, the Office of the Student Experience, and the Office of the First-Year Experience. SE and FYE have been overseeing the mentoring aspects of the program, making sure that mentors are equipped with knowledge of the various resources available for freshmen on campus, while ALAC and the mathematics department are ensuring that the mentors supply proper academic support to the students. Professor Bruce Piper of the Department of Mathematics is overseeing the program.

The program has so far resulted in a change in the structure of Calculus I. The class now has separate quiz blocks with mentors reviewing calculus and pre-calculus topics, while incorporating subject review and important mentoring topics, such as time management, productive study habits, and goal setting.

The idea for the program surfaced around October of last year, when Piper and Assistant Vice President for Student Experience Lisa Trahan were discussing the possibility of a mentoring program for students in Calculus I and how such a program could work with the Clustered Learning, Advocacy, and Support for Students initiative. Trahan stated that the mentor program would “increase the touch points” of CLASS by creating a support system on an academic and personal level for freshman students. The program was announced by President Shirley Ann Jackson at the Town Hall meeting last March and planning officially started that month.

Trahan stated that the main idea behind the math mentoring program was to provide freshman students with “extra support around an academic topic, and help students build a stronger foundation,” as well as provide information about basic mentoring concepts. Trahan also feels that the program is a great experience for the mentors, especially to those who have an interest in teaching in the future.

When a call for applications to the math mentor program was announced last spring, around 40 students applied. The application process included an interview, including questions about being in a role model position, and an examination of their presentation abilities when explaining a math problem to an audience. Thirty students were selected and 26 accepted to become mentors.

This year, the mentor program is being tested out in MATH 1960, a mandatory quiz block registered for by students taking Calculus I this year. Mentors were placed in some of the sections where they cover various mentoring topics in addition to reviewing the same content as the other sections. Each mentor is assigned two sections with approximately eight students per section.

“I really like being a math mentor. I enjoy teaching calculus and I get a sense of value out of helping the first-year students learn calculus and adjust to RPI,” mentioned Alicia Deromedi ’12.

Piper stated that there have also been positive reports about the program coming from students, however, they haven’t yet sent any formal surveys. Once feedback is obtained, more information on the program’s continuation will be available.

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