Finding solutions for mathematics

For many there has been one subject students have dreaded, from the beginning of grade school to their senior year of college, mathematics.

Some question whether or not they need mathematics, finding no real life uses.  However, what lessons math may teach you go further than just adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing.

“Mathematics teaches you intangibles,” said Dr. Timothy Hudson, department head and professor of mathematics. “Math is the art of analytical thinking, or problem solving, that is needed in everyday life.”

Problem solving skills are essential in today’s job market, with employers always seeing if you can think on your feet.  Math teaches you to think in a framework, and find the best solution to a problem.  Though getting there is the toughest part to get over and in essence why students find it so difficult.

“Students seem to generalize math,” said Annette Newton-Baldwin, a counselor at the University Counseling Center.  “They think that it takes just as much time as other subjects, such as English or history.  Math is more than reading or memorization.”

According to Newton-Baldwin, when students generalize math and do not give it more time, they begin to feel anxiety. Anxiety is the uneasiness or distress of the mind caused by the fear of danger or misfortune.  This can become a large hurdle that students have to find a way past.

“Students begin to come in when it’s too late,” said Newton-Baldwin.  “More often than not, those that come in have often taken the course more than once.”

The difference between high school math and college math is significant, often times because of the way it is taught.

“In many instances, the manner in which math is taught at both the high school and college level is geared towards the past, when students learned by listening to a lecture and taking notes,” said Hudson. “Many young people today do not learn effectively in this manner. For this reason, innovative high schools, colleges and universities have begun to supplement their lectures in what we consider ‘freshman-level mathematics’ courses by using internet-based assessments. This gives the students immediate feedback on their homework, quizzes, and exams.”

Learning how to input the solutions on the computer is something else that students must learn, but with time and effort, Newton-Baldwin believes it will only be better for the students.

“Learning how you learn is a big part of college,” said Newton-Baldwin.  “Sometimes, students retain the information better when they study in increments.”

These increments are periods of time when a student simply studies, whether it is for 15 minutes or an hour. Then, after the period of studying, the student takes a break from hard thought, letting their mind rest before starting the process again.  Other things that can help may be as simple as asking for it from your instructor.

“I am surprised at how many students do not utilize the instructor’s office hour times to come in and ask questions,” said Hudson.

For assistance in math courses, the Center for Student Excellence offers free tutoring. The center is located in Southeastern Hall room 113. Contact them at 985-549-3981 to schedule an appointment or gain more information.