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Students Jump on Math FastTrack

New program helps incoming Pointers hone math skills before entering college

Imagine going to a week-long camp to practice math. Imagine it’s the last week of summer.

Sound like a can’t-miss opportunity?

“‘Math camp’ is not a very exciting idea, especially for someone who is entering college at age 22,” says Desiree Fravert of Loyal.

After being away from mathematics classes for several years, Fravert’s placement score was low enough to put her in Math 90, a developmental math course that earns no college credit toward graduation. At orientation, she learned about FastTrack, a new program to help first-year students at UW-Stevens Point hone math skills before beginning college.

A six-week online course was offered by the UW-Stevens Point Math Department and Tutoring Learning Center. A grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation enabled them to offer a highly successful program developed by UW-La Crosse. 

Students who’ve taken advantage of the UW-Stevens Point Tutoring Learning Center (TLC) often comment that if they just had a chance to brush up on their math skills, they could test out of Math 90, according to Trisha Lamers, center director. In addition to the online course, students had the option of reviewing the material face-to-face for one week before retaking the placement exam. A group of 25 met at Treehaven, UW-Stevens Point’s field station near Tomahawk.

“I’m a hands-on learner, so this really helped,” says Kelsie Hayes of Montfort. “I could ask questions, and tutors were available to help.”

The students solved math problems and received tutoring from Lamers, math instructor Ann Kiefer and three student mentors. They also helped each other. “They became part of a team. Each individual got stuck in a different place. They were comfortable enough to help each other learn,” Lamers says.

“A seemingly perfect balance of instruction, work time and free time made each day feel worthwhile and fun. Yes, I said it, math is fun,” Fravert says.

The students learned important skills. “Ann told us to be positive and open. Being negative you close your mind to possibilities,” says Shayna Molski, Plover. “Asking for help isn’t a bad thing.”

Afterward, every student highly recommended the course. Even more important, all 25 students successfully tested out of Math 90. Then, all 25 tested out of Math 100. The test results were announced at a luncheon for participants, parents, faculty and staff. By testing out of two classes, students save an estimated $2,000 in tuition and can take other needed classes sooner. “I’m excited for those who can leap ahead,” Kiefer says.  

“Math competency is a central role in disciplines such as chemistry, physics and the STEM fields. This program helps our students succeed,” says Chris Cirmo, dean of the College of Letters and Science.

The week also gave students a chance to make friends, address fears about college, understand more about campus life and being a Pointer. And that made starting classes at UW-Stevens Point on Sept. 6 easier.

“The day I moved in, I saw someone from math camp. ‘Hey, I know you,’” says Hayes. “The first day I already knew 25 people, so it was nice – and more comfortable.”

She has already contacted the TLC in the university library. “They strongly recommended getting help before you need it so you don’t fall behind.”

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