Some freshmen may never have to raise a red plastic cup, at least not for academic reasons.
More than 2,000 students, mostly freshmen, take introductory math courses online at the Math Emporium, where human teaching comes by request only.
However, 93 students are currently taking Math 1015 and 1016, the most popular freshmen requirement courses, not on a computer, but in a classroom.
For some students, not having a professor teaching the calculus courses and presently answering questions can hinder the learning process.
“I don’t understand how freshmen are supposed to be able to teach themselves calculus without a teacher,” said Adam Pearcy, a sophomore biochemistry major. “Maybe an upperclassman, but certainly not a freshman.”
But now, some students don’t have to “teach themselves.” During summer sessions I and II, a professor taught Math 1015 and 1016 in McBryde Hall. The classroom seated a maximum of 40 people.
The Empo, which is open 24/7, houses 537 Apple computers and is the testing location for seven math courses, including Math 1015 and 1016. It has graduate assistants and instructors available to help with math questions, but students must hail them by placing a cup on top of their computers.
The Empo has received praise from some students, as it allows them to work on their own time and continually practice problems to prepare for quizzes.
Last fall semester, the average grade point average for a section of 54 students taking Math 1015 at the Empo was 2.52. This summer, the class average of 29 students taking the same course in a McBryde classroom was 3.05.
While 10 sections of Math 1015 are currently taught in the Empo, three sections are in McBryde — the same small setting as the summer.
The McBryde-based classes meet for 50 minutes a day, Monday through Friday, and seat about 30 students each.
Susan Anderson, who has taught Math 1015 in a classroom setting since 2003, said the courses have been offered at both the Empo and in a classroom for years.
“Students learn differently,” Anderson said. “Many students enjoy using technology to learn mathematics, while others prefer a classroom setting with a teacher. We have been able to offer three lecture sections of Math 1015 each fall for years.”
Anderson said her fall lecture classes consist of 30 to 35 students who turn in homework daily and receive graded assignments. Another professor for Math 1015, Marlene Cothren, said this format allows for a close relationship with her students.
“We quickly learn our students’ names, have a real sense of their different mathematical levels and are able to personalize our lectures for each class,” Cothren said. “We enjoy our students and teaching the material.”
Cothren said most of her students find success in the course.