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Palencia Finds Success in Math through Tutoring Program

Tutor Asma Zangana, left, works with student Noemi Arraya.

Carmen Palencia was excited to begin her studies at St. Louis Community College-Meramec.

But her excitement was soon crushed when her academic adviser told her that college algebra was a requirement for graduation. She took a placement test and the results revealed that she needed an entire year of prerequisite math classes before she could even take college algebra.

“I was so disappointed,” Palencia said.

Unfortunately, like many students, Palencia did not have a good foundation in math. She mentioned that over the years she had developed a self-fulfilling prophecy: She could not do math.

“I was very upset because I did not know how to study for math,” said Palencia. “I failed both my first quiz and exam. That started making me very anxious and I was worried about that. I talked to my math professor as well as my academic adviser. Both recommended that I go to math tutoring.”

Palencia was reluctant to go to math tutoring because she felt ashamed of asking for help.

“I was under the impression that going to tutoring meant that I was not smart enough,” she said. “I laugh about that today. Students should not feel that asking for help undermines them. Math is a challenging subject, and asking for help is the wise thing to do.”

She decided to give it a try and visited the Academic Support Center, located in the library on campus.

“I was amazed at how helpful and patient tutors were,” Palencia said. “Finally, for the first time, I was understanding math. They explained to me step-by-step and gave me tips on how to solve my math exercises and word problems. I went back the next day.”

Asma Zangana is the math tutoring supervisor at Meramec. She and her team continually work to serve students and help them to overcome their challenges with a high-quality tutoring program that leads students to succeed in their math classes.

“Our job is to coach students,” said Zangana. “I know math is not an easy subject for many students, but we are committed to help them to understand math and to apply it. Math tutoring is a great free resource, and we want students to take advantage of it.

“We invite students to visit us more frequently,” she added. “They can come individually, but also, we encourage them to form study groups and come to tutoring together.”

A study to measure the effectiveness of math tutoring was done in spring 2019 with a sample of students taking MTH:160 Precalculus Algebra. The outcome of the study showed that the students who went more frequently to math tutoring ended up with a passing grade of “A,” “B,” or “C” and an average GPA of 3.2 compared with an average GPA of 0.67 for those who visited nine or fewer times over the course of the semester.

Math Tutoring chart

Math Tutoring ©

Math tutoring on the Meramec campus is available Monday-Thursday 8 a.m.-8 p.m. and Friday 8 a.m.-4 p.m. To better accommodate students, tutoring also is available on Sundays 1-5 p.m.

In addition to regular hours, online math tutoring also is being piloted for students currently taking their math classes online.

Zangana said that she also is working with the service learning department to offer volunteer tutoring opportunities for students who are interested in completing a Semester of Service certificate.

“Going to math tutoring was the best decision ever,” said Palencia. “It helped me to gain confidence, overcome my math anxiety and to have better study habits. Math tutoring made a big difference in my academic success and empowered me to take more challenging math classes.”

The Academic Support Center is dedicated to helping students build confidence and develop the skills and habits they need to reach their academic goals. In addition to math tutoring, the center offers science tutoring, writing help and services to help students better manage their time, prepare for tests, take effective notes and more.

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