Math Center paves way for student success

Story by Greg Lane

Does not compute? Malfunctioning in mathematics? Fear no more, for from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays, tutoring help is available to all Whatcom Community College students in the Math Center.

Director Jason Babcock heads the Math Center, located in Cascade Hall, and encourages all students to take advantage of the center and its tutors. He said the center is a prepaid service and “works around students and their needs,” whether those needs are immediate assistance or a work environment.

“I have some folks that just do their homework and there are other students that come in for a tutor the whole time,” said Babcock. “Students have the ability to reserve one-on-one tutoring.”

The one-on-one tutoring is on a reservation basis and gives students a bit more consistency with tutors than if they received typical help at the center, Babcock said. Typical help at the center involves students who need help sitting and waiting for a tutor to go around the room and help them one by one.

The sign-up sheet in the center allows for students to receive up to three one-on-one half-hour sessions per week.

Prepaid tutoring centers are common in universities and when students transfer from Whatcom to these universities it is important that they know how to access these services so that they can succeed in the future, Babcock said.

“What a lot of folks don’t realize is that successful students are going in and using resources. It’s not that people are geniuses; it’s that people are working really hard,” said Babcock. “You just don’t see them, but they are accessing academic supports that are afforded by the university.”

The center’s tutors are working regularly to keep students from struggling, Babcock said. “I think we’re so busy because people come in and have a good experience.”

David Adams, a regular student at the center, said his experience is great. “I come here for homework all the time.”

For those interested in becoming tutors, Babcock said he doesn’t just want mathematicians. “First and foremost they need to be effective explainers. I think that’s probably more important than just knowing the math.”

The Math Center is for everyone, tutors included, said Babcock.
“We hire a lot of students and they benefit from tutoring as much as students benefit from being tutored,” said Babcock. “There are students in there that get a lot out of it.”

Kendall Jones, a math lead in charge of other tutors, said he’s been working at the center for four years. “I started doing it so I wouldn’t forget my math and I found out I really liked it and enjoy helping out students.”

Sam Khong, a tutor at the center, said he’s been tutoring for about a year now and does it because it’s great preparation for his future in computer engineering.

Funding for the center and its tutors like Jones and Khong comes from a variety of sources such as the Associate Students of Whatcom Community College (ASWCC).

“Some of the money comes from student activity fees, so the student government actually contributes a sizable amount of money to help support tutoring,” Babcock said. “The [college] also contributes a decent amount of money.”

Because funding ultimately comes from students, the folks at the Math Center work as best they can so that students get the support they need, Babcock said.

“It’s not cheap to hire tutors and to have six or seven tutors on every hour, but it’s a heck of a lot cheaper than a private tutor,” said Babcock, adding that private tutors usually charge $20 to $40 per hour. “We can provide students hundreds of hours for significantly cheaper.”
“What are you saying by putting money in student math? I think that’s a powerful statement by the Student Council,” said Babcock. “It says a lot about the Student Council’s priorities.”

Whether people are struggling in their class, looking for a productive environment to work in, or are interested in becoming tutors themselves, the Math Center is a resource that can help Whatcom students be successful.

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