New classes fill needs at Whatcom

 Whatcom adds Mandarin Chinese and everyday math courses


By Meg Jackson

Whatcom Community College is now offering new educational opportunities for students which include math classes for non-STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) majors and a Mandarin Chinese language course. 
“We’re always looking at expanding our course offerings,” said Angela Enderberg, 40, Chair of the World Languages Department.  “We think it’s great the more world languages we can offer.”
Enderberg said that with more K-12 schools offering Chinese, there was a growing demand for a Chinese course at the community college level.
“It seemed like there was enough interest in the community that we started discussing it as a department, so we decided to give it a go and see if we are successful,” Enderberg said.
Wendy Hagin, who is the instructor for the new Chinese class, said that students are learning the language both in characters and phonetically.  The Chinese phonics system helps students understand proper pronunciation of Chinese words using the English alphabet.
“The phonics system really assists to help [students] read,” Hagin said, “otherwise they have nothing to refer to later when they see the characters.”
Hagin said that in addition to the language, students are learning more about Chinese culture as well.
“I think the culture is always part of the language,” she said.  “Even some characters we learn about, we talk about why it is built that way. . . culture is not just about a big celebration. . . it’s all the small nuances,” like how Chinese people greet each other, Hagin said.
There are 17 students enrolled in Chinese 121 this quarter.  Most of the students currently enrolled in the class speak English as a first language.  Chinese 122 and 123 will be offered winter and spring quarters respectively.  Students who already speak Chinese are not required to take Chinese 121 as a prerequisite, Enderberg said.

“The hardest part about taking [Chinese 121] is learning how to write the characters,” said Nolan Kovach, 19.
Whatcom has also added a new Math Literacy Pathway course to its curriculum this year.  This pathway is less algebra-intensive and is designed for students who don’t anticipate needing as much of a background in mathematics in their anticipated career field.
“The way we teach the course is very much group designed,” said Wendi Davis, Whatcom’s Math Center Coordinator.  “It’s a whole different structure than any other math course you’ve probably seen before.”
This new pathway is made up of Math 87 and Math 88.  Davis said that these classes are much less algebraic than what you would see in Math 97, 98, and 99.
“This is stuff you’re going to use in real life,” Davis said.   “We’re looking at bank accounts, percentages, pie charts, bar charts, all the different things that are really, truly applicable to most people’s lives and jobs.”

Students who choose to pursue the Math Literacy Pathway must complete Math 87 before moving on to Math 88.  Two Math 87 classes are being offered this quarter, and two Math 88 classes will be offered winter quarter 2016 to ensure that those who are interested have options to fit the classes in their schedules.
“I’ve been a huge proponent of a program like this because we always require students to have so much intensive algebra, but it’s not necessary for so many careers.  This will give you those skills that are necessary for those solid careers,” Davis said.
Whatcom students planning on completing a two year degree are required to pass at least one college level math class.  The Math Literacy Pathway is a prerequisite for either Math 107 (Math in Society) or Math 146 (Intro to Statistics).
“It’s a great program.  It’s really going to change the success that students are finding in college,” Davis said.  “Math has always been the biggest thing that holds us back from success here, and this ends up making it so that your overall two year degree is way more attainable than it used to be.”


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