Math and science can be the most difficult subjects on campus. Students might need help with their homework and understanding the concepts discussed in their class. Yuba College students do have options when classes get rough. The Academic Skills Center and the Hard Math Café / MESA Center offer services to help students do better in their math and science classes, among others.
The Academic Skills Center offers an important service, according to James Prager, Academic Skills Center coordinator. “Peer tutoring is for students who need assistance in various courses,” said Prager. Students can get an application from the Academic Skills Center, and have it signed by their instructor or a counselor.
Every semester, the center does a follow-up with the students who have received tutoring the previous semester. “Seventy-seven percent of the students tutored last fall received a C or better in the classes for which they were tutored,” said Prager. “I believe that course completion and course success are two things that greatly help students.”
“Students, particularly those enrolled in Math courses below Math 21 (Plane Trigonometry), should seek a tutor as early as possible,” advised Prager. “Math tutors’ availability is very limited early. Calculus students, who are on top of the game with Math, usually apply for a tutor the first or second week of the semester. Math 111 and Math 50 (Beginning Algebra) students often wait over a month before they apply for tutoring, and that’s usually too late for them to get enough help for their class.”
There is a need for more tutors in the center. “We always need more Math and Science tutors,” said Prager. “We also need more staff assistance.” Students wishing to apply to become a tutor must meet three requirements: a 3.0 GPA, an A in the subject for which they wish to tutor (in some cases, a B will be sufficient), and enrollment in tutor training courses on 2 consecutive Saturdays at the beginning of the semester.
Tutors receive a starting pay of $6.75 an hour, and it can go as high as $8.50 an hour. “The tutors who are paid $8.50 an hour are usually those who have transferred to universities, but still live in the area and wish to continue employment at the center,” explained Prager.
The Academic Skills center receives multiple funding. “Our largest amount of funding comes from an allocation by the district, approximately $20,000,” said Prager. “We also have the Vocational Training Education Act, which funds tutoring for students who are pursuing a vocational major. We also receive funding from the EOP&S.”
Another place students can get help with math is the Hard Math Café. The Hard Math Café is located next to the MESA center, in room 700. “They’re housed in the same place, but they’re separate entities,” explained Lauren Syda, head of the Math department. “The Hard Math Café is a drop-in tutoring center supplemental to the Academic Skills Center. We’re very much in support of the Academic Skills Center.” The Hard Math Café is staffed with math faculty from the Yuba College campus. It was not designed for scheduled tutoring, but for those who need help with their math homework and do not have a tutor appointment at the Academic Skills Center that day. The Hard Math Café offers tutoring, and the students often work in study groups.
Some students stay in the café for hours. “They figure that if they need to study, they might as well study here (at the café),” said Syda. “The environment is better for group studying than the library, where you can’t talk out loud with a friend about a problem, or the cafeteria, where it’s loud and you can be easily distracted and disrupted. At the Café, you can talk while studying, and everyone’s on the same subject.””We purposely do the Hard Math Café as drop-in tutoring,” continued Syda, “so whether or not your instructor is there at the time, you can get help from another instructor.” The Hard Math Café started out as a way for students to get help from instructors at times other than their instructors’ office hours. Instructors would help students during their office hours, but when they weren’t in the office, they wanted their students to be able to get help from a math instructor, without posing an imposition on the other instructors. Inside the Café, snacks and coffee, which are donated by the math faculty, are available to students getting help.
The MESA Center (Math Engineering Science Achievement) is funded by a grant from the State of California. “The idea behind the MESA Center is to provide academic support for MESA students,” Syda explained. “MESA itself is set up to help financially and educationally disadvantaged students who have financial needs, especially first generation college students.”
MESA students have to be majoring in a math-based field, such as chemistry or engineering. Qualified students who wish to apply for the MESA program would pick up an application at the MESA Center and fill it out.
Dr. Kevin Trutna, Associate Dean of Math and Sciences, reported “Six MESA achieved a 4.0 (GPA) in heavy-duty classes.”
The MESA Center also employs tutors. The tutors hired by the MESA Center are, in general, MESA students. “It provides opportunities for MESA students,” said Syda. The pay for MESA tutors is comparable to that of tutors at the Academic Skills Center. Also, “If the Hard Math Café happens to be filled with students, the MESA tutors will help the Hard Math Café students,” said Syda.
“The biggest obstacle students face is that they feel embarrassed around higher level students,” said Syda, “but the higher level students enjoy helping out. There’s times when, depending on the difficulty of their homework, they’ll fight over who helps the students.”
The Academic Skills Center is open 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday.
The Hard Math Café’s and MESA Center’s operating hours vary from semester to semester, as the faculty have different office hours every semester. “Now, the hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday,” said Syda. “This semester, though, we’re trying to keep it open until 6 on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, but there’s less tutor coverage.”