Every day, students from all levels of math classes fill the rooms of the Hard Math Café, working individually or in groups and getting help from both teachers and tutors.
The Hard Math Café and its Annex are located in the shaded corridor of Building 700, in rooms 700 and 702, separated by the offices of some of the math instructors.
For ten years now, the Hard Math Café has been helping students with their skills in math.
Before that, math tutoring occurred in the College Success Center. However, two problems arose.
The first problem was that there was no drop-in tutoring available in the Center. It focused mainly on students who signed up for scheduled tutoring help, which can be problematic for students who do not have the time for a tutoring hour. Being able to drop in allows for students to quickly ask for help on a question between classes if they need to.
The second arose when the opportunity for students and teachers to meet became limited. The teachers would have to go to the students to help them.
When the computer lab in Room 700 moved, instructors swooped in and took over the room, creating Yuba College’s first drop-in Math tutoring center, “The Math Lab.”
John Thoo, Professor of Math, believed that the center needed a catchier name, so in 1998, the Café earned its name in a student contest.
Room 700 is rather low-key. There are only a couple of tables in the room, a few computers, snacks, and hot water. This gives it a more relaxed environment to study and work.
There are eight full-time professors and three student tutors who spend partial time in the Café. “Everybody does two or three hours,” Lauren Syda, the Head of the Math Department, said.
The number of professors and the amount of time that they put in to tutor was able to increase when the Hard Math Café expanded into two rooms at the beginning of the Fall 2008 Semester.
“Space was the biggest issue,” said Syda.
The Café was extended to room 702 because the first room was becoming over crowded. However, this was a several week long process of the faculty asking the Administrators for a facility, which took place in the final months of the Spring 2008 semester.
“We’d all have to stand up to make room for students entering the room,” Syda said as she demonstrated. “It was becoming unsafe.”
Room 702, which is known as the Hard Math Café Annex, is a much larger room than 700.
“It’s wonderful for the faculty and students,” said Catherine Heaton, a math instructor.
It has three sectioned off areas and five other tables and desks for group study, or for a student to be distanced from the others.
The Hard Math Café Annex is also where the school’s Math Club is held.
There is a symbiotic relationship between the Hard Math Café and the Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement, or MESA Center, which is located in room 701, right next to the Café.
This relationship grew out of the MESA Program’s goal of keeping its students together.
MESA and the Hard Math Café both offer tutoring help, and to have the students who were in both programs switching between them was redundant.
MESA is a state funded program at Yuba College. It came to the school in 2000. The goal is to help educationally and financially disadvantaged students whose majors are in mathematics and science. It gives students enrolled in its program a place to share ideas, support, and to hold study groups. MESA also has leadership programs available. These send students to conferences, which include different types of leadership building workshops, and summer internships.
The rooms are temporary, however. “Ultimately, we want a larger space to house both MESA and the Hard Math Café,” Syda said.
The Hard Math Café is located in room 700 and 702. It is open from 9 to 5, Monday through Thursday, and from 9 to 2 on Fridays.