In June 1995, the findings of The Ohio State University's Committee on the Undergraduate Experience (CUE) provided the initial impetus leading to the creation of the Mathematics and Statistics Learning Center (MSLC). Chaired by Martha Garland and Eric Busch, the CUE reported widespread frustration among students, professors, and teaching assistants with lower level mathematics courses. The report found the aforementioned courses (more than any other single subject area) contributed to early student attrition causing academic advisors to regularly recommend that students satisfy their math requirements at other institutions.
Based upon the CUE report, the Dean of the College of Mathematics and Physical Sciences appointed an Ad Hoc Committee on Lower Division Mathematics Instruction, chaired by James H. Stith, Department of Physics, to closely examine the lower level mathematics program and to report their findings to him. This committee issued their final report in June 1996. One of the twenty-six recommendations in the final report stated: "The University and the Department should enhance the current tutor rooms by making them into a Mathematics Learning Center. The Center should include access to computers and individual and small group tutoring. These enhancements would also include an extension of operating hours."
The Stith Committee's report led to the formation of the Math 2000 Committee, chaired by Greg Baker, which further investigated what could be done to improve mathematics teaching and learning. This committee reported the department currently provided a tutor room staffed by a few teaching assistants who primarily helped students with homework problems. The report also stated the "facilities are rather dismal and there is little supervision of the activities."
Establishing the Mathematics and Statistics Learning Center came from the recommendations by the Math 2000 committee. The committee envisioned this center to be the core of activities to administer, manage, and support the teaching efforts in lower division courses, to provide a more learning-friendly environment with tutorial services and tutorial software, and to maintain data and information on the teaching of Mathematics and Statistics.
On October 1, 1997, the Council on Academic Affairs granted start-up funding provided by the Academic Enrichment Program in the Office of Academic Affairs to implement a tutorial program that would soon be named the Mathematics and Statistics Learning Center.
Mathematics Professor Phil Huneke agreed to serve as the Acting Director of the Learning Center. Phil spearheaded the acquisition of a permanent home for the tutor rooms in Cockins Hall and the Mathematics Building, the consolidation and organization of the tutoring services, the acquisition of furniture, the scheduling of tutors, and the hiring of an assistant, Richard Brown, to help with the groundwork for the MSLC and to hire, train, and supervise the tutors, manage the tutor room, and facilitate the daily operations. Phil's leadership and diligent work during the 1997-98 academic year allowed the Learning Center to have a successful beginning and to set the stage for a successful future.
From 1998-2000, Tony Nance served as the Director of the MSLC. During Tony's tenure, the MSLC expanded evening tutoring hours, offered instructional workshops on usage of the graphing calculator, hired a full-time computer support person, and planned a major renovation of the MSLC Cockins Hall space. An \$800,000 Capital Improvement Grant from the Ohio Board of Regents and \$200,000 in matching funds from the College of Mathematical and Physical Sciences made the renovations possible.
Under Tony Nance's direction, the MSLC began housing the Math Department's high-tech, distance education program Calculus Remote at The Ohio State University (CROSU), collaborated with the Office of Disability Services to provide space for administration of math exams, partnered with the Office of Residence Life to increase awareness of MSLC services throughout the dormitories which resulted in an experimental offering of Sunday evening tutoring in four campus dorms, and provided an outreach program at Trevitt Elementary School in Columbus with MSLC tutors working with 4th grade students. In addition, the implementation of a two year long tutor training program began that required tutors to enhance and fine tune their existing tutoring techniques and interpersonal skills through scenario analysis, professional readings, and short essays.
When Tony decided to pursue other opportunities within the Department of Mathematics, Deborah Rumsey was hired as Director. Deb served as MSLC Director from 2000-2004. She supervised the remaining planning and implementation of the Cockins Hall renovation project, created two additional full time staff positions, and received grants totaling $50,000 to support efforts in learning technology development and dissemination.
Under Deb's direction, the development of Mathways (a program created to help lower level math students improve their math and study skills for increased performance) utilized study teams and discovery-through-inquiry activities. This program helped students identify and progress through their most challenging math concepts/problems, address their misconceptions, and improve their study habits.
During this time period, the MSLC participated in the First Year Experience Success Series of seminars, the Bridge Program, and numerous campus-wide presentations designed to increase awareness of MSLC services. The First Year Experience Success Series of seminars stressed how to achieve math success at OSU and how to better prepare for college math exams. Initiated by the Office of Minority Affairs, the Bridge Program worked with incoming freshmen who needed extra support for the transition from high school to college level mathematics. Working with highly skilled tutors, the Bridge students progressed through the self-paced program by using a customized math skills check list and participated in cooperative learning enrichment activities.
When Deb decided to pursue other opportunities in the Statistics Department, Darry Andrews was hired as Director in September 2004, and he currently continues to serve in this position.
Under Darry's leadership, new initiatives include an extensive series of course specific workshops on selected critical topics in Algebra, Pre-Calculus, and Calculus I, II and III, midterm and final exam review sessions for Algebra through Calculus II, expansion of evening tutoring to a second site at the Science and Engineering Library, and the acquisition of the latest educational technology.
In addition, the MSLC participated in the following outreach activities: the Land Grant Scholars Program, Math 148 Emerging Scholars for African-American males, and a summer math enrichment program for incoming freshmen football players.
With the cooperation of his staff, Darry approved the installation of TutorTrac (a computer system designed to track student usage of the MSLC services and to provide other key data), provided additional space for the Department of Statistics growing needs, prompted regular meetings among the OSU branch campuses learning center staff to discuss common issues, and promoted wider use of available technology in mathematics instruction.
The future of the MSLC looks especially bright with a plethora of innovative ideas under consideration. The imagination and creativity of the MSLC staff is unlimited, however their budget is not.