The Math Gym is a concept rather than an actual place. It applies the wisdom that practice is the key to learning math well. It precipitates the best practices of many excellent instructors of foundational courses from the Department of Mathematics and Statistics. The Math Gym provides a framework of connecting the practice to class work in a tangible way. The Math Gym features “conditioning coaches” and “personal trainers” who will help students keep their foundational math skills in good working order. Moreover, the gym promotes healthy math habits among all our students, drawing a clear analogy between the regular work outs and conditioning needed to maintain both athletic and mathematical skill.
The students in the Math Gym start with worksheets recommended by analyzing their state of knowledge as they enter the class. As they progress through the class, each quiz shows the level of mastery (or lack thereof) at that stage. If the mastery is not strong enough to learn the follow on material, a new set of worksheets are recommended. Students are invited to attend the Math Gym regularly to work out on the extra problems assigned to them based on what they specifically need to work on. The continuous connect between practice and class work is expected to keep motivation at a high level.
The initial assessment is known as QuizZero. Every student’s need, as determined by the performance in QuizZero, is potentially unique. Hence a unique set of worksheets are designed to meet each student’s need. A student entering Math Gym will sign on to a MS-ACCESS database, and it will immediately indicate the worksheets that are due and their due dates. They can start working out right away. Coaches, many of them graduate students and a few advanced undergraduates, walk around in Math Gym. A student having difficulty can raise his/her hand and flag a coach for help. The coach will look at the work and will provide just the appropriate hint to take the student over the hurdle. This is referred to as spotting, just as an athlete would need while lifting a weight that is slightly out of his/her normal lift.
The Math Gym Loop starts with the instructor who creates QuizZero, which leads to a personalized workout plan. The data base will then track the student throughout the class from one quiz to the next by way of work out sheets to reinforce the in-class lessons.
Math Gym incorporates the scalable aspects of many tried and successful ideas of excellent teachers in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, UMBC. The path leading to the conception of Math Gym is outlined below.