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Learning center success helps students, faculty

December 1, 2015

Mathematics Assistance Center

Bryan Melsheimer of the Mathematics Assistance Center is part of the School of Science team that helps students achieve academic success. | PHOTO COURTESY OF WHITNEY WALKER, SCHOOL OF SCIENCE

The Mathematics Assistance Center at IUPUI has built a strong reputation as a cornerstone of student success, but executive director Kevin Berkopes likes to remind people on campus that the center, often referred to as the MAC, has another mission: supporting faculty achievement.

"The MAC is designed to work in a true partnership with faculty to provide high-quality experiences with our students to develop their mathematical skills," Berkopes said. "But the partnership would not work unless the faculty of the mathematical sciences invested themselves in the collaboration we are building."

The level of student success, outlined in last year’s Inside IUPUI story about the center, is only part of the story of the Mathematics Assistance Center, which includes weekly sessions covering the Purdue Problem of the Week program with faculty such as Daniel Ramras and Jyoti Sarker, both of the Department of Mathematical Sciences in the Purdue School of Science.

"Faculty have an opportunity to work more closely with students in a higher-impact environment, and students get to be closer to the mathematical expertise we have on our campus," Berkopes said. "Our faculty enjoy that relationship as well as the support the center offers to our students. It is mutually beneficial."

The MAC executive director noted the support offered by Professor Joseph Rosenblatt, chair of the mathematical sciences department: "Rosenblatt has encouraged participation by all department faculty in the learning environment provided by the center and by MAC STAT, which provides support for statistics-related coursework."

Berkopes has experienced the benefits of working closely with students in the center in his own research work. "My research is fostered and developed by my work at the MAC every day," he said. His research now focuses on the model for mathematical learning centers that IUPUI has been developing, including technologies to advance the craft of teaching mathematics to all.

"This is a mix of cognitive science, mathematics, mathematics education, computer science, digital design and human-centered computing that significantly develops each field in a nuanced way," Berkopes said. IUPUI and other schools work with the center, its students and faculty to develop agendas and grant opportunities that benefit many schools and units, including informatics, computer science, health sciences, education and University College.

To Berkopes, the Mathematics Assistance Center is an IUPUI success story because it centralizes what universities often deal with: entities working on similar issues but without shared knowledge or collaboration. "When a learning center positions itself on a campus, the way the MAC and MAC STAT have, that's no longer an issue," Berkopes said. "Resources can be combined, money can be saved and redistributed to students, and students gain access to experiences that are part of their future growth toward an intended degree path. I'm excited to see what more we can create, and what other key stakeholders can offer, as we build these ideas and models on our campus."

Note: This story is part of an ongoing series highlighting IUPUI's Strategic Plan initiatives.

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