Math Lab opens in Campbell Hall

Rumors of a Math Lab in Campbell Hall gave rise to countless poorly crafted Breaking Bad jokes and cries of “Math, not even once.” According to math teachers, however, the Math Lab apparently has function beyond its phonic relationship to meth labs; students in need of a place to get help studying and understanding math homework can visit Campbell 303 to see for themselves.

“We requested the Math Lab, starting about six years ago,” said math department chair Robin-Lynn Clemmons. “As a grade chair, I saw a lot of the students were going to the writing lab and getting help at some point during the day and that seemed to be working well for them. We thought ‘Why not a Math Lab?’ since people have such busy schedules and can’t get to office hours all the time.”

The Math Lab is staffed from 8:30 to 12:30 on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. Lina Ellis, the head of the Math Lab, was hired by Clemmons and has taught at Westminster previously as a permanent teacher and a substitute.

“I taught at Westminster about 9 years ago, and I’ve kept up not only with Westminster but with math education in general…The students that have come to [the Math Lab] usually just have questions on their homework and they just need a little hint,” said Ellis. “Sometimes the students also need some extra practice problems if they have a test coming up. One time someone came in because they were looking back at their notes from class and there was one thing that they didn’t quite understand, so we went over it again.”

According to Clemmons, Ellis can help out any student in any level of math.

“[Ellis] knows her math,” said Clemmons. “She has taught from Geometry to Multivariable Calculus, which is great.”

Math teacher Ellen Vesey agrees that Ellis is well-qualified.

“I think Westminster students are really lucky to have such an experienced math teacher that they could get help from at any time that they need it,” Vesey said. “She’s a great resource.”

Clemmons hopes that the students can take advantage of the opportunities that the Math Lab has to offer.

“I’m hoping that the Lab will offer a longer period of time for individualized work that they’re not getting in office hours when there are 20 kids in the room,” Clemmons said. “I know that the new schedule does not give students as many free periods as previous years, so now we are having fewer kids available to attend Math Lab, but for any kids that it does help, to me, is a benefit.”

Ellis coordinates with all the math teachers so she knows exactly how to help students out.

“I have regular meetings with the math teachers to figure out what they are teaching,” Ellis said. “This way we can stay organized and make sure everything lines up.” Ellis plans to incentivize students to participate in math and the Math Lab by introducing the “Problem of the Week,” which is posted on the door of Campbell 303. Prizes for solving the problem of the week include candy and, sometimes, extra credit.

“To get some more business, I’ve started the problem of the week,” said Ellis. “One of the math teachers even mentioned that they might start counting it as extra credit for their class, but I’ve been giving out candy. I’ll put up a problem of the week every week to try and get people to come by and meet me and see how the Math Lab works.”

The Math Lab can be a good place to sit quietly and do homework.

“Anybody can drop in,” Ellis said. “You can ask a quick question or just drop in and work on your homework. I’ve had people stay as long as an hour and people that stay for only five minutes.”

The Math and Science Support Center is a great place to get help on small concepts that aren’t understood in class.

“The Math and Science Support Center helps students who don’t have major revisions in a class but just have minor issues with topics that a fellow student can help them with,” Vesey said. “I think it’s a win-win situation, obviously for the student getting help but also for the tutor because they can develop their skills in communicating mathematically.”