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math
New math

Every once in a while, it is valuable to see our own efforts through new eyes. That’s what I experienced during great conversations in the past two weeks with visiting administrators and academic leaders from two Chinese universities. One, Shijiazhuang University of Economics, is a potential partner—they have strong programs in geology and engineering, as well as in business. Another has been a partner for the past five years—Xi’an University of Science and Technology.

At this point I must confess my preconceptions. I know that China, like many Asian nations, has succeeded in building high student competence in mathematics (as shown in many international assessments). So I assumed these visitors would not be very interested in our own efforts to boost math proficiency, which aim to address the generally weak preparation of American students.

Yet both groups were intensely interested in our new Lumberjack Mathematics Center, especially the capacity it is providing for students to work at their own pace and to focus most intently on those areas in which they need the most practice and assistance. And they expressed a great deal of enthusiasm for the concept of instructors spending most of their time working with individual students rather than lecturing.

Of course it is too early to show how student learning is being affected. And I’m curious to hear from instructors about whether they are truly able to provide more individualized support and coaching in this design. But I appreciate knowing our colleagues are creative and courageous enough to try an innovative new approach where the old simply wasn’t working well any longer.

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Laura Huenneke

Laura Huenneke is Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at Northern Arizona University

[Editor’s note: Watch for future posts by Laura Huenneke, President John Haeger and a variety of guest bloggers as Inside NAU prepares to roll out a new look with added features, including reader comments. Prior to the launch of the new site, you may send your comments to Provost@nau.edu.]

 
 

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Inside NAU is published by the NAU Office of Public Affairs for faculty, staff and friends of Northern Arizona University. We welcome story ideas related to NAU's mission, its employees and its students. Submit story ideas using our online form.

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