Math and Writing Boot Camps prep freshmen for success

8th August 2017

By Steven Krolak

(NEW ALBANY, Ind.)—Fall in!

Basic training is taking place this week at IU Southeast.

Instead of pull-ups, sit-ups, climbing walls, obstacle courses and mud, these “boot camps” are focused on math and writing.

Incoming freshmen from across the disciplines are taking part in workshops designed to test their command of basic skills and to prepare them for college-level work.

Along the way, they are learning about campus facilities and resources, meeting with faculty and getting to know fellow students in their fields. And it’s all for free.

Math boot camp takes place during the morning, and is led by Kim Bonacci and Cindy Light, senior lecturers of mathematics. It features self-paced, individualized curriculum that meets incoming students where they are, and gives new students a chance to get to know math faculty, fellow incoming students and the labs and classrooms where they will be spending their time.

“We hope to give students a little more confidence in themselves about being able to succeed in math class,” Bonacci said.

To that end, the math boot camp helps students improve placement scores on the ALEKS math placement exam, so that students enter the fall at the right level.

The exam is taken before registration. By enrolling in the boot camp, students can gain more familiarity with the ALEKS system and within areas where they may not have scored as high on the test as they wish or need to. At the end of the intensive boot camp, they will retake the placement exam, to see if they can earn a higher score. That’s not just for fun or pride, but can actually help them move up in prerequisites. Sometimes just a couple of points can mean a lot.

“Some students may save themselves a whole semester if they apply themselves,” said Light. “That’s a lot of time and money.”

Writing boot camp is held in The Writing Center, where Director Leigh Ann Meyer introduces students to academic writing at the university level.

Students are challenged to move beyond the five-paragraph essay they have mastered in high school to think about audiences, objectives, sources and the broader relevance of their assignment.

Working with Meyer and Coordinator of Library Instruction, Maria Accardi, the students will write a paper using critical thinking, and then they will have an opportunity to workshop the results.

“They’ll use our collaboration stations to share their own work and look at one another’s work, and be able to articulate what is working, what’s not working and why,” Meyer said. “They’ll be able to apply all of this knowledge when they start school.”

Unlike math, writing varies from discipline to discipline, so the camp explores the different verbiage, structure and style protocols required in each area. Meyer has familiarized herself with the students’ majors, and is able to teach the nuances of both APA and MLA citation styles, as needed.

Both Meyer and Bonacci stress the importance of putting students at ease, and making them feel comfortable during the transition to college life. While the students will be expected to work more independently and produce more work—and more complex work—than in high school, it’s important that they be set up to succeed emotionally as well as academically. So the boot campers are made aware of how to access Personal Counseling Services and tutoring resources at the Student Success Center as well as how to use the library, math lab and Canvas system.

“In college, half the challenge is just getting started,” Bonacci said. “Once the ball is rolling, it’s easier to keep it going.”

Hompage photo: Senior Lecturer in Mathematics Kim Bonacci works with incoming student Leslee Tapia-Reyna in the Math Boot Camp.

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