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Preaching the Benefits of Math Jam

Math Professor Michael Hoffman and Five Students Will Present Original Research on the Benefits to Students and Faculty of the Popular Program


Cañada College Math Professor Michael Hoffman is an unabashed supporter of Math Jam. He’ll travel to San Diego with five students Thursday to the Joint Mathematics Meetings to tell colleagues from around the country why the program is so successful.
Hoffman and students Amanda Pitts, Bushra Bibi, Jose Covarubias, Rolando Del Valle, and alumnus Christina Arenas will be giving presentations on Math Jam and how to start a math club at a community college.
The Joint Mathematics Meetings hosts the largest gathering of mathematicians in the United States. It is a jointly held conference of both the Mathematical Association of America and the American Mathematical Society. Hoffman said he’s traveled with students to past conferences and listened as presenters discussed the virtues of their various programs.
“As I listened, I couldn’t help but think our programs at Cañada are just as exciting and beneficial to our students,” he said. “This year, we decided to submit our own abstract.”
Hoffman and Pitts will present “Math Jam! Building Community and Improving Math Placement at Cañada College,” at 4 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 12, as part of the MAA Contributed Paper Session on Transition from High School to College: Alternative Pathways.
The students will make a second presentation titled, “Can you have a math club at a small community college” Yes, but…” The talk will describe the process of starting a Math Club and organizing successful events.
Pitts said Math Jam is a great example of a program that is helping students transfer to four-year colleges and universities. “There are a lot of students that enter community college with a high level of interest in the STEM fields but the majority of them drop out or change majors even before taking transfer-level courses because of the time it takes to get through remedial math,” she said. “Math Jam helps these students improve on their math placement test scores so they can skip remedial math and begin taking transfer-level math right away.”
Hoffman said the program does more than just help with test scores. “Math Jam builds community among teachers and students,” he said. “As a teacher, I can watch tutors as they explain math concepts to students. I am able to observe how the student learns and the best concepts to use to convey the lesson. As teachers, we get together after these sessions and really discuss the practice of teaching.”
Pitts, who serves as a Math Jam tutor, said students forge friendships with other students, tutors and professors and when they begin class, they feel like they have a support network.
Hoffman said placing motivated students with faculty and tutors for a week of intensive math training generates instant results. “It’s amazing how much progress they can make,” he said.
While Math Jam has been in place at Cañada for the past four years, the concept is relatively new across the country, Hoffman said. “Every year, we see more and more programs like Math Jam sprouting up,” he said. “By presenting at conferences like this, we can establish to other math teachers how successful this program has been. Our goal is to preach the good word of Math Jam and hopefully see more programs like it develop across the nation.”


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