Monday through Friday, nestled in the breezeway under Skiles Classroom Building, mathematics students scribble away on rolling white boards, deep in discussion, while others sit at tables, writing on worksheets and chatting with another. For these students, understanding equations is no longer an individual problem to be solved on one’s own, online. With the new outdoor Math Lab, students can now work in collaboration with teaching assistants and each other to reach solutions.
As director of the Math Lab for the School of Mathematics, student success and fulfillment are Stephanie Reikes’ main priorities. And with the return to full in-person learning this fall, Reikes also wanted to provide full tutoring services to students, while also offering flexible hybrid options.
The solution to this tricky equation? Take it outdoors — and offer online options.
This semester, the Math Lab offers outdoor tutoring in Skiles Courtyard during the day, and online sessions in the evenings. As colder weather approaches, the Math Lab will move to a “hybrid” format starting on Monday, November 1:
- Indoor Math Lab: Monday-Thursday 11am-6pm and Friday 11am-3pm, Clough 246/252
- Outdoor Math Lab: Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday 2-4pm, Skiles Courtyard
- Virtual Math Lab: limited hours after 6pm; for links: https://tutoring.gatech.edu/drop-in/
“During the past year, we have learned that students like the flexibility of being opened more hours,” says Reikes. “While the Outdoor Math Lab closes at 6 p.m., we are offering limited virtual hours after 6 p.m. As of early October, we have already had 600 student visits to the Math Lab,” she adds.
After several previous semesters of mostly virtual instruction, Reikes recognized students’ desires for more in-person learning options. But she also wanted to avoid crowding indoor spaces with students.
“The current indoor space in Clough was just not conducive to social distancing as the lab is often very busy, especially during midterm exam weeks,” she explains, so she “came up with moving our Math Lab operations outdoors to the Skiles Courtyard, a central location to both the Math Department and TAs.”
Teaching assistant Brennan Dolson, second-year Ph.D. student in mathematics, also notices that in-person help has renewed relationships between younger students and older advisors.
“In-person help, in my opinion, feels more personal, and allows instructors the flexibility to help multiple students at once by circulating around a group, suggesting students from the same class work on a problem together, and generally gauge how well advice is being received,” Dolson says. “Virtual instruction, for me, tended to devolve into lecturing, rather than having a conversation, which was not as beneficial for students.”
Dolson also says the Math Lab offers a comfortable space for students and TAs to ask questions they may be too nervous to ask in class, and to work with trusted mentors and classmates.
“Normally, I think students have a sense that math lectures have a certain pacing, and can be hesitant to stop the class to ask questions — I at least feel this way as a student — which can leave them stuck on a certain doubt about the material,” he notes. “Math Lab is an outlet to clear up these doubts with an older student in a more free and unstructured setting.”
That comfortable environment can help build comradery and shared support, too. “I had a Linear Algebra graduate version midterm the same day that a group of math lab students had a Linear Algebra midterm, so that was a nice piece of solidarity,” Dolson adds.
Math Lab Hours and Location
To take advantage of Math Lab tutoring resources, stop by Skiles Courtyard Monday-Thursday from 11 a.m. – 6 p.m., Friday from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m., or log into BlueJeans during the hours posted in the Math Lab Schedule. More information on this and other free tutoring options available under Drop-In Tutoring & Academic Support.