Math Boot Camp helps military affiliated students jump back in to mathematical studies

CATEGORIES: News, Notable, Students
Students sitting at tables in a room.
A math boot camp helped ISU military affiliated students refresh their math skills.

For students returning to school from military duty, math concepts can feel a bit rusty. Hal Schenck, professor and chair of the Department of Mathematics, and a veteran, led the Department of Mathematics in partnering with the Iowa State Veterans Center to eliminate that barrier and give student veterans the skill set to succeed at Iowa State.

“Math is a subject that when you don’t use it, you lose it, and so for student veterans we want to make sure that they have all the support we can provide as they return to academia after serving,” Schenck said.

To help students come back to classes prepared with sharpened math skills, the Department of Mathematics and the ISU Veterans Center hosted a boot camp for ISU military-affiliated students in August.

“This is an outstanding example of how departments can be engaged in finding creative ways to make a difference for our military-affiliated students,” said Jathan Chicoine, director of the Veterans Center. “We’re deeply grateful to Dr. Schenck and his team.”

Logan Dunn (’20 civil engineering) was one of the students who took advantage of the opportunity to get extra help.

“I remember when I first came to Iowa State in the fall of 2016, I struggled with some of the more advanced concepts I hadn’t used since high school,” Dunn said. “This training session helped get students in the ‘back-to-school’ mindset.”

Both Schenck and Elijah Stines, senior lecturer and associate chair in mathematics, taught at the event. Lee Przybylski and Alex Nowak, graduate students in mathematics, were also on hand providing individualized assistance with the workshop.

Stines was the main architect of the lessons and prepared questions for the students that represented the basic mathematical skills the students would need to enter the series of Calculus courses at Iowa State. He helped facilitate discussion and problem solving in trigonometry, algebraic expressions and logarithms and exponentials at varying levels of difficulty.

“The students were incredibly attentive and engaged,” Stines said. “It was a joy to work with this dedicated group of students and I hope that they were able to master a few new core concepts that will serve them well in their future studies. I really look forward to doing this again.”

Iowa State has more than 2,000 military affiliated students. Jeffrey Vaske, assistant director of the Veterans Center, helped promote the event to the students and organize it. Afterward many of the students told him how beneficial it was for them, he said.

“I am extremely grateful that the chair of the math department, Hal Schenck, a veteran himself, was willing to devote an entire day to the event,” Dunn said. “I would not have made it through to where I am now without the tutoring, funding assistance, academic coaching and workshops, financial support and the camaraderie that is provided by the Veterans Center.”