Chemistry and math funding could lead to higher grades

Seth Bodine

Chemistry and math classes are required for a variety of majors, but some students struggle to maintain a passing grade. To improve student performance, the chemistry and math departments have requested additional funding in an effort to raise students’ grades.

According to Associate Chair of the Chemistry Department Nancy Levinger, approximately 30 percent of students get D’s, F’s, or withdraw from chemistry classes.


The departments asked for more funding Jan. 24 to fund new classes, workshops and increase instructional capacity, including hiring new faculty members.

Funding for the Math Department would go towards developing problem-based learning workshops for students who are struggling, according to assistant math professor Mary Pilgrim. These workshops would include working through complicated problems in small groups and oral assessments before exams to increase understanding of the material.

The Chemistry Department has proposed that the funding go towards hiring an additional instructor as well as three teacher assistants for a new chemistry class, according to Associate Dean of Academics for Natural Sciences Simon Tavener. The class would act as a preparation and credit recovery class.

“The idea is that if you think that your high school has not really prepared you sufficiently to be successful in Chem 111 right off the bat, (you can) take a two credit preparation course from week 1-8 in the fall, and then in the spring we will ensure you will get into Chem 111 at the time you would like,” Tavener said.

The class would also be held during the second eight weeks of the semester as a credit recovery course. The credit recovery class would be for students already enrolled in chemistry classes who are not doing well and need more preparation. The class would be worth two elective credits.

The math department applied for the Natural Science Foundation grant, which was developed to help fund problem based learning workshops for students in math classes like calculus, according to Pilgrim.

“You never know where grants are going to come from,” Pilgrim said. “NSF grants are very competitive because they’re national grants.”

Pilot tests for these workshops were conducted last fall. According to Pilgrim, these tests included bi-weekly workshops with small groups of students and oral assessments before exams.

“Students who joined the group were able to elevate their grade by at least a letter grade,” Pilgrim said.

For classes like Math 160, 17 different office hour meeting times are offered to students. Pilgrim said she also recommends students sit in on another section or e-mail the instructor for help.


For chemistry, there is a new resource called Chemistry Learning Resource Center that opened in Fall 2014.

During the 2015 academic year, 80 teaching assistants and faculty have offered more than 200 hours of learning support in 27 chemistry courses through the Chemistry Learning Resource Center.

According to Levinger, the best place to go for help the instructor’s office.

“While the TILT building is a good place, it should be used as a secondary resource,” Levinger said. “The instructors are the content experts and know how to guide the students to perform well on the exams. We wish students would go to instructors for help.”

Pilgrim said that the Math department is starting to see improvements in students’ grades.

“We are really trying to create a positive culture for the students,” Pilgrim said. “It has been a slow process, but we are really starting to see changes.”

Collegian reporter Seth Bodine can be reached at and on Twitter @sbodine120.