Alumni Outlook Magazine

Math That Causes Students to Burst Into Song

The method has achieved a 61 percent reduction in failure and withdrawal rates in beginning algebra and 23 percent in intermediate algebra.


The Math TLC is heavily used on a test day mid-semester.

Terry Farmer ‘06 oversees the lab during spring 2006.

Marvin Ealy gets help in the Math TLC.
Marvin Ealy, a sophomore from Milwaukee, wrote and performed a rap song as a thank you to his first-year math instructors. In his freshman year Ealy enrolled in an introductory algebra course, which is taught in the university’s new Math Teaching and Learning Center, or Math TLC. The Math TLC was founded in 2004 and uses a hybrid curriculum of classroom lectures, online homework and learning aids, and intensive personal tutoring to increase the success rates of students who place into beginning or intermediate algebra courses.

“Math is an important focus for our students,” Jeanne Foley, Math TLC director, said. “Studies show that success in first-year math courses is a strong predictor of retention into the second year of college. Students benefit not just by staying in school, but by having the option to choose a science or technology-based major if we can help them master mathematics. This will become increasingly important as UW-Stout pursues a polytechnic designation and expands its already extensive menu of these kinds of majors.”

The U.S. Department of Education awarded the math lab a three-year, $450,000 grant from the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education, citing the 61 percent reduction in failure and withdrawal rates in beginning algebra and 23 percent in intermediate algebra achieved at UW-Stout using this new approach.

UW-Stout officials will assess whether the Math TLC experience encourages more students to pursue courses in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The university will expand the program to higher-level math courses at UW-Stout and to a summer pre-college preparatory program for incoming at-risk students.

Workshops will be developed so that other universities within the UW System can learn how to adapt the program to their campuses.

The initiative’s innovative approach is not lost on students, like Ealy, who has his own unique style to support it. Ealy rapped, “If you’re struggling with your math, and you want to succeed, then the Math Lab is the place for you to be. M-A-T-H-L-A-B. It’s the Math Lab. It will help you achieve.”

To hear Marvin Ealy’s rap song, click here. Note:  It is a .wvx video file.