Assistance for Students in Mathematics Courses

The Department of Mathematical Sciences would like every student to succeed in the courses we offer. Many students find the courses to be difficult, however, and need assistance. This is quite natural -- the only thing to remember is that it is important that you, the student, take the initiative to seek help!

    Do not worry about your difficulties in mathematics, 
      I assure you that mine are greater.
                                  Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

As soon as you start to find your math course difficult, turn to one of these resources for help. Be sure to allow yourself adequate time to take advantage of the help --- figure two hours of work on your own for every single hour in class.

  • Your instructor will have regular office hours every week, and usually can make arrangements to meet you at other times, too. The hours are posted on his or her office door, and are available from the math office (753-0566). Most faculty members make this information available on their web pages, which also show their telephone numbers and email addresses. Even if the faculty member is not available, your call will be taken by the secretaries or voice-mail between 8:30am and 4:30pm, M-F. Your teacher wants you to contact him or her!

    A special piece of advice: make sure you know your instructor's name.

  • Most 100- and 200- level courses also have a teaching assistant. You will meet this person every week. Treat this person as an extra teacher available to you just as above. Some of them also have web pages with contact information.

  • The Mathematics Assistance Center (MAC) is staffed by teaching assistants. It is located in Room 326 of DuSable Hall, and is open most of the day on Monday through Friday. The hours will be announced during the second week of class and are posted on this website. The staff is prepared to answer your questions related to MATH 155, MATH 210, MATH 211, MATH 229 and Math 230, and for each of these courses there are times during the week when students in those courses will get first dibs on the staff members' time. Our teaching assistants are also generally ready to help with material in the other Core Competency mathematics course (MATH 101), as well as the preparatory courses KCMA 096, KCMA 098, MATH 108, and MATH 109.

  • The Emporium

  • There are tutoring services on campus run by other units besides the Department of Mathematical Sciences. ACCESS runs tutoring services at several campus locations, including some of the residence halls. Other free tutoring services are provided by some academic units for their students.

  • Other resources available to the student include: your textbook (required!); and course web pages. Instructors will often make supplementary materials available in class or on the web. The publishers of some of the textbooks sometimes provide answer keys or other ancillary materials such as software or telephone hot-line help; consult with your instructor for more details. Example: The MATH 211 text, when purchased new, contains access information for free tutoring (through the publishing house), five evenings per week.

  • Many students find study groups to be useful: you can work in the company of students who want to master the same material you do. Whether your instructor assigns the class into groups or not, it might be a good idea to strike up a conversation with the person in the seat next to you and ask whether they would like to study with you.

  • Students often employ private tutors, typically themselves NIU graduate or undergraduate students. These are private arrangements between students and tutors, not endorsed nor regulated by the Department. Space is allocated on a bulletin board opposite the Department Office (Watson Hall 320) for students to place "tutor-wanted" or "tutor-available" ads. The office staff will not provide this information by telephone. Private tutoring is often quite helpful, but quite expensive.

As you can see, there are many resources here to help you, but they will do you no good if you don't take the initiative and use them. Warning: no one has found a miracle drug which makes mathematics instantly clear. If you start to get lost and don't seek help for days and weeks, you will find that it will take many days and weeks to recover -- if you don't seek help until the day before the final exam, you're sunk!

If you do what your teachers do -- work steadily and look for the deep ideas -- you'll find that mathematics is not only not hard but enjoyable. Good luck!

I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have.
      -Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) 

Last modified: 09/19/2016 (djg)