Undergraduate students develop Math 110 packets for studying

Sean Yoder
May 01, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A team of students has finished assembling a study packet series for Math 110: Techniques of Calculus, one of the most-taken mathematics courses at Penn State.

Through a collaboration between the Department of Mathematics and Penn State Learning, a team of students developed the content along with help from Math 110 professors James Hager and David Little.

Wenrui Cai developed the content along with Duong Nguyen, Ruxin Tong, Hong Xin, Junsheng Shi, Alex Strauch and Richard Suhendra, who will be leading the Math 140 packet development. Typing was completed by Kedar Karhadkar and Gerald Hinerman. Brian Mata and Joe Veneracion helped assemble the packets using LaTeX, a typesetting system widely used for creating scientific documents. All are themselves math tutors at Penn State Learning.

Brandon Schadle, coordinator of Math Learning Communities at Penn State Learning, said the packets have a number of applications related to Math 110. They contain summaries of key concepts and procedures that are discussed in lectures, completed example problems and extra practice problems. They can be used as a review resource when students visit Penn State Learning for tutoring as well as in guided study groups.

The packets are available at no extra charge to Math 110 students.

Because they were created in conjunction with professors from the Department of Mathematics, Hager said the packets are approved by the department and align with the curriculum he teaches.

“The level of detail for each of the solutions far exceeds the detail typically offered in our in-class discussions so it fills in many of the step-by-step gaps for students who typically struggle at this level,” he said. “It also provides detailed solutions that students can use as models as they work their out-of-class homework assignments. We hope that these packets will build self-confidence in our students, and relieve some of the self-efficacy issues we see surfacing at this level in a student’s mathematical experience.”

Little agreed, saying he believes the packets turned out great and align with each of the topics he teaches in Math 110.

“It feels really good to make these resources available to our students at no charge,” he said. “Each packet is available as a digital download in Canvas, and a free printed copy can be picked up at Penn State Learning’s office in Boucke.”

Wenrui Cai headshot

Wenrui Cai is a math tutor at Penn State Learning and helped to develop the new Math 110 packets.

IMAGE: Sean Yoder

Work on the packets began in early 2017 at the behest of Hager and Little, who said they wanted to provide to students materials vetted by Department of Mathematics professors such as themselves. Cai, the undergraduate leader of the packets’ development team, said they began by experimenting with format and content then continued to refine them through numerous reviews and approvals.

“The students have been giving positive feedback, and they particularly enjoy the detailed explanations to many problems, as well as the compact formula tables to study from,” Cai said. “I am personally overjoyed to see the increasing presence of the ‘blue packets’ in the classrooms as well as my guided study group sessions.”

A small Penn State Learning survey showed that 93 percent of respondents said they would recommend the packets to other Math 110 students.

“The undergraduate tutors who helped organize, create, revise and typeset each packet did a fantastic job and should be commended,” Little said. “I enjoyed working with them over the past year and appreciated their dedication. I hope they feel a sense of pride and ownership of a resource that will be used for years to come and will benefit thousands of future Penn State students.”

Penn State Learning is part of Penn State Undergraduate Education, the academic administrative unit that provides leadership and coordination for University-wide programs and initiatives in support of undergraduate teaching and learning at Penn State. Learn more about Undergraduate Education at undergrad.psu.edu. Sign up for the Undergraduate Education Headlines for the latest news.

Last Updated May 13, 2019