Re-envisioned: PACe becomes the Precalculus Center

Rendering of the Precalculus Center.

Rendering of the new Precalculus Center. 

Student success in precalculus math has long been the mission of the PACe center (Paced Algebra to Calculus electronically.) Now, with a new name – the Precalculus Center – an updated physical space, and programming built on the latest research in the science of learning, this mission will continue with full force.

“When we reopened in Fall 2020, under the new name, there were some immediate differences students noticed,” said Steve Benoit, co-director of the Precalculus Center. “A refreshed look with a more open and inviting space, including more flexible space with fewer fixed desktop computers and more seating options. There is also more room for students to interact with courses assistants, including two new quiet rooms for focused study.”

The refresh includes programmatic changes as well. While the focus on precalculus instruction remains the same, the learning methodology will follow findings from the Student Experience Project, a multi-university collaboration with experts in the science of learning and researchers who focus on factors in student success.

“Our participation in the Student Experience Project has provided us with excellent data and research-based strategies that are proven to increase success, as well as improve students’ sense of community, inclusion and belonging, and self-confidence and growth mindset,” said Benoit.

This research was fundamental to the redesign of the Precalculus Center.

“Through this project, we’ve critically examined how space, messaging, and faculty behaviors influence a student’s engagement with course material, which informed how the Precalculus Center was designed,” said Lisa Dysleski, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Programs. “With student success in mind, we hope we created a center where students feel accepted, affirmed, and connected to a community of learners.”

Growth mindset

Growth mindset is a central theme of the research from the Student Experience Project. With a growth mindset, a student begins to understand that success is a process and that failing or making mistakes is inherent to that process. New communication materials from the Precalculus Center will focus on encouraging a growth mindset for students.

Bolstered by its new name, space, and research from the Student Experience Project, the Precalculus Center looks forward to continuing to improve its student success outcomes.

“We would love to see our success rate rise above 80%, and we want to make sure that success in our program means our students have a solid conceptual grasp of the ideas and ways of thinking and problem solving that precalculus, and courses that use precalculus, rely on,” said Benoit. “We want to move forward in the Student Experience Project spirit of continuous improvement informed by experience and research, and to look at making our precalculus program better for our students as a continuous and ongoing process rather than a one-time change.”