Yearly Archives: 2013

Carlos Cruz plans to spend much of his future on a college campus. Not only does the recent Southern grad intend to someday pursue a master’s degree and a doctorate, but his long-term goal is to become a college professor.

But before he headed down that path, Cruz knew he wanted to take a break from his studies to travel and get some real-world experience.

So instead of spending this academic year as a student, Cruz will spend it as a teacher– helping primary or secondary school children in China learn English.

“I think everybody should take a break from school once they graduate,” says the 21-year-old New Haven native, who leaves for Shanghai on Oct. 9. “Going straight to graduate school is beneficial in some aspects, but really getting experience out in the world is much more valuable.”

Cruz is one of about 300 young people from all over the world heading to China as part of the Ameson Year in China program (AYC), which looks for “college-educated, open-minded people seeking to expand their horizons and enhance their careers,” according to the AYC website. Participants spend an academic year teaching students between the ages of 6 and 15 in public schools located in several Chinese cities and provinces, including Shanghai, Beijing and Nanjing. Any native English-speaking degree holder is eligible to apply.

Cruz, who graduated with a degree in history, says he plans to eventually pursue his graduate studies in East Asian and Southeast Asian history and “thought this would be a perfect start.”

“My family thinks I’m nuts,” he jokes. “But my former professors, my colleagues at work and all my friends – they’re really excited for me.”

Cruz says he learned about the program after getting an email from Michele Thompson, a Southern professor of history, who he also credits with inspiring his interest in Asia.

Thompson says she immediately thought of Cruz when she heard that the program was looking for applicants. She knew of his interest in traveling to Asia – he initially asked her about opportunities to go to Vietnam — and says his strong organizational skills and cheerful and outgoing personality make him a good fit for the assignment. She says Cruz was enrolled in four of her classes last year and excelled in each, while also balancing a job and volunteer work.

“He is also very, very polite which will serve him well anywhere in Asia,” she says.

Cruz grew up in the Fair Haven section of New Haven and is a 2009 graduate of New Haven’s Wilbur Cross High School. He’s also a familiar face around New Haven’s City Hall, having worked on and off since 2008 as an intern for Mayor John DeStefano Jr.’s office, as well as the city’s Commission on Equal Opportunities and the Finance Department. He was also the inaugural president of the New Haven Youth Council, a group that researched the likes and interests of city youth for the New Haven Board of Aldermen.

Cruz prepared for his journey by taking online classes in Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFOL) and will complete his certification following a week of on-site training. He will spend his first two weeks in orientation – which includes a crash course in “survival Chinese,” as well as lessons in Chinese laws and culture — before being assigned to a host school. Cruz says he plans to take advantage of classes in Mandarin Chinese throughout the year as well as sightseeing trips to major cities and landmarks such as the Great Wall.

“I’ve never been out of the country before, not even once,” Cruz says. “I’m looking forward to the culture shock.”

    As a math professor, Joe Fields knows a thing or two about how costs can compound themselves. He can use algebraic formulas – even calculus equations – to show just how much rising costs of higher education are affecting the pocketbooks of students and their parents.

    But he didn’t need an advanced mathematical background to discover the effect that rising textbook prices are having on students across the country, including those he teaches at Southern.

    That awareness helped spur Fields to write an open-source textbook for a course he teaches on mathematical proofs. He makes the book available online for free to his students, or for that matter to any students, professors or others who wish to read it or print it out. “It just seemed ridiculous to me that a standard textbook for this class was costing students around $150. So, I decided to write a book (A Gentle Introduction to the Art of Mathematics) that is not only free, but that I believe is better at helping students in their transition from computational math courses to the more abstract and theoretical courses.”

    And don’t worry, the quality is sound. In fact, his book has been endorsed by the American Institute of Mathematics – a prestigious organization in the math world. The book was originally published in 2008, but has had several revisions. A printed-on-demand, hard copy of the book is also available for $14.40, but in the digital age, many students are quite comfortable with reading online publications.

    The approach taken by Fields – offering free online textbooks – is a growing phenomenon in academia. At SCSU, several of his Math Department colleagues are following a similar path. Len Brin, assistant department chairman, has begun writing a book, “Numerical Analysis.” And Marie Nabbout-Cheiban, assistant professor, and Klay Kruczek, associate professor, are also involved in online software projects.

    “You often see textbook publishers come out with revised editions after making only minor changes that really didn’t need to made,” Fields said. “But they sometimes change the numeric sequence of the math problems in the book so that students are forced to buy the new edition, rather than purchase a cheaper, used book.”

    Fields said it is easier in some ways to develop and market such free online textbooks for more advanced courses because there is less interest from publishing companies. The introductory or more basic level courses are used by more students and the publishers do a good job of providing supplemental materials, he said.

    He typically teaches his Introduction to Proofs course to about 40 students a year. That saves students – who in past years had been paying about $150 for a textbook – a collective total of $6,000 a year. He does not know how many others have used his textbook so far, but he has received a few emails – presumably from faculty members or students at other schools — asking questions about it.

    Suzy Mitchell, an SCSU student who used the open-source book by Fields for another math class, said she was pleasantly surprised by her experience. “I thought I was going to hate an online textbook, especially a math one,” Mitchell said. “However, it was a very easy resource and as a student, it was very convenient and easy to access. And the fact that the author of the book was one of my former professors was a great comfort. If I was confused about something or questioned an idea, I could (ask) Dr. Fields about it and he would be more than willing to help answer any of my questions.”

    Fields said he believes the use of open-source textbook will continue to grow.

    “I think we are going to see increased interest and use of online books in higher education as a way to help curtail costs for students,” Fields said.

    A recent report released by the U.S. Government Accountability Office shows an 82- percent increase in the average price of college textbooks since 2002 — virtually triple the rate of inflation during that same period.

    Note taking is one of the most underrated skills a person can learn in school.

    You generally don’t get graded on it, per se, unless you take a class in shorthand. It’s often taught as a small component of another course.

    But unlike some academic subjects that have little or no practical use after high school or college graduation, the ability to take notes has lifelong value.


    Good note taking goes a long way toward making good journalists. Doctors and other medical staff rely on notes concerning a patient’s symptoms and diagnosis. Staff meetings often require taking down important information.

    “Note taking is a skill – like shooting free throws or dancing the waltz – which must be learned and practiced to be done well,” says Lisa Kuchta, an instructor of communication at Southern.

    She actually landed a job in college as a note taker. In the long run, the profitability of her job depended upon the accuracy and effectiveness of her notes.

    Kuchta offers the following suggestions to students on effective note taking, although many of the same principles can be applied to adults, as well.

    • Do your homework. It is important to read the material on which a lecture is going to be based before the class. Teachers and professors will use terms or ideas from the readings in their lectures. If you don’t understand the material, it will be difficult to grasp the meaning of what is said in class.
    • Eliminate barriers to learning. Simply put, you can’t take good notes if you can’t pay attention. So, make sure you can see and hear clearly what is said and written on the board. Turn off your cell phone. Avoid the temptation of checking an email or instant message if you are taking notes via a laptop or tablet. And while students today are probably better at multi-tasking than in the past, research has shown that the brain can’t fully focus on two mental tasks at once.
    • Learn to pick out the main ideas. “Ten minutes of lecture can likely be boiled to a few main points and a handful of sub points,” Kuchta says. “Trying to write down everything the instructor says will inevitably cause you to miss important information. You just can’t write as fast as the lecturer can speak, unless you know shorthand.”
    • Practice, practice, practice. If you find yourself having difficulty choosing what to leave in and what to leave out, take some extra time to improve that skill. One way to practice is to listen to a news broadcast. After each story, try to retell the gist of it in one sentence.
    • Use a clear, outlined structure. Outlines enable the brain to think logically. They enable us to differentiate between major and minor points. You can choose your own style – Roman numerals, capital letters, stars and bullet points, or whatever system that makes you comfortable.
    • Put ideas into your own words. Just robotically copying what the lecturer says – even when you don’t have a clue as to what it means – isn’t going to help you understand the material later. “Instead, listen completely to what the professor is trying to tell you and — in your head – re-explain it to yourself in your own words so that it makes sense to you. If you realize it does not make sense to you, ask the teacher for clarification,” Kuchta says.
    • Type or reread your notes later that day. It takes a little more time, but it will be worth it in the long run. By re-reading and/or transcribing your notes, it will allow you to fill in the blanks on what you don’t understand while the information is still fresh in your mind. And it will also help you commit it to a longer-term memory.

    “Becoming a better note-taker may take commitment and diligence, but improving your proficiency will make your job – in school and in the real world – so much easier,” Kuchta says.

    *The Hartford Courant posted an article Sept. 28 in its online MyTowns section, as well as a subsequent hard copy version of MyTowns, regarding the groundbreaking ceremony for the academic and laboratory science building.

    Similarly, an article and photo from the groundbreaking appeared in the “Education Outlook” section of various Hearst newspapers — including the Connecticut Post, Stamford Advocate,Greenwich Time and the Brooks Newspapers (several Fairfield County weekly papers). The supplement was included in those papers during the weekend of Oct. 12-13.

    *Will Hochman, professor of English, was interviewed Sept. 21 on a Montreal-based radio station, CJAD, during the “Viewpoints” show. The interview focused on the life and works of J.D. Salinger, author of the iconic “Catcher in the Rye.”

    He was previously interviewed Sept. 9 no the Channel 61 Morning Show to discuss the life of Salinger. That interview included questions about the movie, “Salinger.”

    *The SCSU Veterans Club was mentioned for its support of various veterans and charitable fundraisers in a Sept. 21 article in the New Haven Register.

    *The Sept. 9 announcement of a $3 million gift to Southern from the Werth Family Foundation — the largest donation to the university in its 120-year history — attracted plenty of media attention.

    Channel 30 ran a segment that featured an interview with President Mary Papazian during the station’s 5:30 p.m. newscast on Sept. 9.

    WTIC radio (1080 AM) and WQUN radio (1220 AM) both aired sound bites from an interview the president.

    The New Haven Register ran a Page 1 story on Sept. 10.

    The Connecticut Post ran an article its Sept. 10 edition.

    The story also was picked up by the Associated Press, which enabled word about the gift to spread throughout Connecticut, the Northeast and the nation.

    *A preview of the SCSU football team for the 2013 season ran in the Sept. 5 edition of the New Haven Register.

    *Adam Goldberg, assistant to the dean of the School of Education, was interviewed Sept. 4 onChannel 61’s Morning Show (during the 9:00 hour) about what can be done to change students’ perceptions of math. Studies have shown that students seem to fear and dislike math more than other subjects.

    *Will Hochman, professor of English, was interviewed Sept. 3 on WNPR radio’s (90.5 FM) Colin McEnroe Show about the life of J.D. Salinger.

    *Tricia Lin, director of the Women’s Studies program, was quoted Sept. 3 in a New Haven Register story about the language used to describe sex trafficking. The story looked at how words can shape perceptions.

    *Paul Stepanovich, chairman of the Management Department, was interviewed Sept. 2 on theChannel 30 11 a.m. newscast about the mistakes many bosses make with regard to trying to get the best performance from their employees. Paul talked about how the effects of rewards and reprimands are often misinterpreted by managers.

    Paul was also the focus of a Page 1 story in the Sept. 2 edition of the New Haven Register on the same topic.  Both interviews were the result of a recent post in the SCSU blog, “Wise Words.”

    *A photo pertaining to the groundbreaking ceremony of the Buley Library renovation project appeared in the Sept. 1 edition of the New Haven Register.

    The future academic and laboratory science building at Southern Connecticut State University will be a significant step forward for the landscape of the campus and an impressive leap for scientific study in Connecticut.

    On Sept. 20, the university celebrated a groundbreaking ceremony for that building, which will be a four-story, 103,608-square-foot facility that will be the “focal point” for the university’s science programs. The project has been under way for the last several months and is being designed to enhance both the quality of those programs, as well as to educate a larger number of students.

    “It will be a state-of-the-art structure that will provide greatly enhanced, career-based educational opportunities for our students in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) disciplines,” said SCSU President Mary A. Papazian. “By producing more graduates with much-needed expertise in the fields of science and technology, Southern will be meeting a vital area of workforce demand and continue to be a key player in Connecticut’s economic revival.”

    Gregory W. Gray, president of the state Board of Regents for Higher Education, pointed to the commitment of SCSU and the entire Connecticut State Colleges and Universities (ConnSCU) system to a strong program in the STEM disciplines. He said the building will bring science education to another level at the university. He also said a world-class institution requires outstanding students, faculty and staff and facilities.

    “We have great students, a great faculty and staff, and now we need to have a world-class building with world-class equipment,” Gray said.

    Other speakers included: Yvette Melendez, interim chairwoman of the board; Peter J. Werth Jr., president of the Werth Family Foundation, which recently agreed to donate $3 million to SCSU; alumna Jacquelynn Garofano, who is now a senior engineer and research scientist with United Technologies; William J. LaRochelle, head of Key Opinion Leader Management with Roche Sequencing Solutions; Steven Breese, dean of the SCSU School of Arts and Sciences; and Vincent Breslin, SCSU professor of science education and environmental studies.

    Physically, the two wings of the facility will be configured in the shape of an “L” and located next to Jennings and Morrill halls, which currently house the university’s science departments. Together, the three buildings will form a “science enclave.”

    A brick and glass exterior will line the building –- a structure that will feature a covered skywalk connecting it with Jennings on the upper floor. A connector will also be built on the ground floor. A hallway already connects Jennings and Morrill.

    Academically, the building will host teaching and research labs for physics, earth science, environmental science, molecular biology and chemistry. It will include a supercomputing lab for research in theoretical physics, bioinformatics and computer science.

    The Werth Center for Marine and Coastal Studies – recently named in honor of the Werth family following a $3 million gift from the Werth Family Foundation — will be housed on the second floor.

    The center will have several new labs, including an analytic lab (where mercury levels can be determined) and a sediment coastal science lab (where levels of sediment can be tested).

    The CSU Center for Nanotechnology will be located on the ground floor, where the laboratory space is designed to isolate the building’s vibrations — considered important when dealing with microscopic materials.

    A saltwater aquaria room with a touch tank will also be featured in the new building and will a centerpiece of outreach to area schools and the community.

    Other amenities include an outdoor rock garden showcasing rocks indigenous to Connecticut; six rooftop telescope stations strategically placed to eliminate interference from city lights; a pair of 50-seat general purpose classrooms, as well as office space and study/common areas. Scientific displays will be located throughout the building to showcase faculty and student research.

    The facility will meet the LEED-Silver certification, a designation by the U.S. Green Building Council for buildings that are environmentally friendly. “We will be able to capture the rain water and use it for the irrigation system in that area,” said Robert Sheeley, associate vice president for capital budgeting and facilities operations. “And the roofs will be pitched to accept solar panels.”

    Centerbrook Architect and Planners of Centerbook is the architectural firm in charge of the $49 million project. FIT Construction Inc. of Farmington is the contractor. It is expected to be completed by the spring of 2015.

    Few would like to return to the days of the Cold War — an era during the 1950s and 60s when the United States and the Soviet Union competed for military supremacy in a nuclear chess match. But the sense of urgency generated by the geopolitical struggle was the impetus — certainly one of the driving forces — behind America’s push to become the first nation to successfully land a man on the moon.

    To accomplish that goal, the United States needed to ensure that its science and technology education was second to none. The Soviet launching of Sputnik in 1957 — the first manmade satellite to orbit the Earth — jolted the United States into action. Science education became a priority in this nation. And dividends were paid with a successful manned space flight in 1969 — nearly a decade after President John F. Kennedy outlined that goal. It left little doubt about the technological superiority of the United States.

    blogphotoscienceliteracyBut nearly four and a half decades later, the state of science education in the United States has become much more ambiguous. For example, tests measuring scientific aptitude and knowledge show that American children are not at the top of the list. Not even in the top 5. And many educators have decried a lack of interest in science at the middle and high school levels.

    So, what has gone wrong? Like most such complex questions, the answer does not lie in a single cause. But a de-emphasis on science education — and especially science literacy — has played a role in that decline, according to Susan Cusato, chairwoman of the Science Education and Environmental Studies Department at Southern. During the last few decades, education has placed more emphasis on literacy and mathematics — reading, writing and ‘rithmetic – but Cusato contends that it has come at the expense of science education.

    “It is generally not until middle school that actual science teachers begin teaching science,” Cusato says. “What happens is that there is a continual catch-up process in the classroom.”

    Cusato also feels that science education has done a disservice in focusing too heavily on training scientists, rather than promoting scientific literacy. She says students should have achieved basic literacy skills in all the major disciplines before college, including science.

    “No matter what career path or profession our students choose, knowledge and wonder of science is critical,” she says. “By avoiding science you miss out on experiencing incredible things on a different level that can bring you great joy and insight.” She points to driving a car, riding a plane, or going to a concert, as examples of everyday tasks people often take for granted without understanding how science makes those things happen.

    She says that scientific literacy is needed, not merely to fulfill an academic requirement, but to gain a better appreciation and understanding for what is happening around us. This would include climate change, pandemics and the search for sustainable energy sources.

    So, what can we do to improve our scientific literacy? Cusato recommends several steps we can take that are relatively simple and don’t require a Ph.D. in molecular biophysics.

    • Visit museums, parks and nature centers. Pick out some activities you enjoy, or would like to try, such as maple syrup weekends, bird watching, fishing or nature walks. Science is part of all of them.
    • When reading the paper or listening to the news, try to pay attention to science stories. They may be more interesting than you think initially.
    • Read science magazines and other publications. They don’t have to be dissertations on string theory or Einstein’s theory of relativity. But many science-based magazines are available at local bookstores, and are written for the general public with photos and diagrams that help illustrate the subject matter.
    • Mention a timely scientific topic at a family gathering or when you are with friends. It may actually inspire others to learn more about a subject.
    • Don’t be afraid to ask science-related questions of your teacher, doctor, or anyone involved in the sciences. Many people enjoy talking about their chosen fields of expertise with others.

    Speaking of science education, Southern will hold a groundbreaking ceremony Friday on a new academic and science laboratory building. To read more, check out:


    Southern President Mary A. Papazian today announced the largest donation to the university in its 120-year history – a $3 million gift that promises to boost scientific research for students and faculty.

    Papazian said the Woodbridge-based Werth Family Foundation will make the donation in increments during the next 10 years. It is nearly triple the size of the previous largest donation to SCSU.

    The contribution will include a $1.5 million endowment for SCSU’s Center for Coastal and Marine Studies – a center that is being renamed in the family’s honor. An additional $750,000 ($75,000 each year) will be donated to the center for its annual expenses, such as equipment and for stipends to students to support their research efforts.

    “In recent years, Southern has seen impressive programmatic and enrollment growth in the sciences, and this wonderful gift will take scientific research and experiential opportunities for our students to a whole new level,” Papazian said.

    “We are extremely grateful to the Werth Family Foundation for its support of the university and its commitment to public higher education.”

    The remaining funds of the $3 million gift have been earmarked for two new initiatives that combine science education and real-world/business experience — through seminars, internships, and research opportunities — with stipends provided to participating Southern students and area science teachers.

    “Above all, we are trying to make a difference,” said Peter Werth, who established the family foundation with his wife, Pam, in 2000. “We’ve had the opportunity to look at the research done at the center and its importance to the community. We’re believers.”

    The foundation has contributed nearly $380,000 to the center since 2006, including more than $50,000 a year over the last few years.

    In recent years, about 60 Southern students have worked with faculty on environmental research through the center. Projects in which they have engaged include measuring mercury and other contaminants in state harbors, exploring ways to combat beach erosion after hurricanes and determining the age of lobsters.

    The entrepreneurial couple founded ChemWerth, an international generic drug development and supply company, in 1982.

    “Southern is accessible and offers students the opportunity to receive a great education,” said Pam Werth, who was raised in Bridgeport and believes in supporting urban education initiatives. “I know this is a school that makes a difference in people’s lives.”

    “This is truly a transformational gift,” said Vincent Breslin, professor of science education and environmental studies, and co-coordinator of the Werth Center, along with James Tait, professor of science education and environmental studies, and Sean Grace, associate professor of biology. “It makes the center sustainable, allows us to plan future programs of research and lets students know that support for their work will be there over the long-term.”

    “In this highly competitive job market, it’s not what you know but what you can do with what you know that matters,” Breslin said. “This gift enables us to provide hands-on experience to students, who will be out in the field and in the lab conducting research with state-of-the-art instrumentation. As a result, our students are much more competitive in the job market.”

    In addition to the center, the gift will fund the Industry Academic Fellowship Program, which will enable students to work with middle school and high school science teachers, as well as SCSU faculty and industry mentors, to focus on professional development and interdisciplinary research. The program will include fellowships for the students and teachers.

    The gift also will fund the Southern Summer Science Business Institute, which will enable students majoring in the STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) to learn about the business aspects of science. Participants will receive $5,000 stipends, which will allow them to focus on their education rather than seeking summer employment. The program will include seminars, as well as internships with science-based businesses in the area.

    The forces behind a self-fulfilling prophecy can be powerful.

    Whether it’s Muhammad Ali or Joe Namath brashly predicting victory, or a winless high school baseball team anticipating a meltdown in the seventh inning after holding a narrow lead, believing in someone or something can sometimes lead to the anticipated consequences.

    This phenomenon occurs in sports, to be sure. But it also takes place in our daily lives – at home, at school and at work. And when it happens at the highest levels of management, it can significantly affect an entire organization – for better or for worse.

    Paul Stepanovich, chairman of Southern’s (academic) Management Department, and Pamela Hopkins, professor of management at Southern, say that while there are some very perceptive bosses who understand human and organizational dynamics, there are also bosses who “learn” some faulty logic as it pertains to the operation under their jurisdiction. And this can have a spiraling negative effect on the organization, the employee and ultimately the manager.

    As an example, if a supervisor praises an employee, but notices shortly thereafter that the worker’s productivity falls off somewhat, the supervisor over time starts to associate praise with performance drop off. Similarly, if an employee has had a below normal period and is reprimanded by the boss, and suddenly the individual’s performance is on an upswing, the boss starts to assume that the employee is someone who needs to be monitored closely and only performs when the “stick” is used.


    And while there are some employees who actually do perform in this manner, Stepanovich believes that more often than not, the perception is faulty. “There is a statistical phenomenon called regression to the mean,” he says. “That basically means that there is a natural variation – or a range – in the performance of an employee that averages out over time.”

    In other words, a period of better-than-average performance will usually be followed by a period that isn’t as remarkable. And a period of below average performance will usually be followed by a better performance. In the long run, it averages out to a certain level within a range.

    Stepanovich and Hopkins believe that understanding this concept is crucial to good management, but often is not realized by those in authority. As a result, bosses often develop some faulty beliefs that can undermine their own goals. Workers can become resentful, angry and eventually lose heart, no longer caring about their own performance, let along that of the organization to which they belong. In effect, the bosses have created their own problem when one previously had never existed.

    In light of Labor Day, we thought we would share with you some of the more common managerial mistakes as seen by Stepanovich and Hopkins:

    • Punishing without cause. As stated earlier, performance tends to ebb and flow within a certain range, regardless of whether the person had been recently rewarded or reprimanded. Workers can sometimes become disheartened and eventually lose their energy and drive, often creating the “deadwood” of an organization.

    • Changing outlook toward workers. While a boss may enter an organization with a theory that workers generally want to do well, the manager might associate a company’s decline in performance with the view that workers are not trying hard enough. Over time, that association leads to a change in philosophy – a belief that workers need to be coerced to work effectively. In reality, the decline probably would have improved without managerial intervention.

    • Development of a micromanagement approach. A supervisor might believe in empowerment of the staff when they start a job, but if an empowerment program is tried and results do not change favorably right away, the supervisor might be tempted to pull the plug. This person starts to monitor the staff more closely and develops a more centralized power structure, thereby leading to problems associated with micromanagement. That outlook can be brought to a new job, as well.

    • Creating an overreliance on financial incentives. Incentives can be beneficial, but when if the boss starts to rely too heavily on this tactic, it can backfire. Workers might start to “game the system,” rather than focus on what truly is beneficial to the organization. It is similar to the criticism of the “teaching to the test” approach in education today.

    You could call mathematics the “A-Rod” of high school and college classes.

    Most students either love it or hate it, and just like with the Yankees embattled third baseman these days, chances are you fall into the latter camp.

    Sure, for some students, writing is the skill they just can’t master. For others, a foreign language will always seem foreign to them. But if you surveyed your high school or college, chances are math would top the list of students’ “least favorite classes.”


    “In the United States, we take it almost as a badge of honor to dislike math or to be ‘bad at math,’” says Adam Goldberg, assistant to the dean of the School of Education at Southern.

    “While most people would be embarrassed to admit that they couldn’t read very well, those same people wouldn’t think twice about admitting they aren’t very good at math. In fact, math teachers often hear parents confess at parent conferences that they weren’t very good at math and this is why their son or daughter isn’t doing well. It is this attitude that keeps the negative cycle going.”

    But why do so many people fear and loath math?

    Goldberg believes much of the negativity begins in middle school or high school, when there is a shift in what students learn. In elementary school, students are taught how to add, subtract, multiply, divide, work with fractions, etc. But the emphasis starts to shift in grades 7 to 12 from practical applications to more abstract concepts.

    As an example, he points to subtraction. Students learn how to “borrow” to solve subtraction problems at an early age. But they don’t usually learn why they are borrowing to solve the problem.

    “Therefore, they don’t have the conceptual knowledge needed to really understand the material,” Goldberg says. “This is what causes the negative feelings toward math.”

    The good news, however, is that there are things that people – especially students – can do to help overcome the fear of math. Here are a few:

    • Try to change your attitude toward math. You don’t have to love math. But if you can learn just not to hate it, it will reduce your anxiety and that alone will help you do better.

    • Practice every day. Well, maybe not every day. But spending 10 or 15 minutes doing some quick mental mathematical problems at least several days a week can help. The more you do it, the more comfortable you will be with math.

    • Make it fun and relevant. Part of the problem for many students is that they find math to be boring and/or irrelevant. So, try to apply math functions to something you find interesting. For example, practice figuring out your batting average. Or, as we noted in a previous post about practical applications for the number pi (~3.14), you can calculate how much extra you have to run around a track if you are running 5 feet away from the inside. For more advanced math students, you can figure out how much interest you can earn on a CD at a particular rate if the interest is compounded continuously, weekly, etc.

    • Consider getting some extra help or tutoring. There’s nothing wrong with acknowledging that math is not your best subject, or that it is your worst subject. The question becomes: What are you going to do about it? Most math teachers would be willing to help you after school or during a free period during the day. Or, if you would rather put the time in away from school, you can ask a parent, sibling or friend. Or you could even ask a math tutor. College students with a strong math background, especially those interested in becoming teachers, are often willing to help middle, high school and other college students.

    • Reduce math test anxiety. Tests of any sort tend to create anxiety, but math tests often spike that anxiety to higher levels. Goldberg suggests checking out the following website to help reduce testing anxiety:

    Here are a few other websites recommended by Goldberg that can help you overcome the fear of math:

    From July 28- August 11, 17 Southern students explored the central highlands and rainforest of Guatemala under the direction of Drs. William Faraclas and Deborah Flynn as participants in the university’s long-standing International Field Studies in Health program.

    Immersed in rich Guatemalan culture in three environments—a colonial town, rural villages and the rainforest of Tikal National Park—students examined social, cultural, political and economic determinants of health; health beliefs, practices and status; epidemiology; endemic diseases; environmental health; organization, financing and delivery of care; nutrition; Mayan health practices; and more.  The six-credit course is based on an experiential learning model.  In addition to attending classes, touring health facilities, and meeting with traditional and modern health practitioners, students enjoyed a great deal of direct contact with the people of Guatemala, who serve as cultural informants and sources of health information.

    Every day was an adventure.  Memorable highlights included a day-long visit with a family in Santiago Zamora, whose home serves as the site of a women’s cooperative that supports education for the children of this mountainside village; a morning conversation with a traditional birth attendant (midwife) in San Juan de la Laguna, on the shore of scenic Lake Atitlán; an afternoon of service at Obras Sociales del Santo Hermano Pedro, a residential facility for Guatemalans with severe disabilities; and a sunrise tour of the rainforest at Tikal National Park, in which the health of the planet and biodiversity were central themes—in the presence of spider and howler monkeys, toucans flying overhead and many other creatures with whom we share the planet.

    Field study participants also learned great lessons about diversity, culture, living conditions of the world’s majority, and the pernicious effects of poverty on health. Increased cultural sensitivity was an inescapable effect of this year’s trip, along with an expanded awareness of the commonalities of humanity.