# What if we had a Math Center?

/Writing centers are nearly ubiquitous on college and university campuses. Typically, students can bring in a piece of writing and have someone help them improve it: from catching typos or grammar errors to restructuring the text to strengthen the main argument. I wish for an equivalent Math Center.

Math centers exist. A quick Google search turns up hundreds or thousands of university math centers. But reading their websites (but admittedly not in a systematic or particularly thorough way), I don't find what I'm looking for. They offer homework help, often for specific math or statistics courses.

Writing centers do not offer homework help for English classes. They offer assistance in aspects of writing, large and small. It doesn't much matter if the piece of writing is a chemistry lab report, a philosophy essay, a literature critique, or a business case study. The style and form of the piece may differ, but the principles of writing are the same.

This approach is what I envision for a Math Center. A student could bring in a problem from any course and get assistance with the math involved. When my chemistry students struggle with a calculation question, it's often not about the chemistry. They have trouble interpreting the question, choosing an appropriate equation, assigning variables (particularly when there are two or more variable of the same type, e.g. start temperature and end temperature), rearranging equations, and manipulating certain functions (hello, natural logarithm!). Sometimes they just need help figuring out how to work their calculators. I have had so many students who take Calculus I and II concurrently with chemistry yet lack the deep-down-in-your-gut understanding of algebra that makes introductory chemistry (and calculus) feasible. It would be such a help to say "Take this problem to the Math Center."

Who would staff this Math Center? How would they be trained? How could they help students without discipline-specific knowledge? I don't have all of these answers, but I'm starting to ask the questions. If you know of an existing Math Center of the type I have in mind, I'd love to hear more about it.