Math Active Learning Lab (MALL)
Math is not a spectator sport at UND
At UND, students enrolled in a math class from MATH 92 through MATH 112 (Algebra Prep II through Transition to Calculus) learn through a student-centered emporium environment called the Math Active Learning Lab (MALL).
- Spend your usual class time in the lab during any open MALL hours
- Learn and work on math through interactive instructional software
- Get coaching from faculty, graduate teaching assistants, and undergraduate tutors
- Progress at your own pace to become more comfortable and proficient with math
- Register for a required weekly Focus Group meeting to connect you with an instructor
The Math Active Learning Lab is a center for learning mathematics, staffed by faculty and students who share a strong commitment to education.
Frequently Asked Questions
Research shows that students learn math by doing math, not by listening to someone talk about or present the subject. The primary reason many students do not succeed in traditional math courses is that they do not actually do the problems or spend enough time with the material.
The MALL is not an online course. Rather, the MALL provides students with opportunities to do math in a lab environment, get immediate assistance by qualified and friendly tutors if they need it, meet once a week in small groups with an instructor, and attend live lectures if they need additional support. In a traditional math class, not all students are at the same level. The ALEKS learning system, that students in the MALL use, allows students to work at their level, not spend time on topics they have already mastered, and provides feedback as they are working. In the MALL, instructors, tutors, ALEKS, optional live-lectures, and weekly focus group meetings all support students in doing and learning math.
Students spend the bulk of their course time doing math problems. Learning is individualized, as students do not spend time learning topics they already know. This gives students time needed to make-up deficiencies and for topics that are more challenging for that particular student. Weekly module completion dates are designed to keep students on-pace to complete the course within one semester.
In a MALL course, students are given the opportunity to receive help in the manner and schedule that best fits their individual needs. Only the textbook and testing materials are delivered online. Everything else is face-to-face human contact. Instructors are available if students need help with a math problem or advice on their progress. Tutors are available 65 hours per week and students can choose to attend live lectures, offered several times during the week, for each course.
MALL courses are not "online courses". Even so, while some high schools do offer math classes in an online format, we know that most of our students' previous math experience was in small classes where they met with the same teacher at the same time 5 days a week. No matter what the method of delivery, a college math class is not going to mimic that experience. As college educators, we know that's a good thing as your students will grow more responsible for their own learning.
Students also need to understand how many hours they should be spending in any course. The MALL structure is organized in a way that doesn’t require more hours than is expected from a traditional 3-credit course that expects students in a classroom for a certain number of hours and expects students to do homework and/or study for additional hours to learn the material. Students should plan to spend 3 hours in the MALL doing math and 9 hours in ALEKS, a web-based learning system where they will watch videos and read learning pages.
The transition to a new format is not easy. Encourage students to meet with their instructor and/or the MALL director so they can be connected with the resources available to support their learning.
ALEKS provides the opportunity for students to engage with multiple resources for learning (videos, e-book, learning pages, and knowledge checks) providing immediate feedback on student understanding. The weekly focus group meetings are 25-student classes that connect students with an instructor and other students working on the same course. Focus group activities are designed to extend what students learn in ALEKS by engaging them in conversation with their peers while solving conceptual and application problems.
We encourage them to talk to their instructor and/or the MALL Director. Individual meetings allow us to look at how a student is using the MALL resources. Often we are able to help students use these resources more effectively. The earlier in the semester students come to see us, the more options they will have. Students should spend short periods of time most days of the week working on math, instead of cramming the day before their focus group meeting. It may take time, but the student will most likely become a more independent and successful student. Student learning and success are our primary concern.
Every part of a MALL course is designed with one thing in mind: Students learn math by doing math, not by watching others do math. If a student asks someone for help, they will probably start asking the student questions in return to determine where their confusion lies. They will ask to see the student’s Notebook to determine if they have written down the appropriate definitions or watched the appropriate video. They may offer to explain a similar example in the Notebook or in ALEKS or provide a hint to proceed further, but they are trained not to write down a full solution. While most students think they would prefer a full written solution, we know from experience that it does not give them the skills they need to solve later problems on their own. Sometimes this frustrates students who have been encouraged to be passive learners. This approach is not effective in learning math.
It is never easy to be anxious about anything. Years of experience with students in freshman-level mathematics courses suggest the following may help.
Students need to learn effective time-management skills rather quickly. Describe a typical week in their math course. Seek help early and often. They may find that attending a live lecture every week will give them the confidence to be more successful on their own. Or, working through ALEKS and the Course Notebook at the MALL rather than in their own room can provide the opportunity to receive help with smaller amounts of material at a time.
If they seem to be doing all the right things and still feel discouraged, send an e-mail to their instructor, explaining their concerns. The instructor will look up their records in the system and suggest that they meet to discuss ways for them to improve. Usually one meeting is enough, but students should not hesitate to contact the teacher any time they have questions or concerns.