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Online Degrees

Part of Western Governors University

April 17, 2014

Student Success

10 steps to math success.

Neil starr portrait

At WGU, each student is assigned a personal faculty member to work with them as a mentor throughout their time at WGU. Additionally, each course has its own course mentors, subject-matter experts who are available to help students get through course material. Advice from your mentors is invaluable as you make your way through your online degree program. But we also want you to benefit from the wisdom of mentors not necessarily assigned to you, so occasionally, The Night Owl features advice from WGU mentors in colleges throughout the university.

By Neil Starr

Course Mentor, General Education Math

I have been a course mentor on the General Education math team here at WGU since September 2011. I have worked with adult students, however, for over 20 years, and I never get tired of hearing that favorite phrase of students: I LOVE MATH. It warms my heart every time.
What's that? You DON'T love math? Come on, it's not like getting a tooth pulled. THAT can hurt. Math is challenging, you say? I'll give you that. But I think everyone can meet the challenge and learn the math they need to learn to pass their courses.

Steps to math success.

There are many things that you can do to set yourself up for success. Below is my "Top Ten" list of what I believe will be helpful to students in preparing for their math assessments. (These are not shortcuts. Nowhere will it say "don't study" or "don't do the work.")

10. Schedule just one math assessment in a term, starting in your first term.

9. Work on your math assessment early in your term. Do not put it off.

8. Work side-by-side on another (non-math) assessment.

7. Register for the learning resource when you start. Go into the Course of Study to enroll in or get the registration directions for the learning resource.

6.  Review the WGU calculator and scratch paper policy and get yourself an acceptable calculator. (A basic scientific calculator is inexpensive and will serve you just fine.)

5. Schedule time (1-1.5 hours once or twice a day) to study math at least five days a week. Short, frequent study sessions (even 15-30 minutes at a time) are better than long, less-frequent ones.

4. Keep a notebook with all your work in it. Label and number the assignments, write neatly, and keep everything organized. (Practice a little on your white board, too, if you plan on taking the assessment at home.) Make note cards for the more difficult concepts and carry the cards with you to study when you have some "in-between" time.

3. Do all the work. Skipping topics, jumping around, and only doing part of the work will leave gaps in your learning. Pass a unit posttest before moving to the next unit.

2. Get help when you need it: call the math help line (see contact info below). Your course mentors are here to assist you in learning the course material. That is the main part of our job – so take advantage of us and CALL as often as you need to. This is your education; we are your teachers, so let us work with you.

1. Don't give up. Math may be challenging, but it's not so tough that it should keep you from getting your degree. If you get frustrated and just need some reassurance and guidance, call the help line. Remember that you are not alone in this and we are here for you.

Math Help Line for AGC1, BAC1, QLC1, CMC1, TKC1, and FFC1: 1-866-895-9660, x1758. (Email:

Math Help Line for QMC1, QLT1, CIC1, CIC2, CJC1, CJC2: 1-866-895-9660, x1761. (Email:

Hours for both help lines: Monday–Thursday 9 a.m.–7 p.m., Friday 9 a.m.–5p.m., and Saturday 9 a.m.–3p.m. MT

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