by Sarah Powell

The University of West Georgia’s Freshmen Math Program (FMP) has won the 2020 Regents’ Momentum Year Award for Excellence in Teaching and Curricular Innovation.

UWG math faculty and administration hold up a sign that reads "Congratulations to the Freshmen Math Faculty"The University System of Georgia (USG) award recognizes teaching and instruction that bolsters first-year student achievement, promotes a purposeful program and career choice, and creates an environment where positive academic mindsets thrive, catapulting students toward degree completion. The review committee voted unanimously to recommend the UWG Freshmen Math Program for the award.

“[The FMP] has broken down many barriers for our students, both academically and non-academically,” said Interim Dean of the College of Science and Mathematics, Dr. Pauline Gagnon. “I believe that is what really made the difference.”

Housed under the Department of Mathematics in the College of Science and Mathematics, FMP competed with programs from every discipline and 28 institutions across the state. The achievement is highly coveted throughout the USG.

“The Freshmen Math Program holds student success at the forefront of what is taught and how it is taught,” said Dr. David Jenks, UWG’s interim provost, in his nomination letter to the USG Board of Regents. “Aware of the evidence correlating success in first-year math and future degree completion, the program faculty have worked consistently to ensure that student learning influences the curricular and instructional decisions made for every section of all courses in the program.”

Fifteen faculty members comprise the program and have focused on helping students develop a growth mindset. They demonstrate this philosophy through professional development efforts, including a reading group they created to examine issues related to student learning.

“A lot of students come in thinking they can’t do math,” said Dr. Scott Sykes, director of the FMP. “We want to help them overcome their fear.”  

The program’s goal is to help all students succeed in first-year math courses while keeping academic standards high. Initiatives include co-requisite learning support and group study sessions, which help students foster math skills, create a positive academic mindset and cultivate positive student-faculty relationships.

The sessions also encourage the social aspect of learning and allow students to review material, consult with their peers, and ask questions in an environment that is less intimidating than the classroom. Students have not only improved their grades through this effort but also their interpersonal and organizational skills, which serve them throughout their pursuit of education and beyond.

Faculty within the FMP have also begun using no-cost materials for first-year classes. The decision to use free downloadable books and software saves students hundreds of dollars and removes financial barriers to success. They plan to continue keeping the cost of materials as low as possible to give students the best education for the lowest possible price.

“[The] first-year math faculty’s commitment to student success truly is a model that all of us should follow,” said Dr. David Newton, associate vice president of academic affairs and interim dean of University College. “It is an inspiration.”

Photography by Steven Broome

Posted on Feb. 5, 2020