Math fear proves crippling for Marine, until he discovers how much support can turn this equation around.

By Kathie Keel

Several months ago, Pikes Peak Community College student and USMC veteran Martin Boyzo found himself facing what seemed to be an insurmountable roadblock. After multiple attempts, he had finally conquered developmental math classes only to fail College Algebra. Convinced that math was “something I could never learn,” he abandoned his dream of becoming an engineer, switched majors, and resigned himself to a relationship with math characterized by fear and frustration. All that changed when Martin decided to attend the TRIO Student Support Services (SSS) Math Attack program in summer 2018.

Spearheaded by PPCC TRIO alumni and current TRIO staff, Carrie Riffee and Selinea Moore-Allen, Math Attack examines obstacles to math success and provides tools and strategies to tear down barriers. Focused on attitude change and skills-building in the context of fun activities with real-life application, the four-week summer Math Attack program has demonstrated measurable success in key indicators associated with student persistence. Since the first Math Attack in 2017, the average number of semesters students take to finish the math course sequence in their degree plans has decreased from five semesters to three.  Furthermore, during the fall semester following Math Attack 2018, 95% of Math Attack attendees passed their math courses. Grounded in evidence-based interventions including Stanford University’s Debunking Math Myths, Math Attack succeeds in helping students understand the role that attitude plays in learning math and empowers them to improve their mindsets as well as their knowledge and skills.

Martin credits Math Attack with helping him develop a growth mindset and reduce math anxiety. Previously, “if I didn’t understand something, my brain would shut down and that was it.” Now, he says that “I am more willing to take on challenges rather than be afraid of failing or making mistakes. If I get it wrong, instead of giving up, I just say let’s figure out what happened.”  This attitude switch propelled him to a B in his College Algebra retake and to reclaim his engineering dream. Because TRIO is all about giving back, not only are facilitators Carrie and Selinea paying their own TRIO experience forward, but Martin is now a TRIO math tutor supporting other students in their math progress

Author, Kathie Keel is a Learning Specialist with Pikes Peak Community College TRIO Student Support Services.