Math Boot Camp program helps student veterans achieve academic goals


Iowa State Daily

Iowa State professors created Math Boot Camp to refresh student veterans on their math skills after they return from deployment. The one-day course takes place before each semester and teaches the basics of algebra and trigonometry.

Logan Metzger

First-year students may be apprehensive about stepping into college academics. Student veterans can have the same feelings when returning from duty.

Student veterans have been out of a classroom anywhere from two to four years or more, serving their country.

While deployed, their minds are full of details and data related to their military assignments and this can cause mathematical concepts from high school to be buried, according to Hal Schenck, professor and chair of the Department of Mathematics and a veteran.

This is why professors at Iowa State created a Math Boot Camp.

Since the fall of 2018, Iowa State’s Department of Mathematics and the Iowa State Veterans Center have offered the university’s more than 800 student veterans an opportunity to brush up on their math skills during Math Boot Camp, an intensive one-day course.

The class, which takes place before the start of each semester, focuses on basic algebra and trigonometry concepts — skills that fade away without regular use.

For students returning to school from military duty, math concepts can feel a bit rusty. Schenck led the Department of Mathematics to eliminate that barrier and give student veterans a skill set to succeed in a college environment.

“Speaking from personal experience, math can be a real barrier for student veterans returning to college,” Schenck said. “When you haven’t used math for a number of years, you get rusty.”

Schenck said up to 20 students attend Math Boot Camp each semester to get a jump start on their academic goals.

Throughout the academic year, student veterans are able to participate in math tutoring sessions held one hour before a weekly meal, provided by the Veterans Center.

Last spring, the math department also launched Calculus III Platoon, an additional weekly session focused on advanced calculus. Previous enrollment in the boot camp is not required to participate in the additional tutoring sessions.

Schenck and Elijah Stines, senior lecturer and associate chair in mathematics, both teach students during the boot camp. Students from the mathematics graduate program are also able to provide individual assistance during the boot camp and the study sessions.

“The students who attend the boot camp are incredibly attentive and engaged,” Stines said. “It’s a joy to work with this dedicated group of students, and I hope that they are able to master a few new core concepts that will serve them well in their future studies.”

There is currently no known date for the next Math Boot Camp.