Writing, math labs offer free help for students

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Writing, math labs offer free help for students

by Ben Sheffler

The math and writing labs are free for currently enrolled Pensacola State College students. Chelsea Zachary / The Corsair
The math and writing labs are free for currently enrolled Pensacola State College students. Chelsea Zachary / The Corsair

As students enter the Writing Lab on the Pensacola campus, they are greeted by a poster with a quote from Scientist Marie Curie: “Nothing in life is to be feared.  It is only to be understood.”

The Writing and Math labs help provide that understanding.

Currently enrolled Pensacola State College students can take advantage of these two free services to help them excel in both subjects.

Located in building 1 on the Pensacola campus, the math lab is in Room 102, and the writing lab is three doors down in Room 106.  There are also labs on the Milton, Santa Rosa, and Warrington campuses.

“We are ready to help,” said Sara Smith, the district writing lab supervisor, who has a master’s in English from the University of West Florida.

Approximately 100 students a week walk through the writing lab door and enter the world of diction and syntax.

Lisa Wragg, who is pursuing a bachelor’s in nursing at PSC, said the staff “brings to light how to effectively write a paper, and they break it down and make sense of it all.”

It was only Wragg’s second visit to the lab, but she “highly recommends” the experience.

Besides one-on-one tutoring, the writing lab offers other ways to help students through worksheets, handouts, and workshops.

“We help with any stage of the writing process, whether it’s planning, drafting, or an almost completed paper,” Smith said.

PSC Nursing student, Kim Stanley, visited the lab to figure out how to begin her paper.  Stanley gained information and grabbed handouts to get her started and said she would go back after she wrote her first draft.

Although grammar isn’t the first issue addressed when the lab staff reads a paper, instructors can help “identify any problems and address any questions,” said Smith.

“We like to look at the whole paper, what we call global concerns, and then move on to concerns like grammar, punctuation, and spelling,” Smith said.

The lab will not, however, write a paper for a student.  The staff only makes suggestions and offers advice.

“One misconception that people have is that you only visit the writing lab if you’re a bad writer, and that is simply not the case,” said Smith.  “We’re here for anyone.”

If a student feels like he or she is a bad writer, there is good news.

“Anyone can improve his or her writing with practice and motivation, but it takes both of those things,” Smith said.

According to Smith, being a good writer can help in being successful in other facets of life.

“Writing is a skill that’s going to follow you all of your life, and it’s going to be beneficial in almost anything you do,” Smith said.  “We live in an information economy, so communication is very important, and if you can write, you’re going to set yourself above the crowd.”

Although the writing lab’s attendance is steadily increasing, more students use the math lab.

About 600-800 students visit the math lab every week seeking help.

“Math lends itself more to tutorial than other subjects,” said Michael Sabroski, the district math lab supervisor, who has a bachelor’s in Mathematics from UWF.  “The math department has some very challenging courses, and PSC actually uses the same Differential Equations book that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology uses.”

Sabroski added “PSC does an excellent job with their math program.”

Some students will come in with just a question or two, while others will stay all day.

Then they come back the next day.

And the next.

That kind of determination is encouraged by both labs.

“Our goal is to teach them the material so they can become independent thinkers and solve problems themselves,” Sabroski said.

Like the writing lab, the math lab has worksheets with exercises that aim to improve a student’s understanding and ability.  The staff also offers one-on-one tutoring.

“Anyone can be good at math,” said Sabroski, “it’s just a matter of practice.”

Stephanie Reed, a business major at PSC, said that the staff is “very helpful.”

“I leave with a better understanding, and I recommend it (the math lab) to anybody,” Reed said.

Math can build skills that will improve performance in all aspects of life.

According to Sabroski, “Math builds your analytical ability and your ability to focus and concentrate.”

College students need those qualities to be successful and it’s just a matter of putting in the work according to Sabroski..

“Most people would be surprised at how good at math they could be if they applied themselves,” said Sabroski.

Kristy Carter, a dental hygiene major at PSC, thought her first experience in the math lab was very helpful.  She received some insight from Sabroski and was given worksheets.

Carter worked diligently during her time there, and  left knowing how to solve problems that seemed impossible before she visited the math lab.

“I’ll definitely have to come back,” Carter said.

The hours for each lab vary, but all of the details are listed on their respective websites.  Visit http://itech.pensacolastate.edu/writinglab/ and http://itech.pensacolastate.edu/mathlab/ for more information.

Students must always sign into the labs by using their PSC student identification number.



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