200 Days in the Life of the College

Thursday, December 9

Strength in numbers at tutoring center

By Allison Eck ’12

Liz Reid ’11 and Melissa Kaknis ’13 are skilled strategists both on and off the softball diamond. As teammates in sport, they’ve developed an understanding of each other’s competitive rhythm and drive. Now they’ve grown together as teammates in the never-ending battle against numbers. Through the Quantitative and Symbolic Reasoning Center (formerly the Quantitative Literacy or QLit Center), Reid has been helping Kaknis resolve her struggles in probability theory this semester.

Reid and Kaknis, both math majors, work together on practice problems. “If I am struggling with something, Liz finds other homework problems for me to work on, or I watch her doing them,” Kaknis says. “Then I try them myself.” She adds that collaborating with someone with whom she feels comfortable has been a huge factor in her progress.

Each tutor is different — but that, Kaknis maintains, can be a good thing. “If you go in regularly, you end up knowing the tutors, and then you can click with one person over another. Some people like to go step by step through the problem, others like to have an overview.”

Such friendly and productive mentoring relationships aren’t uncommon at Hamilton; they’re at the heart of what the center is and does. It fosters improved evaluative thinking and symbolic understanding in mathematics, in the sciences and beyond.

Mary O’Neill, director of the center, emphasizes the importance of such a facility on a liberal arts campus: “Peer tutoring at Hamilton College is a positive resource, it is an extension of the classroom, it encourages collaborative learning, and it is here to fit students’ needs,” she says. “It is a joy to observe the students working through problems until that ‘aha’ moment comes.”

As Reid and Kaknis have discovered, there’s strength in numbers.