The University of Hawai‘i – West O‘ahu (UHWO) moved into a new phase of growth with the transition to a four-year, comprehensive university in Fall 2007 and moved into our new Kapolei campus in Fall 2012. This is an especially critical period to support and retain traditionally underrepresented populations, particularly in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines. Recent studies, such as those conducted by the UH Institutional Research Office (2010) and UH White Paper Group (2007), show that about half of all students are “academically underprepared” and enroll in at least one remedial mathematics course and many drop out due to a combination of cognitive and non- academic factors (UH IRO, 2010). UHWO hired its first mathematician and offered its first mathematics course in Fall 2007. These conditions led to an assessment of mathematics at UHWO, and our immediate, intermediate, and long term goals.
In Spring 2008, the UHWO Mathematics Center (now part of the No‘eau Center for Writing, Mathematics, and Academic Success) was opened with funding from the National Science Foundation’s Islands of Opportunity Alliance. The most effective programs address issues of retention and support with a systematic, multi-faceted approach involving a variety of teaching/ learning strategies, integrated mentoring programs, and course-based learning assistance (Astin & Oseguera, 2005; Bok, 2006; Harvard University Achievement Gap Initiative, 2008; Hurtado, 2001). Thus, UHWO mathematics combines academic tutoring with peer mentoring and research experiences, all of which are critical to achieving our goal of increased student success in college.
Immediate goals include providing tutoring services to meet the needs of students in general education mathematics courses that are currently being offered. As a means of connecting tutors to tutees, as well as cultural and historical traditions, UHWO students are invited to participate in mathematics-related activities and field studies including trips to the Hōkūle‘a canoe (“star of gladness”) at Sand Island, Bishop Museum in Honolulu, Mokauea Island Fishing Village at Ke‘ehi Lagoon, Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology’s (HIMB) Coconut Island in Kāne‘ohe Bay, and Kalaupapa National Historical Park on the island of Moloka‘i. These hands-on, real-world applications allow students to explore mathematics in Hawaiian and global communities. Intermediate and long term goals are to provide bachelor’s degrees in mathematics and mathematics education at the middle and secondary levels, and prepare students with relevant experience for future careers such as teaching and graduate work.
Creating a scholarly learning community of academic excellence is a priority at UHWO. Development of mathematics at UHWO involves collaboration between numerous state, national, and international organizations such as the University of Hawai‘i Systemwide Office, Hawai‘i Council of Teachers of Mathematics, Polynesian Voyaging Society, State of Hawai‘i Department of Education, Hawai‘i P-20 Partnerships for Education, East-West Center, and Comparative International Education Society. Ongoing mathematics projects include the following: East-West Center’s International Forum for Education 2020 initiative with policymakers from South Korea, India, Hong Kong SAR, Japan, Vietnam, Pakistan, and the U.S., Hawai‘i P-20 Partnerships for Education’s American Diploma Project, State of Hawai‘i Department of Education and UH Curriculum Research and Development Group’s Standards Streamlining Process Project, and the National Science Foundation’s Ethnomathematics Curriculum Project.
There has never been a more important time to cultivate sustainable conditions that advance student success in college. Polynesian Voyaging Society President Nainoa Thompson says, “We need to prepare underrepresented students for careers in math…too many are lost because of lack of postsecondary support” (Thompson, N., Personal Conversation, October 29, 2008). UHWO mathematics strives to foster an environment where students learn to think critically, receive tutoring support, build peer relationships, and prepare for skilled jobs in the future. UHWO mathematics has been featured in print, online, and on air at the Pacific Business News, MidWeek, Leeward People, Hawai‘i Youth Theater, Honolulu Star Bulletin, Honolulu Advertiser, Mathematical Association of America, Hawai‘i Herald, University of Hawai‘i Mālamalama Magazine, and Hawai‘i Public Radio.
For more information, please contact Dr. Linda Furuto via email at lfuruto[at]hawaii.edu or telephone at (808) 689-2358.