Math Package Aids Transition for First-Year Students

September 09, 2009 - News Release

A study aid developed by University of Guelph math professors is helping first-year students overcome math anxiety and sharpen numeracy skills before they enter a university classroom.

The Mathematics Post-Secondary Preparedness Package (MP^3) helps students "clear the math mental cobwebs," said Prof. Jack Weiner, who co-authored the package with Prof. Hosh Pesotan. Weiner said the package was created in response to the all-too-common – but untrue – lament heard on university and college campuses that “kids these days just don’t know their math.”

“In my experience, most first-year students aren’t truly math challenged – they have all the tools. But they haven’t used them in a long while. This package was created to help them review those essential skills before they get to university.”

Earlier this year, the free package was mailed along with an introductory letter to every incoming U of G student taking any first-year course that requires some math skills. The package contains nine problem sets covering the range of skills and concepts they should have mastered by the time they've finished high school. Answers to the problems are available on a website for first-year students, and expert advice is available in an online chat room. As of mid-August, there had been more than 500 downloads of the solutions, an encouraging sign for the creators of MP^3.

“It’s a finite package; it’s a doable package,” said Weiner. “All it requires is that the students spend a maximum of two hours a day for a week or two over the summer, and they’ll hit the ground running in September.”

All universities, including U of G, offer remedial math help for the many students who struggle with their courses in first semester. But the help comes too late for most, Weiner said, adding that a few weeks into the semester many students – if they’re aware help is available at all – are juggling full course loads, part-time jobs and more and simply don’t have time to take advantage of the assistance being offered.

“MP^3 was designed specifically as a transitional tool to help students succeed,” he said, adding that the 100 plus problems contained in the package were chosen with that in mind. “It’s not the individual problems that are important – it’s the underlying math proficiency that develops as the students solve them.”

One long-term goal is to track results by surveying students who completed the package and comparing their experiences with those who did not.

The package isn’t just for U of G students. Printed books are available for purchase through Weiner’s publisher,, a scholarship matching service. He and worked with Waterloo-based software company Maplesoft to co-publish the book. Weiner worked with Maplesoft in 2006 to publish an electronic version of his popular Mathematics Survival Kit.

Royalties from sales of MP^3 will go toward scholarships at U of G.

“I’m very excited about this package, which is another example of how U of G goes ‘over and above’ other schools when it comes to helping students,” said Weiner.

For more information, contact:

Jack Weiner
Dept. of Mathematics and Statistics
519-824-4120 Ext. 52157

For media calls, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, Ext. 53338 or, or Barry Gunn, Ext. 56982,

University of Guelph
50 Stone Road East
Guelph, Ontario, N1G 2W1