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Start S.M.A.R.T. for Math Success 

Through cross-campus collaborations, the University of Tennessee is working to build a community rooted in well-being where the strengths of its Volunteer community are recognized, valued, and celebrated. During their journey to graduation, undergraduate students have meaningful interactions with their peers, faculty, and staff to develop those strengths. This fall, the Division of Student Success collaborated with the Department of Mathematics to introduce a new initiative providing additional opportunities for students to excel – Start S.M.A.R.T. for Math Success. 

“Our students want the opportunity to solve complex, real-world problems and use the knowledge they gain here at UT to better their future and accomplish their academic, personal, and professional goals,” Amber Williams, vice provost for Student Success, said. “In line with UT’s strategic vision, we created the Start S.M.A.R.T. for Math Success initiative to provide student scholars with the opportunity to engage in rich learning by developing their math skills in a way that will enrich their learning in all their courses.” 

Through this initiative, UT students and faculty share tips for succeeding in lower-level math courses so students can better analyze and solve problems in real life. Vols’ futures will involve math, no matter the occupation being a musician, engineer, teacher, or fashion designer. “There is a lot of evidence that success in math classes is closely correlated to success in college,” Conrad Plaut, professor and head of the mathematics department, said. “Students who are successful at math are successful in other classes. At the same time, mathematics is more and more an important part of modern life.” 

The Start S.M.A.R.T. for Math Success tips allow students to show up to their classes prepared, manage their time, actively participate, know when to reach out to instructors, and ultimately take responsibility for their learning. 

Lexi Huskey and Kaleigh Hellard, both first-year students majoring in kinesiology, utilized academic success resources after viewing the Start S.M.A.R.T. for Math Success videos. Huskey set up appointments with her academic advisor and coach and participated in tutoring. “I had experienced test anxiety before and wanted support since I had not taken math courses for a while,” Huskey said. “The tips helped refresh my learning and motivated me to go to the coaching and tutoring appointments.” 

Hellard also met with her advisor and became more aware of the services on campus. “I was not aware of some of the academic resources at UT before learning about the Start S.M.A.R.T. for Math Success tips,” Hellard said. “I have been better prepared and aware of the support I have here.” 

Malissa Meadows, distinguished lecturer and lower division chair in Mathematics, says success in math is important to students’ development of critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Although specific math processes may not be used after graduation, Meadows says “Learning how to persevere as they complete a multi-step problem, determining how specific wording and other details impact solutions, reasoning through complex processes, and building confidence as they successfully navigate the course content will give them a foundational toolkit that they can use in other courses as well as their careers.” 

Meadows also appreciates the peer-to-peer component of Start S.M.A.R.T. for Math Success and how the information will resonate better for students learning from other students. “My hope is that the Start S.M.A.R.T initiative will resonate with students from the first day of class so that they never get into that hole,” Meadows said. “I believe it will have a positive long-term impact.” 


Lacey Wood (