INTRODUCTION: Historically, our college’s three-credit Beginning Algebra course (Math 092) has had a pass rate in the range of 45-55%. In an effort to improve this pass rate, the Counseling Division introduced a one credit “Math Study Skills” course. This course, open to anyone enrolled in Math 092, meets twice a week for one hour for the first 8 weeks of the semester.  In the Spring, 2002, semester, Beginning Algebra students who did not take the study skills course passed at a rate of 55%, while Beginning Algebra students who did take the study skills course passed at a rate of 79%, an improvement of 24%. In working with these students, we quickly discovered that one reason they have difficulty with math is that they don’t use college resources. A recent study by our tutoring center, for example, showed that of all students taking a math course, the students in developmental math are the *least* likely to use the tutoring center.  Instead of just telling these students about the resources available to them on campus, I decided to use a scavenger hunt adapted to math. Although I used this activity in a Study Skills for Math course, it could be easily adapted for use by any educators who want their students to make better use of college resources. The total time for the activity was a 50-minute class period. 


  • to raise students’ awareness about and use of campus resources for supporting math success

  • to improve the pass rate of Math 092: Beginning Algebra

  • to help students get to know one another (create Intedependence)


*Handout for the scavenger hunt (see Resources below).  Note: I put the questions in a different order for each group in the class so that they didn’t all go to the same place at the same time.

*Prizes for the group that finished first.  Note: I use $100 Grand candy bars since the name has numbers in it.

I informed employees in each area ahead of time that students would be on a scavenger hunt and what questions they would be asking.  I also had each area stamp the paper to make sure that the students actually went to each site.


1. Put students in groups of 3 to 5 and give one list of questions to each group.

2. Tell them, “The first group to return with *all* correct answers will win a prize. Each group must go to the places on the list in order.  To be accepted, your answer sheet must have *all* correct answers and be stamped by each of the five locations. Any questions?”

3. “If everyone is ready, let the hunt begin.”

4. Upon students’ return, go over each of the resources and discuss how the students might use it.  This step is where much of the students’ learning about resources will take place. For example, ask,  “How many of you have signed up for a study group with a tutor in the Learning Support Center (LSC)? For those of you who aren’t in a study group yet, would it help you to be in one?” 


Students really seem to enjoy this activity.  It gets them connecting with one another, and they often comment that they are surprised so many resources exist on campus to help them. Many say they were unaware of the resources before the activity and that they will use these resources in the future.  In follow up classes, I have observed that they actually are using many of the resources.  One resource in particular is a set of videotapes for teaching each chapter in the math textbook.  Prior to the scavenger hunt, almost none of the students knew about these tapes and that they could get a free copy just by bringing a blank videotape to our Media Department.  In one class, all of the students got copies of those tapes and used them for supplemental instruction.  Another resource is the tutoring center.  After I did the scavenger hunt, every student in the class either joined a study group with a tutor or hooked up with an individual tutor.  At our college, if you have 5 people you can get a free tutor to meet with your group and you also get a private room in the LSC.


I learned that students learn more when an activity is fun and relevant.  I learned another way to help students connect with one another and thus, be more successful.  I will definitely do this activity again because it was effective in teaching the students all of the math resources available on campus.  The first time I did this I did not have them get the paper stamped and I found out that the students were getting the answers without actually going to the locations.  I made that change the second time I did the activity and it worked well.  I cannot think of anything I would change next time.

RESOURCES:  Handout for the Scavenger Hunt:

1. Go to the college library.

*Books that can help students succeed in math have a QA11 prefix.  Find this section and write down the name and call number of a book that deals with succeeding in math.

*The circulation desk has videotapes for each chapter in your textbook.  If you check out one of these tapes, how long can you keep it?

*The Media office is in the back of the library.  If you bring in a blank tape, they will make you your own copy of a math videotape.  How much does this service cost?

2. Go to the Learning Support Center (LSC).

*What is the name of one of the drop-in tutors for math?

*How many people do you need in a math study group in order to get your own private room and a tutor?

*List two resources you could check out to help you with math?

3. Go to the Testing Center.

*What two things do students need in order to make up an exam in the testing center?

*What are the hours that the testing center is open?

4. Go to Counseling.

*Counselors can help you with personal problems that are getting in the way of your success in math.  Have one of the counselors sign this paper (with legible handwriting!)

*What is the difference between counseling and advising?

5.  Go to G Building.  Find your math instructor’s office.

*What is your math instructor’s name and office number?  (Each group has students from two different instructors; list them both with office numbers.)

*Your instructor has a mailbox on his/her door.  There is a hot pink piece of paper in the mailbox with your instructor’s name, office hours, phone number, and email address on it.  Each student in your group must bring back the paper from his/her own instructor.

–Marianne Auten, Counselor, Paradise Valley Community College, AZ

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