Joy is Found in Math

Published: February 4, 2016

For as long as she can remember, Joy Heideman has helped people pursue an education. It's no surprise really. She comes from a family of teachers and school administrators, including her husband who is a principal in the Nampa School District.

Heideman, who was born and raised in Nampa, married her husband right out of high school. She went to work so he could focus on undergraduate and graduate school. As he began his career, they started a family. Heideman would spend the next 17 years raising her two children as a stay at home mom, keeping her heavily involved in homework and school projects through elementary and middle school. She eventually followed her kids to school, as a substitute teacher.  

Heideman says she enjoyed the opportunity to support others. But as she started thinking about the future, it became apparent it was time to focus on herself. She had aspirations of getting a degree, but having never attempted college the decision to go for it now wasn’t easy. The challenge for her came in a subject that is commonly troublesome for non-traditional students.

“I did not do well in math in high school,” Heideman recalls. “I never connected with it. I felt I could never go on to college because I would never graduate. I couldn’t do math.”

It was her lack of confidence in math that led her to College of Western Idaho (CWI). Heideman was visiting with a CWI enrollment advisor when she learned of the College's new approach to teaching college prep math. She was intrigued by the self-paced delivery of CWI's Math095, which provides in-person tutoring as well as online tools to serve various learning styles.

Heideman may not have been convinced at that moment she was ready, but the conversation gave her enough confidence to try.

“From the moment I started [Math095] I was totally hooked. This program teaches how math correlates and how it all goes together. It has definitely made me more confident."

It didn't take long for Heideman to discover just how capable she is. She tested into the first six units of Math 095 but managed to show proficiency on half of them during the diagnostic test; which all students must complete at the start of CWI's college prep math program. Incredibly, it took Heideman less than three months to complete the remaining three units.

“I give a lot of credit to the professors and advisors because they have done a great job and made a big impact on my learning.”

Her success has been personally fulfilling, but it has also been uniquely impactful for her kids. Heideman's daughter also happens to be a freshman at CWI. The pair have taken two classes together so far; a first semester experience class and Math095.

“I was a little concerned about what she would think at first, but she has loved it. I didn’t want them to say ‘well mom didn’t do it’. I wanted to prove to them it doesn’t matter how late in life you try; all that matters is you try.”

Heideman is one of many math success stories being celebrated by CWI. Over 1,700 students enrolled in Math095 in the fall; the first semester offering the new instruction model. She was one of 300 students who completed the first six units of the program. Perhaps the most impressive result of the program's first semester is the level of proficiency students demonstrated. At the conclusion of each unit students complete a competency exam, which was also conducted in the previous college math prep model. In the fall, students recorded a significantly higher pass rate on the test in nearly all areas.

“We believe the structure of the program prepares students to be successful,” says Susan Knights, director of CWI’s Math Solutions Centers. “Unlike a traditional classroom where the content is covered at a set pace, students have the flexibility to spend less time on topics they grasp quickly or remember from past experience, and they can slow down on topics that require more study from them. We also have experienced faculty who care about student success and can offer help with mathematical concepts, as well as guidance in determining which of the online study resources may best fit a particular student’s learning style.” 

Like so many of her peers, what Heideman has taken away from her first semester of college is new found confidence in her ability. She has decided to continue in Math095 and complete the remaining six units in the program. By doing so, she will be able to take college algebra; something that was unthinkable six months ago.

“I am excited at the possibilities math can bring to my future,” Heideman says. “For the first time I am really enjoying math and because of this I will be taking College Algebra in the fall. Completing all 12 units of Math095 will not only help me acquire a degree in counseling but will be proof that I can do it.”

As for her future, Heideman will transfer after CWI and pursue a bachelor's degree. She originally planned on going into travel services, but her experience at CWI has changed her mind. She is now leaning toward becoming an advisor or counselor.

“I’m at a point in my life where I’m not worried about an entire career. I want to do what I’m going to love.”

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