Students pay $30,000 tuition to receive online math class

Why Virginia Tech students are outraged over the school’s “Math Emporium”

The inside of Virginia Tech’s Math Emporium. Photo courtesy of The Collegiate Times.

The inside of Virginia Tech’s Math Emporium. Photo courtesy of The Collegiate Times.

Ashley Donohoe, Author

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Many Battlefield students find themselves applying to, and subsequently attending, one of the most popular colleges in the state: Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. More commonly known as Virginia Tech, the school offers a wide variety of majors, but is most widely renown for their advanced engineering, business management, and business marketing degrees. Students applying to this school often delve into advanced mathematics and information technology courses pertaining to these majors. However, they find themselves in a truly unique learning environment, as several courses at Tech are taught at the Math Emporium.

Proposed in 1997, the Math Emporium is a 50,000 square-foot facility located off-campus lined with computers. Virginia Tech’s Math Emporium website describes the learning center as “There are more than 500 Apple workstations arranged in hexagonal pods with six computers in each. A Testing Center room provides 221 additional workstations for proctored exams. A large meeting area is equipped with a computer projection system, along with an overhead projector and whiteboard for formal presentations.” There are seven math courses taught through the Math Emporium, where students will study the course online while tutoring staff can offer additional help.

Change.org petition created to abolish the Math Emporium at Virginia Tech, promoted by the Instagram account @hokiesagainstthemathemporium. Photo by Ashley Donohoe.

Although the concept may appear innovative and efficient, many students are expressing backlash. The Collegiate Times published an opinion piece from a student unhappy with their experience in the Math Emporium.”The students taking a course at the emporium are not engineering majors, suggesting that most of these students don’t necessarily have strong math skills,” author Ainy Ahktar explains. “At a school with the word ‘tech’ in its name, you would think there would be a plethora of math professors willing to hold classes to teach material step by step, answer questions and hold office hours.” A resounding feeling amongst students in the Math Emporium is the idea that they are not receiving an adequate amount of assistance in learning their coursework. Calculus is often cited as being a complex subject and can be hard for students to grasp. However, learning this subject in the Math Emporium isolates students from needed instruction and assistance with a professional in the topic, leaving them to practically learn the subject themselves.

Battlefield High School graduate and current Virginia Tech freshman Jack Tolar is taking calculus in the Math Emporium. He says, “The emporium itself is a terrible resource, but if you get help outside the emporium you should be fine.” The Math Emporium was built to make teaching math courses more efficient, but in Tolar’s experience, it has done anything but. Rather than having the resources to learn the subject provided to students, they often have to go out of their way to search for separate tutoring or spend excessive hours studying the online textbook. “People who are mad about it have a right to be mad, but they probably don’t take as much accountability as they should,” Tolar elaborates. Students taking classes in the Math Emporium should not be failing as long as they put an adequate amount of work in, but it appears it is not the highest quality education Virginia Tech could be providing.