Persistence pays off

June 11, 2016


Student John Zimmerman went from Fs to Bs in math, with a 12-year gap in between

Editor’s note: John Zimmerman began his studies at Johnson County Community College in the spring of 2004, but it wasn’t until after the spring of 2016 that he was ready to transfer to Kansas State University. Why? Zimmerman himself tells his story in an essay he submitted to Jennifer Kennett, professor of mathematics.

The first time through

“My name is John Zimmerman, (and) when I first arrived at JCCC in spring of 2004, I did not have much academic experience. I graduated high school with mostly Ds. 

“I somehow placed into the Elementary Algebra (MATH 115) class. I took that class with Jennifer Kennett; I got an F.  Somehow I thought I could pass the class only showing up once or twice a week.

“I then decided to enroll in Fundamentals of Math (MATH 111), which I found easy and only showed up for tests – until I missed a test. Once again, I got an F. 

“One year later, I decided to enroll in College Algebra (MATH 171) with Jennifer Kennett.  I was soon contacted by the Math Department, and a representative told me I could not be in the class because of my F in Fundamentals of Math… I struck a deal with the math dean to let me stay as long as I got a C on my first exam, which I did…I completed College Algebra with a C with Mrs. Kennett in December 2007.

Trying to remember after lapse

“This year I have decided to go back to school. I have my associate’s degree, but I am planning to go to K-State to finish up. I had one problem: I forgot almost all of my math.  How am I going to jump right into junior- and senior-level math classes? 

“I still had my binders and tests from previous math classes, but looking at test of my own handwriting looked Greek. I could not even add or subtract a basic fraction that had different numerators.

“I contacted (Math Chair) Nancy Carpenter for help to see if I could be allowed to use the Math Resource Center (to review). She said no (because I was not an enrolled student), but gave me something way better than help from the MRC.  She gave me the access codes for the ARC MyMathTest modules.

 “I started in late September. I took the pretest for MATH 111 and got 50 percent.  I started a section, watched the video, took notes, and then did the homework…If I did not pass the section mastery test then I would go back and rework problems from assignment, then give it another try.  That became a daily routine for me…

Retaking (and relearning) algebra

“This semester I am retaking College Algebra with Jennifer Kennett.  She is an amazing teacher. Her is class is even better now than before. She teaches strategies for learning math such as doing math reviews on notecards (and creating a) test refection sheet to help you analyze your study patterns and the resulting grade.

“She doesn’t just show us how to work problems; she shows us the why behind it.  I understand the concept and don’t have to worry about memorizing steps. I have taken a lot of classes, and Jennifer Kennett is my favorite teacher that I have ever had in my life.  I am doing really well in College Algebra; I currently have an 87 percent.

And it worked…

“I recently took the K-state math placement exam required for all transfer students; I got a 42/50, which places me in Trig(onometry) or Business Calc(ulus).  Success! Thanks to JCCC, I was able to relearn Math 111 through 171 in just nine months. K-State told me to minor in something to set myself apart from other people. I am now thinking of minoring in mathematics since I genuinely love math now.”