A different approach to math with Professor Sean Rule

Photo provided by Professor Sean Rule

Seth Root /The Broadside

According to UCLA, a whopping 60 percent of community college students, based on placement test scores, are not qualified to take a college mathematics course, even though they have graduated from high school. 

There are probably a lot of reasons for this. But one primary reason could be due to how many students feel about math. According to Harvard Business Review, a quarter of students who attend college experience moderate to high math anxiety levels. 


Sean Rule, a mathematics professor at Central Oregon Community College, is trying to help students with their math anxiety to succeed in the real world. 

“So many of my students come in (to my math classes) with a negative view of math,” Rule said. “My goal is, by the end of it, to have my students either have a more neutral opinion about math or to have a more positive view of math.” 

But as Professor Rule knows, it sure isn’t easy. Although he teaches math now, Professor Rule was not always “good” at math. 

“I never thought of myself as good in math until much later in life,” Professor Rule said. “When I was young, like when I was in elementary school and middle school, I was afraid that something was wrong with me because math wasn’t making sense.” 

It was only when Professor Rule got to college that he started realizing that there is more than one way to solve a math problem. 

“When I got to college, I had to take a calculus class to get my English degree, and I just loved the course,” said Professor Rule. “I didn’t know what the hell the teacher was saying, but I could think around it and come up with my own solution. ” 

Since then, Professor Rule has tried to make his classes make sense for his math students because not all students can learn math the old fashion way. 

“When people say, ‘I am not good at math,’ it’s not that they aren’t good at math, it’s that they weren’t able to learn math in a very specific way that they made everyone learn it until now,” said Professor Rule. 

If you have ever taken a class from Professor Rule, you probably have seen him try his best to make sure that his students comprehend the how and why to the question he is asking his students. In fact, Professor Rule goes to great lengths, making videos for his students to see just how to solve the problem and why it is so important to understand just what is going on because as Professor Rule said, “It is not just about the answer, but how you got your answer.” 

The way the Rule has approached math is undoubtedly different. But many of his students, in the past, have liked the way he teaches math. One Math 98 student remarked that his classes “don’t feel like math class but better than a math class.” Another student thanked the professor for helping him like math. 

But Professor Rule understands that there are still plenty of students who feel uncomfortable with math and even have some math anxiety. But despite the struggles, that does not mean failure. 

“Even if you never had success before in math,” Professor Rule said. “That does not mean moving forward, you can’t have success now.” 

If you want to reach out to Professor Rule, email him at srule@cocc.edu.



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