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A different approach to math with 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.




  1. Sean, you truly have a gift! you have helped multiple Sternberger’s succeed.
    For me, I struggled so hard in math. A mom of 5, going back to school after 20 years, to pursue my teenaged dream of becoming a nurse. I was afraid I would never get through pre req’s so I could apply to nursing school. Thank god I was able to take 95 and stats with you! I’ve been a cardiac nurse going on 6 years now
    I encouraged both my kids, Jordan and Savannah, to take your classes.
    Jordan wanted to go into journalism but he changed his major to teaching partly because of you. He had barely graduated high school and struggled at cocc. You as his math teacher made him feel positive about a subject that he felt “stupid” in. He decided he wanted to help kids like him who struggle with Asperger’s syndrome and maybe don’t “fit in the box”. He graduated OSU Cascades with a 4.0 and is now in the Masters program since June with straight A’s.
    Savannah struggled the worst out of the three of us. Your class was her first A in math in her whole school career. She was so proud! She graduated OSU Cascades last summer and just applied for the Master’s program. She is also majoring in teaching.
    I can’t thank you enough Sean for the passion you bring to such a difficult, boring (sorry-no offense) subject that half the world struggles with. You are a special person and are making a HUGE difference in this world, and especially in the Sternberger family


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