All posts by Ashley Nicoloff

The perfect stats

By Dr. Krysten Pampel and Dr. Ashley Nicoloff

One of my favorite classes that I get to teach every semester is my statistics course. Usually people hear statistics and give me a “ew” face. I love it! I love the content and seeing how my students grow in their capacity to interpret data. Unfortunately it is only a 3 credit course and I feel like I am always behind starting day one. I would love to have more time for material, examples and projects. Statistics is so applicable to everyday life and I would love to delve in with more hands-on examples and experiences for my students. If I could reimagine my classroom, I would see students going and collecting data, interpreting it and then giving a presentation of what they found to the class. Instead of using just a calculator to run the data, we would use statistical software so we could run larger data sets. 

Desmos has some cool applications for graphs and if I had the time, my class could spend the whole time playing around with the graphs to truly understand what a normal distribution is, what a scatter plot looks like and how we calculate the line of best fit. This is what I picture if I had no time restraints. Now, I know that it is great to dream, but I know that I cannot have this type of classroom. I try to bring in certain aspects that I have imagined as stated previously, but in small little pieces.  I try to liven up the class conversations by discussing current topics that are happening each semester ie. sports statistics, different hypothesis tests that they have seen on TV or even margins of error when voting is discussed . (This semester we talked about the upcoming Census 😉 ). I hope that by the end of the semester that my students leave with a basic knowledge of how to read and interpret research articles and love statistics just a little bit more than when they began the semester!


Who i am today

By Dr. Ashley Nicoloff and Dr. Krysten Pampel

About Dr. Ashley Nicoloff

Inspiring stories: Who or what inspired you to be who you are today in relation to your work at GCC? How did it impact you?

To quote Robert Frost “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and sorry I could not travel both and be one traveler, long I stood and looked down one as far as I could to where it bent in the undergrowth.” I remember reading this poem in 12th grade English class and it really resonated with me. Since then, I have felt that some of my education decisions have diverged from the path that all of my friends took. My plan was to go to U of A for college. I would room with my best friend and we would have a great 4 years together. My plan didn’t quite work out as I had hoped, and my high school advisor told me about the Presidential Scholarship that I would qualify for at Glendale Community College. It was the only scholarship I qualified for (due to circumstances I would not understand until about 5 years later), and it seemed my only option. All of my friends were headed off to U of A, but I stayed behind to go to GCC. At the time, it seemed my life was in ruins, but with time and perspective, this decision to go to GCC would turn out to be the best decision of my life. 

I started GCC as a Psychology major, but had always had a passion for math and was going to minor in it. As my classes in Psychology progressed, I decided that it wasn’t quite what I thought it was going to be. It really wasn’t until Anne Dudley’s Calculus 2 class that I decided to change my major to Mathematics so that I could become a Math teacher at the college level. After I graduated GCC with my Associate’s I went to Arizona State to complete my Bachelors and Masters. There I met my best friend, who now has an office two doors down from me 🙂 (A.K.A. Dr. Krysten Pampel). I finished my degree and interviewed for GCC and the rest is history 😉 

I love that my college education started at GCC and that I get to work here and share the same passion with my students as my teachers did for me. Making that decision to go to GCC has impacted my life in numerous ways. To quote Robert Frost again “two roads diverged in a wood and I– I took the one less traveled by and that has made all the difference.”  I have this poem in my office to remind me that although life can throw you curve balls, usually everything turns out alright in the end.

The Road Not Taken 


Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.


Student Learning and Finances

As I sat thinking about this weeks topic on student learning and assessment, my mind went to my 141 class and the experiences that I have had this semester and last.

In my MAT 14X class, we cover a variety of topics. The students that enroll in this course are usually in their last semester of math and we discuss many topics that are useful to them in their everyday life. One of my favorite chapters to teach is the financial chapter. We discuss buying a house and the interest associated with it along with saving up for retirement. These are areas that I have found students to be most interested in and I end up getting a lot of questions from them in this chapter.

Many have expressed their appreciation for this chapter because they are in the process of buying a house and have a better understanding of what they could do to save money. While some will tell me that they have started saving for their retirement. I have even had some of my returning adults discuss the importance of retirement with the students right out of high school.

Student learning not only comes from the material we discuss in class, but from the questions and answers from their peers. This, to me, is the most valuable type of student learning because it directly relates to their lives and they can connect to it.


Things I take for granted

I missed the memo the first week that there were themes each week we could write about. When I saw this weeks theme, it started me thinking about how I have included students in my classroom and what inclusivity really means. Here are some of these thoughts (maybe a little scatterbrained 😉 )

In previous semesters I have had students with certain accommodations for their vision or hearing and it has sometimes been challenging to make sure that I actually accommodate them. I tend to talk fast when I teach, especially when it is a favorite topic. These students that have a hard time hearing were having trouble keeping up with me. I really had to slow down so that they could hear and understand what I was saying. For those students who had a hard time seeing, I had to make sure that I wrote legibly and chose colors that were easily able to see. I guess the point I am trying to make is that I had to stop and think about how I was teaching and how I could become better during my lessons.

Sometimes I think we take for granted what comes easily to us, at least I know I do. Whether we have difficulty seeing, hearing (or doing math), we all have our own story that can make learning or enjoying something difficult. I try to remind myself this and adapt my teaching to the needs of my students each semester. I believe this has made me a better teacher, but know there is always room for improvement 😉


Unforeseen struggles for my students and I

The beginning of the spring semester started my  7th year here at GCC. The semester started out the same , but I soon found that I was struggling with my college mathematics courses. I had taught these courses numerous times before and could usually anticipate the questions and confusion throughout each topic. This semester I thought would be no different, but I soon realized that many of my students had not taken a math class in 5 or more years and their knowledge about the basics were lacking,  The reason for this change is the way we now place students (High School GPA only). I had to really think about the knowledge that I expect my students to have when they enter my class, but also how I can help them remediate these skills if they are lacking.

I had to go back to the basics and started to explain examples differently, give some in time reviews, extra review practices and give some more ticket in the door and out of the door exercises. I am finding it difficult as the semester continues because I see that they are struggling more and they ask numerous more questions. I am grateful they feel comfortable enough to ask questions, and I am hoping that the extra information I have added to the course is helping them, but we will see.

I am hopeful for them and I will continue to try to support them as much as I can.