Math Class at Northeast Offers Hands-On Experience for Vet Tech Students

Published on: August 27, 2019

NORFOLK, NE – Math classes don’t usually involve live ferrets, but a course at Northeast Community College incorporates them–and several other critters–right into the lesson plan.

Mathematics for Health Care Professionals is a course in which students calculate dosages and solve clinical application problems that will assist them in their future program work. Students develop skills involving fractions, decimals, ratios, percent and basic algebra as well as learn basic systems of measurement to calculate medication dosages and more.

One section of the class focuses solely on vet tech majors, where the learning involves not only calculators, pencils and paper, but a laboratory setting complete with animals.

Stacey Aldag, math instructor, teaches the class. Dr. Amanda Hafer, veterinary technology instructor, and Josh Schlote, instructor and licensed veterinary technologist, assist with the labs.

Hafer detailed some of hands-on activities the students completed recently.

“We have brought live ferrets into the classroom to calculate drug doses. We evaluated blood results from a sick cat so the students can see how statistics are used. We also had a lab where the students examined different types of insulin and had to match up the correct syringe type to the correct insulin bottle.”

In another lab session, the students learned about proportions and dilutions through addressing problems that described different situations where various concentrations of disinfectants are needed, such as basic office cleaning, cleaning a kennel and isolated cleaning where a contagious virus is involved.

“The students chose the appropriate concentration needed to disinfect the area and then diluted the disinfectant accordingly,” Hafer said. “In medicine, we use the metric system but in the United States, we use the U.S. standard measurement system. Teaching the students to convert ounces and gallons to milliliters and liters is very important in a clinic.”

Another activity gave students the chance to weigh and assign a Body Condition Score to dogs and cats. From there, the students calculated how many cups or cans of food the animals needed based on the calculations taught in the math lessons.

Aldag, the class’s instructor, said she asked her students at midterm if they thought the labs were worth the time that would normally be used to take notes or practice math problems.

“They loved the labs and enjoyed seeing how math and veterinary technology work together. They also felt the math was more practical when they could see how it was actually used in a vet tech setting.”

Hafer said a hands-on approach to math can help students realize its importance.

“We want the students to see the value of math in the veterinary profession. It makes the math they are learning more meaningful if they are practicing real-life applications instead of only discussing it in a lecture.”

For more information on the Northeast Community College vet tech program, contact Dr. Michael Cooper at (402) 844-7190.

Funding for the$23 million project is currently being solicited to enhance and expand the agriculture facilities at Northeast Community College. In addition to the College’s commitment of $10 million, Northeast is seeking at least $13 million in private funds to begin the initial phase of construction, which includes a new farm site with a farm office and storage, a large animal handling facility and other farm structures for livestock operations, and a new veterinary technology clinic and classrooms. The new facilities will be located near the Chuck Pohlman Ag Complex on East Benjamin Avenue.

For more information, contact Northeast Community College Associate Vice President of Development and External Affairs Dr. Tracy Kruse,, 402-844-7056. Online donations can be made through the website Checks can be mailed to: Nexus Campaign, Northeast Community College Foundation, P.O. Box 469, Norfolk, NE 68702-0469.

Photo Cutline – Cooper

Veterinary technology student Kendra Cooper, Lincoln, checks a measurement during a hands-on lab exercise at Northeast Community College. The class, Mathematics for Healthcare Professionals, has one section devoted to vet tech majors. (Courtesy Northeast Community College)

Photo Cutline – Keating

Pre-veterinary technology student Kaitlin Keating, Cody, holds Jazzy the cat during a hands-on lab exercise at Northeast Community College. The class, Mathematics for Healthcare Professionals, has one section devoted to vet tech majors. (Courtesy Northeast Community College)