By Lisa Carey, Second Year AmeriCorps Member serving at Parker-Varney Elementary School
Math is a subject that some students instantly understand and others sometimes struggle. For me personally, I was a student who had to put in extra time and work to understand some of the harder math concepts. For the past two years as a City Year AmeriCorps member, I have been able to tell students about my struggles with math and tell them that they are not alone.
Being a math tutor has been such an amazing experience. I have been able to see students finally understand double digit multiplication, figure out how to convert fractions, and play around with area and perimeter. It is the light bulb moments that make the hours of planning worth it when I’m preparing to reinforce the concepts being learned in class for my math focus list students. Seeing a student finally be able to do a problem by him/herself is a reward in itself.
On my math focus list, I have a student who is new to Parker-Varney Elementary School. He was added to my math group because being a new student can be a large barrier for a student to fully grasp new math concepts. In the beginning, this student was quiet, shy, and didn’t want to speak up during our math group. But, he had a love of math that was unique. He always was asking if we were going to have group, or if we could work on fractions during time that was his own time. He had a strong interest, but needed practice on math concepts, and wasn’t always confident in his math abilities.
During a one-on-one meeting, we started by converting improper fractions into mixed numbers. After we went through the whole life cycle of the fraction, I then gave him a challenge problem just to see if he still remembered how to add fractions with unlike denominators. We had not reviewed this concept in a long time, so I was curious if he remembered it all. The minute he started the problem, I knew that he had it in the bag! He remembered the trick that I taught him, worked to solve the problem, and even got the challenge question correct. I was so proud that he understood the problem but also how he showed confidence while working through it. I could see the impact I had made both in helping him improve his math skills, but also in his self-assurance in working through the problem.
Understanding the concepts of math is an important aspect of growing up and moving into middle school. But, having the confidence to complete the concept that may be unknown is what will benefit him in the future. I’m proud that I was able to help!