Minding the Math Gap: Students + Campus Resources = the ERC/CREATE Math Tutor Corps

Class Photo: Math for America San Diego Master Teaching Fellows Gregory Guayante (left) and Gen Esmende (far right) flank the spring 2014 ERC/CREATE Math Tutor Corps
In an effort to leverage undergraduate mathematics know-how to local schools, UC San Diego’s Eleanor Roosevelt College and Math for America San Diego created a successful new student outreach program this year to support local high school students who struggle with math.

Supported by the CREATE STEM Success Initiative, the ERC/CREATE Math Tutor Corps, launched in fall 2013, is a partnership between Eleanor Roosevelt College and Math for America San Diego (MfA SD), a national and regional mathematics fellowship program housed at CREATE. The quarterly student service opportunity equips UC San Diego undergraduates with the knowledge and skills necessary for tutoring high school mathematics and provides real-world tutoring experience at San Diego’s Lincoln High School, a UC San Diego partnership school and recipient of the Chancellor’s Associates Scholarships.

The ERC/CREATE Math Tutor Corps is a two-unit course offered each quarter where students meet every other week and work a minimum of four hours a week tutoring students in algebra and intermediate algebra at Lincoln High School.  Highly trained MfA SD Master Teaching Fellows, part of the Math for America San Diego Fellowship program, serve as course instructors.  This spring, MfA SD Master Teaching Fellows Gregory Guayante, mathematics teacher from El Camino High School in Oceanside, and Genevieve Esmende, mathematics teacher from Wangenheim Middle School in San Diego, are “tutoring the tutors” on how best to work with high school students in underserved communities.

“The ERC/CREATE Math Tutor Corps program provides a valuable and necessary forum in which to discuss both the art and science of mathematics tutoring, or any type of tutoring for that matter, to UC San Diego undergraduates seeking to maximize their tutoring experience in a high school setting,” said Guayante.  “Tutoring is an art, in that tutors are faced with high school students with all types of backgrounds, prior knowledge, past learning experiences, learning styles, social behaviors and degrees of motivation.  The ERC/CREATE Math Tutor Corps provides very specific guidelines to help a tutor work with this mix of student populations in mathematics particularly, to direct the high school student towards a positive outcome.”

IMAG0227[1]Under the direction of the MfA SD Master Teaching Fellows, the ERC/CREATE Math Tutor Corps approach helps undergraduates deepen their own understanding of high school mathematics content as well as develop expertise in recognizing, discussing, and resolving high school math misunderstandings.

ERC/CREATE Math Tutor Corps students learn questioning techniques that help identify high school student errors in understanding, how to analyze the student’s thinking behind the misunderstanding, and how to create a strategy to help the student redirect their own thinking.

“Teaching undergraduates has been terrific,” Guayante said. “Their content knowledge is strong and yet the Tutor Corps has been able to help them re-explore different ways of viewing a math problem and broaden their understanding of solution possibilities. The biweekly sessions also provide a beneficial venue for tutors to share their Lincoln High School tutoring experiences.”

IMAG0226[2]“The image of tutoring that undergraduates take to the high school at times can be different from the actual experience,” Guayante added.  “The Math Tutor Corps helps prepare tutors to understand the broad experiences they may encounter and how to effectively deal with them.”

According to Jacqueline Guan, program coordinator in ERC’s Provost Office, program leadership addressed initial enrollment obstacles head-on.

“Low enrollment in fall and scheduling and transportation issues in winter and spring knocked the total number of tutors from 28 to 16 for the first year.  To help increase enrollment, we initiated a new collaborative marketing plan with our sister student service programs at CREATE (the EAOP/Muir College/Department of Education Studies College Academic Mentor Program (CAMP) and the Thurgood Marshall College/CREATE School Partnership Program) and Partners in Learning (PAL) in the Department of Education Studies,” Guan said.  “Working closely with Susan Yonezawa and her team at CREATE, we placed ads in the UC San Diego Guardian, tabled on Library Walk, sent out brochures, visited classes, and sent out emails blasts to students in specific majors.  It resulted in an increase in enrollment across all programs this quarter.”

Through collaboration with UC San Diego’s Center for Student Involvement, a shuttle system for fall 2014 newly funded by both the UC San Diego’s Chancellor’s Office and the Weil Family Foundation will be available to transport students from multiple campus programs to UC San Diego partnership schools and Education Corps/PAL sites, alleviating the transportation hurdle for students.

“The program is still growing as we continue to learn more about which strategies work and which do not,” Guan said.  “We made a substantial amount of progress in program development this quarter and are hopeful and excited for the program to continue to grow and improve each quarter.  Students are expanding their world working as tutors.  The ERC/CREATE Math Tutor Corps is on its way after months of preparation and anticipation!”

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