GWTeach launches math tutoring program for DCPS middle schools

Media Credit: Danielle Towers | Assistant Photo Editor

The program is open to student volunteers and those eligible for federal work study.

GW will offer math tutoring services to D.C. Public School students next spring to mitigate setbacks to learning and development during the COVID-19 pandemic.

GWTeach, a program that certifies undergraduate students to teach in the District, is offering the Math Matters Program next semester in collaboration with the Nashman Center for Civic Engagement and Public Service to connect University students with DCPS students enrolled at Elliot-Hine and Sousa middle schools. The program’s directors said middle school students need a heavier focus on math after remote learning last academic year caused students to fall behind.

Amy Cohen, the executive director of the Nashman Center, said local universities, including GW, developed the program with DCPS earlier this year after identifying a need for math tutoring in the wake of the pandemic when middle school students displayed lower levels of engagement while learning remotely. She said GW students who enroll in the program will undergo a short application and interview process before tutoring math to hundreds of middle school students in sixth, seventh and eighth grades over the course of the semester.

“Students will gain skills in teaching and tutoring, refreshers in math concepts, learning how to work with the community, foster relationships with K12 students and get to know D.C.,” she said in an email.

She said GW students enrolled in the program will take a one-credit hour GWTeach course at the beginning of next semester, which will give them math and tutoring training, before beginning the tutoring work in late January.

Alicia Cagle, the program manager for Math Matters, said the program will send tutors to Elliot-Hine and Sousa middle schools in Northeast and Southeast D.C., respectively. She said both middle schools have previously worked with the Nashman Center, and GWTeach coordinators will try to expand Math Matters to other schools in the District next semester.

“At the schools we are working with the after school care coordinators, we are working with the math instructional coaches, the assistant principals, so it’s really a team effort here,” she said.

Cagle said the program and class is open to University student volunteers and students eligible for Federal Work Study, who can apply online through the Student Employment Talent Management System or GivePulse, an online networking service. She said students with accepted applications are invited to an interview, where program coordinators will determine if they are qualified to tutor middle school math.

“We’re looking at communication skills and how you would address a small group of seventh grade students who are really frustrated and are convinced they’re never going to use math in real life,” she said.

Cagle said training for the program will take place every Wednesday morning throughout the spring semester, where she will review logistics, like how to respectfully enter a community to build trust with students and teachers.

“We’re not looking to re-teach what the math teachers in DCPS have taught,” she said. “We simply want to complement and help build the skills for a lot of the students who might be falling behind.”

SuJin Choi, a master teacher at GWTeach, will instruct the one-credit undergraduate course that will refresh GW students on the math they will use while tutoring. Choi said the course’s math curriculum will cover the District’s standards for sixth, seventh and eighth grades math and teach about concepts that are common between the three grades, like order of operations and substitution.

“We made a whole list and found the commons across all three grade levels and we picked out 10 topics and mathematical skills that they’ll need to be successful in middle school,” she said.

Choi said the program’s grant will only last for the next two semesters, with a new set of tutors set to teach each semester, but GWTeach faculty intend to make Math Matters a legacy program that continues to do similar tutoring work across the District even after the grant expires.

Choi said the Math Matters coordinators are currently recruiting GW students through online applications and advertisements. She said because there is no undergraduate school of education, undergraduate students have limited access to education-based courses, but the Math Matters program can expose students to hands-on teaching experience in the District.

“Hopefully if students are unsure if teaching is the right path for them or if they just want to give back to the community, then Math Matters is a perfect way to do that,” Choi said.

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