Math tutors needed - The Explorer: El Sol

Math tutors needed

MathPLUS+ helps students meet state standards

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Posted: Tuesday, July 29, 2008 11:00 pm | Updated: 8:03 am, Thu Mar 24, 2011.

A math tutoring program in the Northwest has a new name and new home for this coming school year.

MathPLUS+, serving students at Coronado Middle School, is now part of the Amphitheater Public Schools Foundation.

It needs more volunteers beyond the nearly 60 now helping, and could use money for materials, according to organizer Robert Springer.

For years, SaddleBrooke Community Outreach has supported the tutoring program. That organization continues tutoring and school clothing efforts in the Northwest.

“We used to be fully funded by Community Outreach,” Springer said. “It was becoming so large that we, sort of, split.”

The Amphi Foundation “has embraced our MathPLUS+ program as an example of academic excellence,” he said. Springer points to results that suggest the tutoring is helping students achieve in math. At all grade levels, tutored students have recorded “significant improvements in standardized test scores. It’s really quite a major undertaking, and the success has been huge.”

As an example, the percentage of Coronado third graders passing Arizona’s standardized math test has risen from 79 to 90 percent, and more than 25 percent of third graders in the program score in the highest category of performance on the test —“exceeding” the state standards by getting 90 percent or more of the answers correct.

In the fourth grade, 91 percent passed the test, and nearly half of students exceeded the state math standard. And, with the help of tutors, 20 to 25 percent of students in each grade level can complete two years of math in a single school year, Springer said.

MathPLUS+ volunteers each spend three hours one or two days a week helping students in a computer-based tutoring system.

“We tell it what principles we want to know about, and it prints out one or two principles at a time,” Springer said. “Students fill out a bubble card. It’s immediately graded. If they get 80 percent or more correct on one of the concepts, it goes on to the next concept.”

If not, a tutor steps in.

“We may see five or six students in a session,” Springer said. Sessions are “very targeted. We know exactly what they don’t understand, and we talk about that only. One tutor can handle as many as seven to 10 students in one session.”

 While the program operates in Ironwood Ridge and Canyon del Oro high schools, Coronado is a place of special emphasis.

“The principal at Coronado decided to really make us part of the math program,” Springer said. “Instead of just helping, we are in the room doing the teaching. While the teacher’s teaching, we teach more advanced students, or students who are having special troubles.”

This academic year, there will be about 500 students in grades three through six participating.A year ago, 12 classroom teachers and more than 400 children were involved.

“Together, we created a real spirit of success for Coronado mathematics excellence among the children, the teachers, the administrators and the volunteers, and we had a great deal of fun doing it,” Springer said.

Springer and his wife Carla give considerable time to the cause. He is an aerospace engineer, his wife a statistician.

About 70 percent of all tutors come from SaddleBrooke and Catalina. “It’s everywhere else we’re trying to reach,” Springer said. “A lot of wives called up and said ‘my husband’s not doing a thing, invite him.’”

The Amphi Foundation is a nonprofit organization that “promotes academic excellence through the expansion of resources that enrich the education, development, and wellbeing of students in the Amphitheater Public Schools,” a release said. The Amphi Foundation helps pay for students from the University of Arizona who tutor through MathPLUS+. “That is a big help,” Springer said. “It’s close to $20,000.”

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