The Phoenix

Algebra is a fraction of math topics needing tutors


From teaching multiplica­tion tables to coaching calculus, if you can explain math, RSVP can match you with students who need your help — from home.

RSVP’s My Free Tutor virtual math program matches 50 number-savvy volunteers with 97 students, from third-graders to veterans. Exclusivel­y online long before COVID-19, My Free Tutor originally helped middle and high school students and veterans preparing for college. Recently the program has expanded to include both elementary and college students.

The need

“We always need tutors,” said program coordinato­r Anabella Tracy.

For the upper grades, volunteers must pass an openbook algebra test and receive training on how to use virtual classrooms. For elementary grades, volunteers get training and resource materials on topics such as decimals, fractions and multiplica­tion tables. All volunteers must pass state background checks required for working with children.

Tutoring older students requires a commitment of an hour per week for 9-12 weeks plus 30 to 60 minutes per week of preparatio­n. Elementary tutoring sessions usually last 40 minutes.

“For younger students, the online sessions often take place during the school day using a classroom computer,” Tracy said. “Older students and veterans often require more flexibilit­y. They could be juggling a classroom or even a work schedule. Sometimes they need night sessions, which some tutors like.”

For her volunteers, Tracy posts a schedule of students needing training, including the time of day and math level. Some tutor more than one student or serve as substitute­s

if a student’s regular tutor is unavailabl­e.

“It’s a high-impact volunteer opportunit­y that you can do from home,” she said. “It’s great for people who want to stay safe right now but still want to make a difference.”

A volunteer’s experience

“It’s just the most wonderful retirement job,” said Peter Horodowich, 78, who began tutoring students at Harriton High School in Bryn Mawr shortly after he retired as a manufactur­ing executive. “I was good at math and science so that’s where I concentrat­ed. But COVID really slowed it down. Nobody was doing face-to-face.”

So he contacted RSVP. Tracy matched Horodowich with a Cheyney University

student who was having difficulty with physics, a math-intensive subject. Most RSVP tutors communicat­e with students using a whiteboard platform, Zoom for older students and Scriblr for elementary students.

“The student emails me her work and I write up each problem, then email them back to her,” he said. “We go over them when we meet online. Sending the student detailed solutions cuts down on the setup time.

“I’m impressed with the variety of needs I see when RSVP posts the students needing help. You don’t have to have a Ph.D. to fit in at some level. Everybody should try volunteeri­ng at something they like. With this program, you don’t have to leave home. You do it online.”

‘A good relationsh­ip,’ mom says

When Taria GaleWilkin­s’s stepdaught­er Mia switched to a new public school for eighth grade, she struggled with math. Gale-Wilkins learned about the My Free Tutor program and contacted RSVP.

“That was a year ag,” Gale-Wilkins said. “It’s been a good relationsh­ip.”.

Mia, now in ninth grade, meets weekly with her tutor, a retired chemical engineer.

“Her grades have gone from a low C to a high B+,” Gale-Wilkins said.”She’s understand­ing math better, and her teacher loves her interest in the class. She’s working on algebra and a little bit of calculus. She and her tutor work on her homework after school, when it’s still fresh.”

Gale-Wilkins suggests parents with kids who need math help should give My Free Tutor a try.

“It has many benefits, both for the student, parent and teacher,” she said. “The teacher will know that the student is putting in the work to understand the materials.”

She reminds potential tutors that “the young people are our future.”

 ?? COURTESY OF RSVP ?? Mia is tutored by Taria-Gale Wilkir.
COURTESY OF RSVP Mia is tutored by Taria-Gale Wilkir.

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