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Volunteers Become 'Math Mates'for Elementary Students


"The Math Mates program helps so many students," Georgie Lukas told Education World. "Students have been inspired to study their math facts at home because of their accountability and relationship with their mentors."

At Mill Street Elementary School in Naperville, Illinois, volunteer tutors support students with math games and manipulatives to improve their understanding. The volunteers are either parents of Mill Street students or employees of BP Amoco, with which the school has a business partnership. In addition to working with the students, the adults provide essential feedback to teachers about the progress the children are making in their math skills.

"All volunteers are assigned a grade level and teacher and then receive training," explained Lukas, an instructional coordinator at the school. "Teachers work closely with their tutors to support students' learning. This program also provides students with someone to whom they can reveal their misunderstandings about math in a one-on-one, risk-free environment."

The dedication of the volunteers has impressed Lukas. They are reliable, passionate, and committed to assisting the kids. Some of the tutors are former teachers who enhance the entire program with their experience and knowledge. It is common for volunteers to "get to know" their young protgs.

"One mentor discovered a common passion for sports with his student. He brought sport statistics to school to help mentor the student in decimals," Lukas reported.

Both formal and informal assessments show that Mill Street students who take part in Math Mates have increased achievement in the subject. One common characteristic they share is a new confidence in math. Personal attention from an adult who cares strengthens their belief in their own math skills. The program also helps the parents who volunteer to better understand how mathematics is taught in today's elementary schools.

"This program is so powerful because of the individuals who donate their time to make a difference in students' lives," observed Lukas. "However, it would not be successful without the classroom teachers. They identify students who may benefit from this program, write the individual lessons, and collaborate with the volunteers to support the students."

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