The buzz inside Santa Catalina's Math Tutoring Center would have been music to any math teacher's ears. On a recent Thursday afternoon, mingled voices filled the room as about 10 girls sat in pairs to work on homework and study for an upcoming test. A couple of student tutors and a math teacher floated from desk to desk to answer questions.
The scene represented everything math faculty want from the Math Tutoring Center—students taking advantage of an extra resource to help them succeed and building relationships in the process.
The Math Tutoring Center began two years ago as a way to provide support for students outside of class and office hours. The idea was proposed by algebra teacher Jennifer Duncan and calculus teacher Noova Ongley, who saw similar programs succeed at other schools. The center is staffed by a pool of about 20 peer tutors, most of whom are in honors courses, as well as a math faculty member. It's open at various times throughout the week to correspond with as many common free periods as possible. Students can come in with specific questions, or simply work on homework with the comfort of knowing help is at hand if they get stuck.
In addition to providing academic support, the center encourages students to build self-awareness and to take action in their learning. "We want them to develop the independence and resourcefulness to identify when they need help and to take initiative," said Ned Stork, chair of the Math Department and coordinator of math instruction for grades 6-12. "When students come in with an agenda, it's fabulous."
Another byproduct of the center: a chance to build relationships between teachers and students. After all, as Stork points out, "we're a school that's about relationships." Because each faculty member takes a turn in the center, they get to know students they may not have in class. "It's nice to meet new kids," Stork said.
For the tutors, working in the center is a valuable service experience, allowing them to give their time and talents back to their community. "Peer tutoring allows me to use my math skills to help others and teaches me how to cater to all needs, while also giving me a sense of accomplishment when a student understands their topic fully," said tutor Trixie Stork '21. The experience has taught her patience and understanding, and has even improved her own math skills, she said. "It has helped me better understand what I am learning because I go over the logic and try to simplify it for others."
As the Math Tutoring Center continues to grow and evolve, one thing will remain constant: It will be a place of support that students can count on.