Iredell-Statesville Schools is piloting an intensive math tutoring program for elementary and middle schoolers this year to help all students become better problem solvers and learners.

The program targets specific grade levels. The students receive tutoring instruction in small groups during the school day. At North Iredell Middle School, all sixth-grade students get tutoring for 30 minutes a day.

“We’ve seen a tremendous gap between elementary to middle school. It’s not that the teachers aren’t adequately preparing the students, but it’s a big difference in the level of the math curriculum,” explained Principal Tonya Houpe, a former middle school math teacher.

Houpe was inspired by her visit with Superintendent Jeff James to Union County, where she saw the intensive math tutoring program in action.

“I knew that I wanted to duplicate it. So I even modeled the classroom just like the middle school classroom I visited in Union County,” she said.

The results, she said, have been phenomenal.

“Last year for example, our sixth-graders were 38 percent deficient on their mid-year check-ins. This year, our sixth graders are 53-percent proficient on their mid-year check-in. That’s huge,” Houpe said.

Mia, a sixth-grader, said that the small group sessions have helped her become better at fractions and long division, and now she struggles “less with homework.”

“One thing I’ve learned is don’t be afraid to ask questions. The teachers (tutors) are there to help. They are really nice and want you to communicate with them,” she said.

Bo, another student, agreed.

“It’s a good review and being in small groups is helpful,” he said.

Math Tutors

“In a small group, they can’t hide things,” explained NIMS math tutor Caitlin Walle. “You see where they struggle, and sometimes they tell us more than they might tell their teacher.”

Walle quit her job in retail to work as a math tutor. She believes that teaching is her calling, and she is working on completing her coursework to become a classroom teacher.

“I would literally give everything for these kids. I love seeing them support one another, and I’m really proud of them,” she said.

Not only does she enjoy seeing students grow and learn, but she also likes working in a caring professional environment.

“We have all become friends. We do things outside of the school together,” she said.

Tutor Adrienne Atkins, 20, said tutoring is rewarding.

“Some of our kids are so much more confident. You see that every day,” she said.

Tutor Riley Fernandez said it’s important to let the students know that you care about them. She’s intentional and works alongside them.

“She’s really straight forward with them. She doesn’t have discipline problems and the students really listen to her,” Walle said.

According to I-SS intensive math tutoring coordinator Kathy Walker, the focus for the district is fourth and sixth grade because those are the district’s lowest performing areas for math.

“One of the things that’s helped is our tutors are kind of related and attached to the school. The same thing at East Elementary,” she said.

Walker, who has more than 20 years of experience in middle school teaching and as a principal, said that the tutors don’t have the pedagogy knowledge that some of their teachers do, but can learn on the job.

“We try and give them some training and I share with them some tips and advice,” she said.

Last year, I-SS began offering the math tutoring program for elementary students at Third Creek Elementary School.

“We saw some nice growth for their fourth grade and they have been going strong since the beginning of the year,” she said.

I-SS has extended the intensive math tutoring to North Iredell Middle, Union Grove Elementary, East Elementary and some other schools.

“We would like to see it go full scale, but are having a hard time finding tutors,” Walker said.

“We have about 17 tutors and are still in need of several more to support West Middle and Third Creek Middle School,” she added.

The tutors are paid out of the district’s Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds.

Help Wanted

Iredell-Statesville Schools is hiring math tutors for elementary and middle school students. Tutors are responsible for helping to reinforce math concepts and reviewing completed work with students.

Tutors work with students in small group settings and would be assigned a school. The pay is $25 an hour and $20 an hour for students. To apply, visit HERE.