Math Coaching for DeJean Middle School Students

Dr. Sylvia Greenwood, Principal of DeJean Middle School.

By Post Staff A new math tutoring program funded by For Richmond is giving students at DeJean Middle School an extra boost  by offering one-on-one coaching, targeted strategies and new hope for those who previously struggled with the standard classroom curriculum. Since January, the Mathematics Coaching Consortium at West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD) has made it possible for 50 seventh- and eighth-graders from DeJean to meet afterschool with math coaches twice a week and learn new ways to tackle fractions, algebra and other tough problems hard to master in a fast-paced classroom setting. The program, which is coordinated through the district’s Mathematics Center, is the first Richmond-based program of its kind in the district dedicated entirely to math achievement. With state standardized testing coming up this spring, DeJean Principal Dr. Sylvia Greenwood said For Richmond’s support for this tutoring program will hopefully help the school and district improve its test scores while offering the students resources they need to succeed in the classroom and beyond. “This program is fantastic,” Greenwood said. “I am thrilled that our students are able to get the one-on-one tutoring they need to excel in math, while also benefiting from the opportunity to develop relationships with mentors and role models for success.” The new tutoring program is funded entirely by For Richmond, which also provided outreach to the families of students nominated to join. For Richmond staff visited the homes of selected students, both to discuss their math performance and also make the twice-weekly commitment. The tutoring program will continue until the end of the school year, and For Richmond intends to continue its support in 2013-14. “This program is all part of For Richmond’s work to equip Richmond students with every opportunity possible to excel at math – a subject critical to our students’ future success,” said Madeline Kronenberg, Board President of the West Contra Costa Unified School District and chair of For Richmond’s education committee. Although the program is still new, Phil Gonsalves, director of math curriculum and instruction for the West Contra Costa Unified School District, said student participants are already fired up and enthusiastic to learn. “We had one student who said, ‘Thank you for providing snacks, but can we just do fractions?’” said Gonsalves. “When you have kids willing to skip snacks to do fractions, you know they love it.” While math tends to be a universally tough subject for students to master, Gonsalves and program specialist Drew Kravin, believe that a little extra attention and a lot of re-conceptualizing of traditional math concepts can help any student become proficient. “Our philosophy is to show kids that there are multiple ways of doing math, and they should pick the one that works best for them,” Gonsalves said. Visualizing equations differently, setting aside abstract “rules” that confuse, and growing student confidence in their own ability to think logically all play roles in tutoring. The coaches at DeJean are district teachers and part of a large group of math educators in West Contra Costa who are working hard to hone their methods for improving achievement.
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