Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Math Education Funding

So I've been looking for math and tutoring blogs to read through and learn more about math and science education. I have a few resources and links that I will be putting up tomorrow, but today I'm going to talk about this article that I found at Wild About Math.

It's about a $200 million donation from Intel to support Math and Science programs and educators. A large portion of the money will be going to professional development and training for math and science teachers who are looking to expand their teaching practices. I hope some of that money will be going to support Boston Public School teachers. I'm hoping that Obama's "Educate to Innovate" campaign will be successful. In the press release, President Obama announced "new and innovative partnerships involving major companies, universities, foundations, non-profit organizations and government agencies" that will provide training programs for math and science teachers.

Video link to President Obama's speech on the partnerships

It's interesting also because President Obama's announcement today of a three-year government spending freeze threatens our education systems across the nation. BBC says "The spending freeze covers many domestic programmes and departments to which Congress allocates budgets each year, including agriculture, transportation and education...Security and defence spending, foreign aid, social security and spending on healthcare for the poor and retired would be exempt."

I'm not too sure what the implications of the spending freeze are or if it will actually affect education, but there's a good chance governmental funding towards education will be put on the backburner (very much like No Child Left Behind).

Thursday, January 21, 2010

National Mentoring Day + Month!

Happy National Mentoring Day and Month! Today celebrates mentors who have made a difference in the lives of others, so go out and thank the people who have mentored you!

As part of the celebration, I attended Youth Mentoring day as presented by the Highland Street Corps Ambassadors of Mentoring at the Massachusetts State House. It was a very nice program with lots of appreciation for legislators and big name individuals who have made mentoring a priority in their lives. I thought the keynote speaker's take away point (though morbid) was that on our gravestones, we get three things: our name, the date we were born, and the day we passed. The hyphen in between the dates encompasses everything we've done and accomplished. The important thing is to make our lives mean something by making a difference in the life of as many young people as possible. As the saying goes, "To the world you may be one person, but to one person, you may be the world."

Mass Mentors
National Mentoring Month

MathSTARS, strength-based approach

So I've been volunteering with an organization called MathPower that has an afterschool math tutoring program called MathSTARS that provides tutoring and mentoring help for middle school students in the Boston area. I've been volunteering for almost a year and go in once a week to help any students who need help.

Yesterday I got to work with a young man, B, whom I hadn't interacted with much and we worked on an exponent problem. While the work and being able to focus was difficult, I was surprised at the non-academic aspects of our time together. From out of the blue, he told me a story about another student who got hurt because of his friends and he was concerned for her and also wondering what he should tell his friends. It was interesting for several reasons: he approached me about it, he showed genuine concern for the injured student, and he had a conflict about his friends' behaviors. After talking to the afterschool director, she told me that he trusted me enough to talk to me about it.

I also attended a MathSTARS tutor training in the evening called the Strength Based Approach to working with students which basically boiling down to using what you know and what you learn about a student to connect to what kind of individual they are and what they can do in the future with such strengths and qualities. Sometimes we forget that mentoring relationships mean that both sides are learning and growing in some way.

In the previous example, I told B that he was a very caring person for walking the injured student to the nurse. Of course, middle school students don't express themselves as easily as younger students, but I think and hope that B appreciated hearing that he's a caring person. I think we don't hear about our own good qualities enough, but at MathSTARS we really try to incorporate it into everything we do.

The student also asked me what he should say to his friends about the situation, and he said that it was messed up that they had gotten her injured. He had the answer and said it to me right there, so I pointed that out, "You could just say what you said to me." It seems like most of the time, we all know what we really want to say but having a sounding board helps encourage us that we were right all along.

I did link the situation and story back to what kind of person B is, but I hadn't been through the Strength-Based Approach and didn't link it to how his concern would be useful in the future. I hope more of these situations will come up in the future so I can try to use the approach.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


Yesterday was Martin Luther King Jr.'s Day of Service at Northeastern. Working with the Massachusetts Promise Fellowship, approximately 400 young people came out on our day off to do some service in the Boston area.

I didn't know what to expect and hadn't been told much about what I would be doing in the day. Luckily for me, I was told I would be a point person for a group going to Volunteers of America. So I set out 30some strong to the Arlington St. Church by the Commons where we walked into chaos. Our project was to help put together 500+ meals for the homeless and then distribute to major shelters and personal delivery across Boston on such a cold and precipitory day.

Despite too many hands and not enough direction or resources, I thought it went incredibly well. Our group managed to put together a good portion of meals with different types of sandwiches, an apple, water, and chips. We finished a little early and then went out in smaller groups to distribute the meals.

My group walked to City Hall and then over to MGH, but we only passed out a few meals along the way. As we got ready to leave, I took the remaining lunches and stood outside Park station where I met a nice man who stood with me and helped distribute lunches. He told me it wasn't too busy because of the weather, but I only stood outside with a "Free Meal" sign for 20 minutes max. I saw a man across the street and walked over and gave him a meal or three. It's selfish, but the feeling of giving a stranger something he really appreciated was great.

I had only stood outside for 20 minutes and still had pink hands when I got home, I felt both deeply saddened and encouraged by what had happened throughout the day. I'm glad I got an opportunity to volunteer my time on MLK Day and I'll look towards my future volunteering in a new way.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

New Year

It's been a while since I last updated and I apologize for the hiatus. Happy New Year! Here's to hoping that 2010 will be a great year for everyone out there.

I missed out on volunteering last week and didn't get a chance to catch up with my teachers. Unfortunately, my schedule will be changing in the near future and I need to figure out some logistics. I hope this means I'll have more time to blog about different experiences.

I met with one of my groups this week and we went over a fraction and decimal packet. The students had a hard time focusing this week because the lesson was set up differently than usual. All students in the class were rotating between the teacher, and two volunteers. My kids stuck with me in the group and we managed to get through the entire packet with some time to check over answers.

I've been trying to help my small group with multiple choice questions and figuring out the best way to get to the right answer. It's tough because most of the students I'm working with don't want to check their answers, they'd rather get the work done and go on to do other things. It might just be a kid thing, but I'm trying to get them to check their answers against each other when we're all done with problems.

There was one question in particular where the kids were adamant that their answer was right. I said I agreed with the student who got the question correct and then asked him to explain to the others why. As soon as he finished explaining his reasoning the others quickly said "oh yeah, that's what I thought too." Having their peers explain is INCREDIBLY helpful for the other students to understand and it reinforces the concepts or problems they're explaining.

I've been introducing the elimination method for taking multiple choice questions. I ask them to X out any answers that don't make sense. I'm not too sure they're catching on though. We worked on a problem that asked for the number higher than the population of NH and less than Maine. So we went through and eliminated any choices/numbers that were more than both populations. However, when we went through the questions again to eliminate any choices/numbers that were less than both populations, some of the kids got confused and then frustrated. I think we'll go through this again as the year progresses.