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For many students, there are times when a little extra help with math is needed. Whether regular tutoring or a one-off help session, it’s not always possible to go to mom or dad for guidance. Beyond the reality that math can quickly reach a high level of complexity or is simply different than the way we learned as young people, parents know all too well that look of exasperation as a child impatiently blurts out, “but that’s not how we do it in class!”
Several years ago, Claire Smith, secondary mathematics teacher at ISL, recognised the need for occasional support for students throughout the Secondary School. She also recognised that there are many highly capable mathematicians at ISL, and that these students were already finding great joy in helping peers with their mathematical comprehension. Wanting to encourage and formalise this academic service that students were already providing, in 2017 Ms Smith initiated the first Maths Drop In! club with a small group of talented mathematicians.
In speaking with some of the tutors today on why they joined the club, they all share both a passion for the subject as well as a great joy in helping others to understand it. Jade Gavin, Year 12, describes that the “light-bulb” moment when she sees students finally grasp a difficult concept is highly rewarding and a major reason why she enjoys the opportunity to tutor. She feels that math is only getting more interesting as she progresses through her HL studies, and strongly believes students benefit from putting in the extra work now to build a strong mathematical foundation. In her opinion, the ability for students to drop in just before an upcoming test is highly effective. Sometimes it can be intimidating to show up to a new club alone, so the tutors openly welcome groups of students, especially from classes that have a test coming up.
For Amogh Rathi, the most rewarding part of being a tutor is when students come back to share that they received test scores they are proud of. With each student, he starts the process by asking what they know, and by beginning with easy problems, slowly changing the variables to increase the challenge. As with the other tutors, it’s clear that Amogh cares deeply about creating a safe and encouraging environment for students to grow their mathematical skills.
Just as in other service projects at ISL, the math tutors are also finding benefits for themselves in giving their time to help others. Ping Dumnoenchanvanit, Year 13, finds that he gets just as much out of the club as he puts in. The process of teaching other students helps him to revise and build a deeper understanding of mathematics as well. He also notes that tutoring math has helped him to see other perspectives on the learning process, and has made him more empathetic toward the challenges some students face in particular subjects.
Under Ms Smith’s guidance, the club has now grown to 16 tutors, who alternate Thursday lunchtimes to offer tutoring throughout the academic school year. A math teacher is always on hand for any difficult questions that require extra guidance. The team is ready and eager to meet with any students in Years 7-12 during lunch on Thursdays from 12:50-13:20 in room NS 222. During the last school year, there were about 160 drop-ins, and the team is hoping for even more this year.