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Tackling math through tutoring: making gains with the help of UMBC coaches

Program helps students build math skills with 10,000+ tutoring sessions in the last year

Twice a week in classrooms at Lakeland Elementary/Middle School, there's a knock on the door from an unusual visitor: a student from the University of Maryland-Baltimore County (UMBC). They aren’t lost or in the wrong building for their next lecture. They are there to tutor Lakeland second through eighth-graders in math! 

Now in its second year, the UMBC Reach Together Tutoring Program brings college students to five City schools to work closely with students who are most struggling in math, often testing two or more grade levels below according to iReady. The Math Coaches lead small groups to solve problems, complete fun math games, and work with peers on concepts like fractions, decimals, geometry and integers. Coaches prepare by going through extensive training around math and mentorship. Currently, 110 Lakeland students participate in the program, which completes 180 tutoring sessions a week at the south Baltimore school. Since October, students made progress through more than 1,600 tutoring sessions at Lakeland.

“Through this program, we’re accelerating student learning in math by giving teachers the time and space to identify students who require additional support, and then deliver it,” explained Lakeland Principal Najib Jammal.

Last year, Darcy Ostrander was a math coach at Lakeland. The experience was so powerful that, this year, she works at Lakeland as a science teacher - and she’s seeing student growth first hand. “This program does so much for students,” said Ms. Ostrander. “It instills a growth mindset where students learn that it’s okay to get things wrong, because that’s how you improve. From there, they’re progressing rapidly.” 

The impact of the program extends beyond foundational math skills. “I remember tutoring José, a 3rd grader who at the time was nervous and shy,” said Ms. Ostrander. “But as the program went on, he became confident in math and also socially. He even led some sessions by the end of the year!”

Principal Jammal added, “The program is connecting students with ‘cool’ college students, which in many cases positively introduces them to the idea of college for the first time. This is impacting student trajectories.” 

Beyond being UMBC’s largest employer of UMBC students, the program introduces college students to teaching and working with children in Baltimore. As one recent Math Coach and future teacher put it, “I decided to choose what was going to make me happy and not what everyone else was telling me to do. I never would have thought about working in Baltimore City had I not applied to this program."

The UMBC Reach Together Tutoring Program - which works out of the UMBC Sherman Scholars STEM Teacher Program, engages 430 City Schools students at Lakeland, Arundel Elementary, Cherry Hill Elementary/Middle, Park Heights Elementary School, and Westport Elementary/Middle. Since year 1 (2021), UMBC has completed over 17,000 hours of tutoring.

To learn more about the program, click here

Check out these recent Progress Report stories for more on student mentorship and achievement: