Student tutors open math doors for elementary students

The Oracle

Written by: Ben Atlas

As an eighth grader, junior Neel Guha founded Buddies4Math, a program for high school students to tutor elementary school students. Buddies4Math encompasses a few high schools, but is mostly made up of Gunn students. They tutor second and third grade students at Castro Elementary School in Mountain View. In 2009, the tutoring group consisted of eight tutors and 14 second graders. Its numbers have since swelled to 35 tutors and 50 elementary students over the second, third and fourth grades.

“At Castro, we noticed that there were programs to help kids struggling with their reading and writing skills. There was, however, no equivalent for math. We decided to change this. Thus, Buddies4Math was born.”

The organization’s tutors are all student volunteers, unlike most contemporary tutoring companies. “This allows them to connect with our elementary kids on a different level. The elementary students don’t see the tutors as adults, but as buddies and friends,” Guha said.

To maintain the program, Guha spends his time publicizing the program and recruiting tutors. He also oversees every session, coordinating between the three levels.

Buddies4Math also emphasizes games as a means of teaching material. “Our classrooms have a lively atmosphere with enthusiastic kids trying to outdo each other, as well as their tutors, in winning games,” Guha said.

Since Buddies4Math teaches three different grade levels, each grade has designated tutors as “leaders.” Junior Drew Bent, a “Fourth Grade Classroom Lead,” works mostly with fourth grade students.  “I participate in Buddies4Math for two reasons: I love it, and I think it’s a service that everyone should try at least once,” Bent wrote in an email. Helping out others is a gratifying experience with tangible results.” On a work day at Castro Elementary, tutors arrive at 4:00 p.m. “Tutoring will start and each tutor will be assigned one or two students,” Bent said. “They will then have a little under an hour to play a set of math games that focuses on a specific skill set. For example, one week students might be focusing on fractions, so we’ll play Fraction Bingo with them. Another week students might be working on multiplication, so we’ll play a variant on the card game War that incorporates multiplication concepts.”

Castro principal Dr. Judy Crates serves as an administrative link between Buddies4Math and Castro Elementary. “Buddies4Math offers at-risk students the opportunity to experience math as a recreational activity, not just a class at school,” Crates writes on the organization’s website. “Our students look forward to the session and it’s amazing to see how excited and engaged they are in math.”

Buddies4Math’s engaging teaching style has paid off. Students have shown significant improvement in math after going through the program. The state of California presents several standards in standardized testing in math: basic, proficient, and advanced. Buddies4Math took 50 second graders who tested below basic, and raised half of them to basic, and the other half to proficient and advanced. n recognition of the club’s achievements, the Tutor Corps Foundation awarded it the Susan Lindquist Community Service Grant in spring of 2012. Awarded twice a year, the grant of $500 is intended to provide support for community service projects run by students to serve their communities.