Local Businesses Adopt Tulsa Schools

Math Mentors = Better Understanding Students

Tulsan DeDe Waters is a senior account analyst at Williams Companies, and math has always been her forte. But, she admits, mentoring math to elementary students sounded intimidating at first.

After school in Tulsa’s Sequoyah Elementary library, numbers take precedence over books. Waters is working with fifth grader Kathy Gasper on multiplication tables while other students play math games on a computer, waiting their turn to meet with Waters. Gasper is trying to conquer multiplying numbers by nine.

“Big numbers, like the nines are kind of hard,” Gasper said. Waters points out patterns or tricks to help Gasper learn “nines.” After repeated encouragement by Waters, Gasper successfully multiplies all of her “nines” correctly. She smiles proudly and shyly receives a pat on the back from Waters.

“I have never taught children. Sure, I helped my son with math when he was young, but I was a little apprehensive at first,” said Waters, who first visited Sequoyah to help with a United Way gardening project at the school.

Through TPS Partners in Education program, Williams adopted the north Tulsa school, enabling employees to volunteer and tutor students. Last fall the Tulsa Regional Stem Alliance approached Williams about mentoring Sequoyah students before and after school in math.

“We are in the early stages of creating an elementary-level math tutoring program. Williams has been a good partner to Sequoyah and, with very little convincing, many of their employees have stepped up to help students in math,” said Xan Black, program director of the Tulsa Regional Stem Alliance (TRSA). Black has led the TRSA since its inception a year ago.

“TRSA is an initiative through the Oklahoma Innovation Institute,” Black said. “One of our goals is to promote youth science, technology, engineering and math programs. One way to do that is to work with the students from an early age.”

Sequoyah and Union’s Moore Elementary are currently the kick-off sites for TRSA’s “Me and My Math Mentor” or “M4.” Currently, over 20 Sequoyah fifth graders work once a week with a Williams’ math mentor.

Sequoyah Principal Raye Nero said students being tutored in the M4 program scored “limited knowledge” on the fourth-grade, end-of-the-year Oklahoma Core Curriculum Test in math. “These are the bubble kids. The ones that need intervention now so they do not fall farther behind,” Nero said. “The extra work will pay off for them. I’m sure we will see gains in their math skills soon.”

Fifth-grade math teachers supply the mentors with math learning materials to use during the tutoring session. “The mentors concentrate on math fact fluency and helping the students become confident in their multiplication and division facts,” said Rachel Smith, a fifth-grade teacher. “They play math games with the students that are fun and offer something different than what goes on during math class.”

While the M4 program is focused on raising the math levels and confidence in elementary students, Black said the Stem Alliance is also focused on the bigger math picture.

“We want these student to realize that regardless of what they go into, math will be a part of their lives,” Black explained. “And we want them to realize math is not just about math facts and numbers. It is in many professions.”

Currently TRSA has three pilot programs in which mentorship opportunities are available. The Elementary Pilot includes M4 at Sequoyah and Moore, as well as a Builder’s Club held at McAuliffe and Roy Clark Elementary Schools where mentors assist students in learning STEM skills, building, creating, problem solving and construction.

TRSA’s Middle School Pilot is called CS (Computer Science) First in which students utilize a Google program to gain access and exposure to computer science education. That program is held at Union 6th and 7th Grade Center.

The High School pilots, both held at Union High School, include EAA (The Engineers Alliance for the Arts) program in which students, guided by a STEM professional, experience a hands-on, bridge-building project over a 10-week period and PLTW (Project Lead the Way), a hands-on, project-based STEM curriculum for teachers, assisted by STEM professionals.

For information on TRSA and mentoring contact Xan Black at xan.black@tulsacc.edu.

Categories: Education: Elementary