For many students, mathematics is a difficult subject to learn. But now a group of Rivera Middle School students have an ace up their sleeves in mastering math problems.
Twenty-one peer tutors in Ken Cooper's classes at Rivera are helping fellow students who struggle with multiplication, simple fractions or other math concepts -- giving up an elective class to provide some assistance.
Cooper said the mentors sit on the inside of a U-shaped table, generally working with no more than two students at a time. Tutors grade the students' work and help their charges advance to more difficult concepts.
"Generally the tutor knows the subject very well," Cooper said. "Peer tutors will take care of their students. This is not a punishment; they have the same feeling that teachers get when the students get it."
One of Cooper's peer tutors who was being helped last year gained
60 points on one of his achievement tests.
Cooper said all students learn in different ways. There are a number of math games students can play and learn at the same time.
Krystal Lacey, 13, an eighth-grader, is a peer tutor again this year. Through the course of the year, she sees the students she tutors improving. At the end of the year, they will get A and B grades where previously they were receiving D and F marks.
Gabby Spira, 12, a seventh-grader and peer tutor, said she might become a teacher.
"I know what I'm teaching them and it clicks once you tell them. They start doing it on their own and don't ask for as much help," Gabby said. "It's been a lot of fun and I really like doing it."
Cooper said he can monitor many groups at one time. His first peer tutor now is a high school student who wants to become a math teacher.
Another student who was having trouble with math now is winning competitions in other classes.
Principal Sergio Mendez said the peer-tutoring program is a win-win for everyone -- not only helping students improve academically, but allowing tutors to building leadership skills.
Mendez said he is proud of Cooper and the tutors' efforts, calling it an additional source of learning.
Rodrigo Diaz, 13, an eighth-grader, said the tutoring is helping him. He said he doesn't mind learning from a classmate and believes the student-to-student relationships make it easier to learn.
"I had trouble understanding decimals, but now they are more clear," Rodrigo said.
Diego Garcia, also 13 and an eighth-grader, said multiplication concepts now are making sense. Previously he didn't like math but doesn't feel that way now.
Cooper, who has taught at Rivera for seven years, said the peer tutoring started two years ago. He had a student who needed special help and it grew from there.
Reporter Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or firstname.lastname@example.org.