WIU Math Pilot Program Implemented at Macomb’s Edison School

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MACOMB, IL – A group of Western Illinois University mathematics faculty members and students have implemented a program at Macomb’s Edison middle school in a collaborative effort to repair a learning gap generated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Victoria Baramidze, chair of WIU’s Department of Mathematics and Philosophy, said the idea came from a journal article shared with her by WIU College of Arts and Sciences Dean Sue Martinelli-Fernandez. The article, based on the results of math and reading assessments for more than eight million students in about 25,000 schools, highlighted the time middle school students may need to catch up because of the pandemic.

This led to a partnership with the Macomb School District to develop a pilot mathematics class. The tutoring program, which began in early February, brings WIU math and middle school education majors into Edison School on weekdays after school, for about one hour per day, to work with local sixth graders.

Four WIU students are working in the schools, including math majors Tori Adamson, a sophomore from Moline, IL; Effoe Kossi, a sophomore from Macomb; and Katelyn Siadak, a freshman from Lockport, IL; and middle school education major Hailee Zachman, a junior from Peoria, IL.

“They work with groups of three to four students at a time, usually helping with the homework first, and then working on the student-specific skills,” said Baramidze. “There are daily games to deal with ‘brain freeze.’ I love to see the connections the WIU students are making with the children, and it’s rewarding to see that the kids respond to our care. I overheard a student telling a tutor, ‘you are a good person for doing this."”

As the program was developed, Baramidze said meetings were held with Martinelli-Fernandez, as well as interim College of Education and Human Services Dean Katrina Daytner and Assistant COEHS Dean Eric Sheffield to develop a vision for the program. WIU administrators then helped connect the program with Macomb School District officials Kellee Sullivan, the principal at Edison, and sixth grade teacher Susan Sellars.

“With their help and support we were able to share the information about the program with the parents of the sixth graders, and start our daily math help sessions at Edison’s library Feb. 6,” said Baramidze.

Macomb School District Superintendent Patrick M. Twomey, who is also a member of WIU’s Board of Trustees, said the partnership between WIU and Edison is one of several successful group ventures.

“Nearly every partnership we form with WIU creates winners and, they are our Pre-K-12th grade students,” he said “This partnership is no different. The WIU students work hard to create positive relationships with our kids and that allows real learning to occur. I would like to thank Victoria and her team of WIU students who are making such a positive impact at Macomb CUSD #185.”

Besides helping Edison sixth graders advance their math skills, the pilot program is helping the WIU students further their own education.

“I would say this experience has helped me grow as a future middle school math teacher,” said Zachmann. “I feel that it has given me a lot of insight on sixth grade students, and I have learned a lot from the students and their outlooks on math. It is amazing to witness each students’ growth and the looks on their faces when they get an answer right.”

Other students involved in the program said the experience has helped them learn additional life lessons outside the classroom.

“Sometimes when you are in school you overlook other things because that is your main priority,” said Siadak. “Tutoring at Edison has made me realize how important it is to get involved with the community and the people around you. Although we tutor the kids in math, I have made a lot of connections with the students in my group. Seeing them get excited about learning, and especially getting excited when they have an ‘ahhhh that makes sense’ moment, has quickly become one of my favorite parts of the day. It also helps me become excited about my own learning at WIU.”

For more information about the mathematics and philosophy program at WIU, visit wiu.edu/math. For more information about the education programming at Western, visit wiu.edu/education.

Copy By: Jodi Pospeschil

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