Math Coaching overview

Courses covered

Middle and high school math: Mostly we cover Math 6, Pre-Algebra (Math 7), Algebra 1, Geometry, Algebra 2, Algebra 2/Trigonometry. Occasionally we have students in higher levels of math.

During the school year

When schools are in session, we focus on the students' classroom assignments. Students bring paper, pencil, eraser (it's math, remember!), their textbook, and their assignment. Usually we have access to their school's websites so coaches can track what assignments are coming up and get prepared to coach. Each coach interactively works with one student (or 2-3 if in the same course) on their assignment, keeping in mind any upcoming tests.

Our goal is to help students understand each type of problem in the assignment. It's more important that they experience the range of problem types than just starting with the first problem and running out of time before we get to the challenging ones.

We do not try to turn every student into an A student. Nor are we in the business of helping A students become A+ students (though we could). We like to start with students who are getting low grades and help them climb one grade, then up another, and so on. If a student has the capability and interest to earn some A's, we'll help with that. But we don't push students to A's. 

We coach strategically. When we have a student getting F's we prioritize the easier problems so that on the next test maybe they can get a D. As D's start showing up, we shift the strategy up to target to C's. And so on. But we don't push students to get A's, that's up to them. If they (not their parents) want to get A's and have the capacity to get them, we'll help them do it.

On any given night, if we finish the assignment early, we look ahead and expose the student to the upcoming material so that when they see it in class later it will be the second time. This helps them become classroom learners.

School-year Schedule: 

One night a week is enough. Most years we settle on either Tuesdays or Wednesdays. We meet from 7-8:30.

Here are some reasons for this schedule:
  • After dinner allows students to participate in their school's extra-curricular activities, have dinner, and still come to coaching. We now serve a monthly dinner before math coaching begins.
  • 7pm facilitates coaches with day jobs. 
  • School holidays tend to be Mondays.

Weekly logistics 

The weekly sequence works like this:
  • Students receive an email every weekend asking them to confirm by a certain time if they expect to attend the following session.
  • Then I match coaches to students. Mostly it's the same coach/student pair all year, with substitutes standing by, as needed. 

During the summer

Some summers we take a break. But when possible we like to start a summer program in early or mid-July.

Summer coaching is harder than during the school year because students don't have any school assignments to frame our sessions. So coaches must prepare differently.

If a student's math background has large holes that will cause trouble in their next math class, we spend the first part of the summer filling these holes. Of course, we know the holes of our continuing students. But if we have new students we often use the California Standards Test for their last math class as a way of locating their holes. Another "readiness diagnostic" is available at Khan Academy. Once we know the holes we put together a plan to fill them.

The second thing we do in the summer is give students a preview of the material they will face in the first few weeks of the fall semester. If we don't have holes to fill, we spend the whole summer providing this head start. So generally our summer students have already seen the material they'll face in the first 2-6 weeks of the fall. 

Another part of our summer is familiarizing students with the supplementary resources inherent in their textbook. Most textbooks have a wealth of helps available, but few students ever find them.

One last item (that's pretty obvious). If we have a student attending summer school, we treat the summer coaching time just like we would during the school year.

Summer Schedule: 

Because our students are out of school and often home alone through the day, we like to meet with them in the afternoon. While this makes it impossible to use the typical adult coaches, so far we've been able to recruit enough great high school coaches to staff summers.