Tutoring students in math is easy as 1-2-3

Tutor Cate Rogers works on math with a student as part of Heart Math Tutoring, a nonprofit organization that sends hundreds of volunteers into Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools to help students learn basic math concepts.
Tutor Cate Rogers works on math with a student as part of Heart Math Tutoring, a nonprofit organization that sends hundreds of volunteers into Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools to help students learn basic math concepts. Heart Math Tutoring

Heart Math Tutoring, which is entering its fourth year sending tutors into CMS schools, stresses that volunteers don’t have to be math experts to make a significant difference in a child’s math education.

Half of the job is being a positive influence on a child, said Emily Elliott, executive director. The other half is helping the child learn basic math skills, primarily through manipulatives and games.

“The curriculum is organized into 30-minute lesson plans, and it reads like a board game,” Elliott said. “It’s basic. Counting, single digit addition, single digit multiplication.”

Heart Math Tutoring is a nonprofit organization that has worked closely with Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools to develop a curriculum that helps students who struggle in math. During the 2015-2016 school year, Heart Math Tutoring sent 450 community volunteers weekly into eight schools.

They served 400 students, who attended 30-minute tutoring sessions twice a week.

This year, Heart Math Tutoring is expanding and recruiting 700 volunteers to serve 600 students in 12 schools. Another 12 schools are on a waiting list to receive tutors, Elliott said.

Some of the newer schools to Heart Math Tutoring, such as Greenway Park Elementary, are in south and east Charlotte, where the nonprofit is hoping to recruit many more volunteers.

Cate Rogers, who lives in south Charlotte and is a retired teacher and school principal, began tutoring last year with her husband.

“I spent my whole career in education, and I was ready to come back into the schools,” Rogers said. “I was excited about it because I feel math is one of the most important skills that all our kids and young people need.”

The Rogers were assigned students at Piney Grove Elementary School in east Charlotte.

Rogers said she found the curriculum well-designed for volunteers and easy to wok with. The Rogers spent an hour a week at the school, each tutoring two children for half an hour each.

Cate Rogers said the time flew by, and the lesson plans and materials that Heart Math Tutoring provided plenty of activities to fill the 30 minutes. Working with the same student weekly also gave her time to develop a relationship with the student.

“That builds trust,” Rogers said. “You get to know them, and they count on you being there.”

Heart Math Tutoring also provides a staff person at each school to assist volunteers and hand out weekly curriculum.

Recent statistics from Heart Math Tutoring show that tutors are having an impact on students.

Ninety-eight percent of more than 900 students tutored to date with Heart Math Tutoring curriculum have met the program’s growth targets in math, and more than 90 percent of teachers reported that students are more confident and enthusiastic toward academics as a result of the program, according to Heart Math Tutoring.

Elliott said when students don’t learn foundational math concepts, they quickly fall behind as math becomes more advanced.

Each student is assessed, and the math concepts they don’t understand are pinpointed. The Heart Math Tutoring curriculum is personalized to focus on their needs.

One student, for example, started third grade on a first-grade level in math, and after a school year of tutoring with Heart Math Tutoring, he was on grade level and passed the end-of-grade test, Elliott said.

“They just have these gaps in foundational skills, and a third-grade teacher doesn’t have time to teach first-grade level skills,” she said.

Volunteers come from all walks of life, Elliott said. The majority are professionals who work full time, and others are stay-at-home parents and retirees.

The organization especially is looking for tutors at Greenway Park and Piney Grove elementary schools.

“I would encourage anybody to volunteer, and it’s an opportunity learn and to be involved in what’s happening in schools today,” Cate Rogers said.

Marty Minchin is freelance writer:

Want to help?

Volunteers will attend a training session later this month and start tutoring in early October. Community members can get more information about tutoring and sign up at