Helping to Develop a Math Mindset – Minnesota Math Corps

In Minnesota today, less than 60% of 8th grade students are on track to master the core math skills needed for high school. As a Minnesota Math Corps tutor, Alex Twohy is working to change that. Math Corps targets help to middle grade students who are falling behind in math. “Math is a fundamental language for understanding and organizing the world,” Alex said. “It’s vital for expanding knowledge in physics, economics, and other sciences.”

Surveys of American adults reveal discomfort and doubt with math is long lasting: 35% admit to often saying they can’t do math. Among Americans aged 18 to 35, it’s dramatically higher – 53% (Change the Equation, 2010). But, Alex said, “anyone can learn fundamental math knowledge,” and Math Corps provides the support struggling students need to do just that.

Minnesota Math Corps provides tutoring to pairs of students in grades 4-8 who have scored partially proficient in math on the state exam. Benchmark assessments identify specific skill gaps and coaches help tutors select the most appropriate interventions to address each student’s unique challenges. Math instruction is sequential – each new concept builds on previous knowledge – so a strong foundation is essential for success in higher level math. High school algebra is a gateway course for high school graduation, college enrollment, and employment.

It’s not always easy to get 4th—8th grade students excited about learning math. When his students get discouraged, Alex said, “I tell them the only difference between my math knowledge and theirs is that I’ve spent more time. That’s what Math Corps is – more time. When they spend the time, they get faster and learn new strategies. Soon they’re saying ‘oh, this is easy!’” While Math Corps focuses on building skills, an added benefit is that students develop confidence in their problem solving abilities. Once students begin to see their success in math, they recognize their potential as learners.

Since 2008, Math Corps has helped nearly 20,000 students progress toward grade level math, building the foundation they need to thrive academically and in the workplace of the future, where jobs requiring higher education and math-savvy are outpacing other careers.

Alex joined Math Corps as an opportunity to explore his next steps after college and now plans to pursue graduate school. He grew up in the St. Cloud area and served three of his four terms at South Junior High School there. Alex said, “I’ve been gifted with opportunities. Serving lets me reinvest that energy in the community that gave me so much.” Math Corps tutors serve in about 200 sites statewide. 

Minnesota Math Corps tutor Alex Twohy.

Minnesota Math Corps tutor Alex Twohy.