Raise your hand if you’ve ever heard a student in math class ask, “Why do I even need to learn this?”

We hope to help them discover the daily joy in math. While our students might not realize it at first, math is all around us. For example. Andrew Murphy, a City Year AmeriCorps member who serves on the Microsoft team in Chicago, noticed that the school’s neighborhood was laid out in a grid. This crisscross system of streets does more than benefit navigation. It also helps math students get more engaged with what they are studying.

Basic geometry didn’t come easy for Brenden*, a sophomore whom Andrew mentors.  Brenden was shy and often absorbed in listening to music with his headphones in.  When Andrew used the local street grid to demonstrate coordinates, however, Brenden’s interest was piqued. Soon Brenden told Andrew that he was using coordinates to track his way to school each morning.

“City Year’s one-on-one tutoring style has really helped Brenden,” Andrew explained.  “Now he puts his head phones away, raises his hand and really engages in class.  

“Little things mean a lot when it comes to teaching math to teenagers,” AmeriCorps member Lawnna Stevenson, who serves on the Microsoft team in Washington, D.C. said. Sometimes half the battle is helping students realize they can master mathematics.

The training Lawnna and her peers receive from City Year enables her to work closely with her students to build their self-confidence. When of her students, for example, was struggling with addition and subtraction, “I explained it one more time in a new way.  All of a sudden, I saw on his face the exact moment when he finally understood what I’d been trying to teach him. It was amazing!”

But those aren’t the only way our corps members are supporting students in math. In addition to supporting our math initiatives nationwide, our partners at Microsoft, have armed their teams serving in Chicago, New York City, Seattle, and Washington D.C. with Surface tablets to support our math literacy initiatives.

“I have been using the tablets with my students in our after school tutoring,” said Andrew’s teammate Makeda Queen. “Since a lot of the students I work with in math do not have graphing calculators, I was able to download a graphing calculator application with my tablet and graph equations and work through problems with them. Besides using them in tutoring sessions, it is nice to have math games available when my students have down time.”

The Microsoft team serving in Washington, D.C. uses their tablets to illustrate complex mathematics during small group tutoring sessions. CityYear AmeriCorps member Amber Rideout said her 6th grade students like to draw math figures on the devices. The figures help the students engage with abstract topics like surface area and 3-D object modeling.

Being allowed to use this technology is also a great incentive for our students. The Microsoft team in Chicago organized a VIP lounge where students can earn the privilege to explore and play with the devices. Technology is taking the world over and thanks to the Surfaces our team is keeping up with the changing times,” Andrew’s teammate Jordan Strickland added. With these devices to share with our students, we’re able to help build and encourage their technology skills right alongside their mathematical skills.

April is Math Awareness Month. How are you inspiring your students through math and STEM opportunities?

*Name changed to protect student privacy.


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