This story was published originally by ServeMinnesota.
When Daniel Winker’s test scores made it clear that the Burnsville fifth-grader was struggling with math last year, his mom, Talitha, didn’t waste a moment. “I was concerned that he’d fall farther behind and get further disconnected,” she said. “The pandemic meant that he’d miss the face-to-face assistance he was used to receiving.”
A news story about how parents are helping kids thrive in virtual school led her to do a Google search for free online math tutoring in her area. When she found Scholar Squad, online tutoring from Reading Corps and Math Corps, Talitha was delighted: Daniel worked with a Reading Corps tutor in second and third grades and gained a love of reading as he brought his skills up to grade level (he’s currently devouring the Shuri series of Black Panther novels), so she knew that the model works.
Talitha submitted a request for information and scheduled an assessment for Daniel. He was soon meeting with his Math Corps tutor, Alexei, three times a week in virtual sessions. In their two months together, Daniel has improved his test scores and “changed his outlook on math,” according to his mom.
Once Daniel and Alexei began meeting, some of the stressors of remote school lifted. “I’m working from home full-time, so it can be challenging to give Daniel the time he needs and also focus on being an employee,” Talitha said. “It’s so helpful to have someone knowledgeable working with Daniel — I can only search for so many YouTube math videos! — and it has made such a big difference for him so fast.”
“When I didn’t know how to do fractions, Alexei broke it down in pieces for me so I could understand,” Daniel said. He also shared that before tutoring, he had scored 15 out of 30 on one math test; when he re-took the test recently, he got a perfect 30 out of 30.
Not only has Alexei been a great tutor, Talitha said, but he has become a friend and role model to Daniel. The two have bonded over their mutual love of the online game Fortnite and sometimes work through simple coding exercises. As a result, Daniel has already decided to choose coding as his elective class in middle school next year.
Their enthusiasm for Scholar Squad led the Math Corps team to invite the Winkers to testify in January before the Minnesota House Education Finance Committee in support of HF 4. The bill includes appropriations of $3 million for Math Corps and $2 million for Reading Corps to help reduce math and reading learning loss related to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Daniel thought the experience of testifying before the committee was great: “They love hearing from kids!” That was evident when committee chair Rep. Jim Davnie told the Winkers that he was “thrilled” to have them speak in support of the bill.
For her part, Talitha says she’s glad to amplify the message that Math Corps works. “Math Corps makes a huge difference,” she said, “and we’re happy to have a small part in telling legislators how important it is.”
Please visit https://www.scholarsquad.org/families for resources and more information about virtual tutoring.