Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, students continue to struggle to make up the learning deficit that came with reduced and compromised learning opportunities. Math test scores saw the greatest loss according to research from The Anneberg Institute.
Of the $122.7 billion in the American Rescue Plan Act, 20% is to be used by local elementary and secondary education agencies to address learning loss. In spite of the funding, Arizona, like many other states, still continues to see shortages in bus drivers, substitute teachers, and classroom teachers.
“There’s really a need for programs that can address the learning loss that’s happened in the last couple of years,” Kevin Kemper, co-owner of online math tutoring program My Math Experts.
Kevin owned and operated a Mathnasium center for 10 years while working as a math teacher at Paradise Valley Christian Preparatory.
“I think of myself as a teacher above all else, I just love teaching difficult concepts and seeing the light turn on in people’s heads,” Kevin said.
My Math Experts was created in response to the transition to online learning and the inefficiencies of current practices. Brother-sister duo Kevin and Jessie Kemper launched the program with the goal of providing a personalized and comprehensive digital learning experience.
The difference between My Math Experts and other tutoring services is the focus on guiding the student along a plan that connects each lesson, Kevin said.
Video by Mingson Lau/ AZEdNews: How a tutoring service is helping students
With the digital transition in the past few years, students are also more familiar with online learning tools and the great benefits unique to the medium, Kevin said.
“There’s all these wonderful online tools and graphic software and all these cool things you can do right through the computer,” said Kevin, adding that the direct and aesthetic delivery of information helps facilitate the student experience better than traditional pen and paper.
My Math Experts focuses on connecting students with experienced tutors in a virtual one-on-one learning environment. The online distinction is important because it makes it easier for families to use.
“It cuts down on travel time. It makes it easier for instructors because they can do it from anywhere so it’s easier to keep instructors happy,” Kevin said.
“I’m actually not a proponent of classroom learning online,” said Kevin, who emphasized the difficulty of managing a virtual classroom of 30 kids with just one instructor. Smaller group sizes of 1 to 3 students greatly alleviate this concern, said Kevin.
Although going online has many benefits, it does come with its own unique set of challenges, Kevin said. The emotional connection between tutor and student is a key part of student success which is why Kevin focused on hiring experienced tutors for his fledgling business.
Why a teacher says tutoring is so helpful
Ali Naqvi applied to My Math Experts as a part-time job as he continued to work full-time as a math specialist at Baboquivari Secondary Campus. Naqvi has been tutoring longer than he has been a teacher having worked freelance and with Baboquivari Unified School District.
“It’s different from teaching in that you get to work with students one on one, and you get to see them really, individually grow,” said Naqvi, who has been tutoring since high school. “It’s more targeted because you can devote your attention to one student, not just the whole classroom, so you can really be attentive to their gaps.”
“I did notice right away that [Kevin] is pretty thorough in his preparation,” said Naqvi. Students are evaluated with a pre-test so a more individualized approach can be taken with the tutoring sessions, Naqvi said. Kevin also contacts their teachers so guidance can be constructed to align with their lesson plans.
Since the pandemic, Naqvi said he has done his best to make the most out of the situation. Naqvi worked on improving his online communication and virtual presentation skills – which have come in handy in his role as a virtual tutor. Naqvi said it is important that teachers remain flexible in how they communicate.
“It’s helped me understand the importance of virtual instruction and utilizing a computer,” said Naqvi, noting the ease in which his students adapted to virtual platforms.
In his experience, Naqvi said that online instruction, in classroom and tutoring formats, is great at teaching students to be more self-sufficient. The best teacher, Naqvi said, is yourself.
“In person, the implication is, we need the teacher or we’re going to be lost,” Naqvi said. “The truth is, with some guidance, all these students are capable of doing it… so if we get them to the point where they can teach themselves – then we’ve done a great job.”
Identifying why children struggle aids learning
Co-owner Jessie Kemper, a child life specialist at Phoenix Children’s Hospital, said her communications experience at the hospital helps bridge that gap. Children may be struggling due to reasons outside of academics. By identifying the personal needs of the children and their families they hope to better personalize the experience, Jessie said.
With a bachelor’s in psychology and a minor in education, Jessie worked as a teacher’s assistant for a special needs preschool after graduating before moving into a career in children’s hospitals.
Describing herself as a busybody, Jessie said she has a nice balance between her full-time hospital work and her side contributions to a business that is, “different and unique, but still, with the same goal of helping children and their families.”
Between her business-driven mathematician of a brother and her administrative yet communicative self, Jessie said she believed that this venture would be a success.
“Together, [we’re] kind of a perfect combo,” Jessie said.
After Kevin sold his Mathnasium center to pursue a business degree, he spent a few years of working at a private equity firm, personal ventures and sold another business. But something was missing, so Kevin decided to return to his original passion – education.
“I missed teaching, I missed helping students and helping families, and I felt that I’m all about impact. And I felt that the biggest impact I ever had was really back in those days at Mathnasium and teaching at the private school, Paradise Valley Christian Prep. I still hear from those people. And it’s something that I’m just really proud of,” Kevin said.