Students improve math skills through of YMCA, Tustin Elementary partnership

TUSTIN — Roughly 20 students at Tustin Elementary School spend an extra 45 minutes after the school day’s end to improve their math skills.

Thanks to a partnership between the YMCA and the school, students who are struggling in the subject have the opportunity to participate in a six-week course that provides fun and social ways to gain and sharpen math knowledge and application.

The YMCA After-School Tutoring Program is a grant through the J.C. Penny After School Fund which provides a healthy snack and vigorous play. The program was combined with tutoring, which is funded by the elementary school.

“With the tutoring aspect, it helps the students catch up in the classroom and develop skills they haven’t previously mastered,” said Tustin Elementary School teacher Paul Chilson, who also assists within the program.

Three times each week, the students have an outdoor activity and transition to tutoring within individual centers focused on a specific form of math, such as fractions, division, counting money, graphs and charts, multiplication and shapes. Each center lasts 15 minutes before the small groups switch to another. Two high school students employed through the YMCA, two adult tutors and two school teachers help organize and teach during the session. All math activities coincide with Common Core Standard requirements.

The other two days of the week focus only on outdoor activities. Transportation is provided following the end of each day.

Cadillac Area YMCA Program Director Mike Kelso said the two initiatives combined makes a significant difference in the learning process.

“When we introduce recreation and a snack time in there, it give the students time to reset their bodies and their brains and allows them to stay committed to after-school work,” Kelso said.

To check student progress and see where other improvements are needed, the children are tested every two weeks. Chilson said the scores have been gradually improving, which is gratifying in many ways.

“We want to see the kids do better in the classrooms. When they start seeing the results and gaining confidence, that’s when they see the growth,” he added.

Student Kayla Shelton, 9, said she likes the program, called “camp,” and is focusing on shapes, measurement, division and fractions.

“I think it’s going to get me higher grades,” she said.

Eleven-year-old Lukas Schwab agreed.

He also said he has made new friends by participating and added he is liking math more when he knows he can complete the problems.

Tustin Elementary Principal Alan Thomas said the school is fortunate for the partnership with the YMCA and is expecting great things.

“It’s great to have this after-school opportunity for the kids,” he added.

The students also will take a final test at the end of the program, and scores will be compared to tests taken at the beginning.

The six-week program began at LeRoy Elementary School and will continue in Tustin through May 30. Kelso said he plans on continuing the activity in the fall.