By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great local journalism.
For area students lagging behind, this summer represents learning opportunity
Pandemic may have caused disruptions, but local tutors can help bridge that gap
Student
Annie Spratt, Unsplash

For students, the warm embrace of summer is all about living in the moment and getting away from what has been a stressful year in the classroom.

For many parents, however, the weeks ahead are more of a chilling worry of the future, as they consider their children’s lost learning time due to the COVID-19 pandemic — and wonder how and when they may catch up.

Forsyth County Schools teachers at all levels did their absolute best during extraordinary circumstances during 2020 and into 2021, but there is no doubt that the pandemic cost students important class and educational opportunities, and many fell behind and continue to struggle due to no fault of their own or their educators.

That has proven especially true with math.

Studies produced in late 2020 by the Northwest Evaluation Association and Illuminate Education — each referenced in Education Week.org (https://bit.ly/3gq2032) — predicted that students in the United States would lose two-and-a-half to four-and-a-half months of learning.

NWEA researchers compared the results of more than 4.4 million students in grades 3-8 tested this fall to their peers tested in fall 2019. They found no difference in reading gains, but on average a 5 to 10 percentile-point difference in math.

Similarly, Curriculum Associates, a company that offers testing, curriculum, and professional development services, compared the test results from a nonrepresentative sample of students in grades 1 to 5 in more than 1,000 schools to those of students for the last three years. 

The same study also found that students lost more ground in math than reading. In fact, students scoring two or more grade levels behind in math were 5 to 9 percentage points higher than in other subjects.

Since math is traditionally taught in a classroom setting, many students saw their learning track wrecked by the pandemic, as it claimed significant portions of the second half of the 2019-20 school year and the beginning of the 2020-21 cycle. And while many parents did their best to support their children’s learning, current math practices and standards proved confounding to those years removed from a classroom.

Add that to the proven fact that increased stress and trauma (such as those experienced during the ills and fears produced by a pandemic) can worsen a student’s ability to learn — especially something so particular as math. And when you combine that further with the fact that remote platforms also make for increased learning difficulties, you have a perfect storm destined to harm educational improvement.

Yet, as some parents are discovering, there are alternatives and support systems available outside of the home and school designed to reinvigorate student learning and return those struggling back to the path which they once trod. And this summer represents the perfect opportunity for parents and otherwise busy students to recover the knowledge of which the pandemic robbed them.

Tutoring centers such as the Mathnasium of Coal Mountain offer dedicated instructors combined with a curriculum designed to not only get students back on track but match perfectly what Forsyth’s students will be learning in school while also preparing them for higher learning opportunities. 

“We and other learning centers throughout Forsyth County have been working to ensure that students maintain or exceed their grade level entering the next grade,” said Mathnasium of Coal Mountain owners, Rusty and Faye Tarsches, whose learning center is dedicated to aiding students in grades kindergarten through 12th. 

“We are thrilled when we get a chance to help a child, because these are skills that can serve them through the rest of their lives. And to watch a child that has struggled begin to grasp key mathematical concepts and excel is just one of the most affirming things you’ll ever witness.”

It is a mission that Mathnasium of Coal Mountain, like other area tutoring centers, has pursued for some time, but it has become especially important under current educational conditions — such as one Forsyth County Schools teacher found out when she turned to Mathnasium of Coal Mountain for help with her own elementary school aged daughter.

“My daughter started Feb. 21, and she’s doing very well there,” said Jennifer Emmert of her rising fourth grader. “We’re going to keep her there over the summer. We’ve seen improvements in her grades in the classroom since beginning to attend Mathnasium of Coal Mountain, and you can tell she has more confidence in her math abilities now. I can also tell she’s working hard and concentrating hard on the work that she does there.”

It is a not uncommon sentiment, and that includes from school administrators who have also seen the difference that supportive and targeted tutoring can make.

“I can say that I appreciate [Mathnasium’s] support of Chestatee and value their partnership. They provide a valuable service to the community,” said Dr. Polly Tennies, Principal at Chestatee Elementary said.

The flexibility of the learning environment has also made a difference for several students.

“My 10-year-old son goes to the center a few times a week with one day being virtual,” said Cindy Fraiegari. “The ability to have either option has allowed us to maximize the benefits, and I can schedule his appointments for the month online. He has improved greatly and now enjoys math. To see his confidence when solving math problems is impressive.”

Meanwhile, Melissa Harris turned to Mathnasium of Coal Mountain when her family first moved to Forsyth County and discovered that her son was behind other students in his grade. 

“He struggled with the lessons and homework, which impacted his self-confidence,” Harris said. “I hired tutors, but he still struggled because he didn’t have mastery of math basics. He took an assessment with Mathnasium that highlighted what concepts he knew versus what he didn’t know, and they set a lesson plan to build up the foundation he was lacking and also provided support for homework and tests to keep him from falling further behind. He went from failing math classes to now having a high B average.” 

It is that commitment to finding what works for each student and incorporating that into a learning structure that matches Forsyth’s learning curriculum that also helps set places like Mathnasium of Coal Mountain apart. And it combines with a commitment to being there for the student, no matter their situation.

“My daughter was struggling in fourth-grade math, and I knew we needed to find some help because math nowadays is not what I learned in school,” said Sarah Jabieski. “So, I found Mathnasium of Coal Mountain … and thought this is the perfect place. My daughter absolutely loves it. And owners Faye and Rusty are the best, always there to help with any questions or concerns. All of the staff there is amazing.”

Tutoring centers such as Mathnasium of Coal Mountain are always ready to field questions and talk with concerned parents. And they also understand the difficulties experienced by students, parents and teachers alike during these unprecedented times, which is why they continue to make themselves available throughout the summer weeks — offering a great opportunity to catch back up on time lost in the classroom. It is a reality that may have parents themselves looking forward to the weeks ahead, rather than looking with trepidation at the future.

Mathnasium of Coal Mountain is at 2667 Freedom Parkway, Cumming, GA 30041, and is a neighborhood tutoring center that helps students in grades K through 12th develop proficiency in math skills. 

For more information, call 470-567-6284, email coalmountain@mathnasium.com, or visit https://www.mathnasium.com/coalmountain.