Lake County community helping solve a math problem students face nationwide

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Posted at 5:24 PM, May 05, 2023

PAINESVILLE, Ohio — Right now, America’s schools are fighting back from the worst drop in math performance since our main national testing started back in 1990.

The decline happened during the pandemic. We are seeing it here at home, as well, and it’s across the board.

The call to correct the concerning problem is urgent. Research shows a lack of comprehension and confidence in math is one of the common reasons kids drop out of high school.

Starting young and building a strong foundation in mathematics is critical for future success, and a Lake County community is working together to get it done for their kids.

The Painesville community is an example of the common proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.”

"They're really nice, and I like that they’re helping people," said Elizabeth Flores, a 6-year-old Painesville kindergarten student.

She is among the dozens of grade schoolers who received math tutoring at Hola Ohio.

"We've seen, particularly after COVID, a significant decrease in children’s overall performance in math in every possible way," said Wendy Camper, the director of teaching and learning for Painesville City Local Schools. The school district is nearly 60% Hispanic.

Camper partnered with Hola Ohio and the Hispanic community center for the new tutoring program.

She built the instructional plan for each grade level, and Hola’s executive director, Veronica Dahlberg, put out the call for volunteers.

"The people responded," said Dahlberg. "It shows they care.”

People from different backgrounds and area businesses answered the call for help. They include: Lake Erie college students, a Cleveland State professor, Frank with the U.S. Coast Guard, Felipe with Component Repair Technologies, Paul with Lincoln Electric, and married couple Nick and Olivia with Avery Dennison and Lubrizol.

Plus, the Spanish club at Mentor High School, of which Amelia Wong is president.

"I think the most rewarding part for me is being able to see the kids grow," said Wong. "At the beginning, you can see they’re struggling, but as the weeks go on, they get more confident, and the math is actually fun for them.”

Everyone’s hard work has added up to success.

Camper said every child showed improvement after the nine weeks of weekly tutoring sessions. Some children out-scored their pre-tutoring assessments by double digits. Others, clearly show they've mastered certain concepts they struggled with before.

"It is that consistent practice and that routine, and then just growing their confidence," said Camper. "And again, it’s the volunteers and the things that are happening here – it’s amazing!"

The tutoring sessions always began with a home-cooked meal for the children, their families and volunteers, fueling bodies, minds, and community.

"These are our future leaders," said Camper. "We need a well-educated community and math is the foundation of so much.”

"Our children can thrive," said Dahlberg. "They can achieve academic heights; we just need to invest that time and energy with them."

Elizabeth scored a perfect score on her post-assessment.

"I want to be a teacher," she said when asked what she wants to be when she grows up.

Her mother, Laura Razo, said how proud she is of her daughter and how proud she is of her community for coming together for the children.

Dahlberg says they started the math tutoring program with grant money from Avery Dennison, a Fortune 500 company headquartered in nearby Mentor.

All the kids and parents received activities to do at home to help keep their math skills sharp over the summer, and the tutoring will resume in the fall.

Meantime, Hola Ohio will begin its summer reading program on June 8. Find out more details here

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