University of Minnesota sophomore Dan Davidson said he isn’t interested in a teaching career. But each Friday, the strategic communications major spends his day tutoring Ramsey Middle School Students in math.
Davidson is one of about 40 University Honors Program students volunteering in Ramsey’s math classrooms this semester. The mentors provide inspiration to the students, math teacher Chris Halvorson said, developing relationships and leading to increased engagement in class.
“Kids can relate a lot better to someone who’s closer in age to them,” Halvorson said. “Anytime you build a relationship with a kid, it’s going to help.”
Ramsey has partnered with the University’s honors program for the past three years. The university sent about 60 tutors to the school first semester, Halvorson said. University President Eric Kaler spoke at the program kickoff a few years ago.
Davidson said he enjoys the tutoring experience, noting that as an aspiring public relations professional, it’s important to be able to understand all kinds of people. As the son of two public school teachers, he said he knows how important it is to get as much help in the classroom as possible.
Freshman business major Hannah Manley said only one person who tutors at Ramsey is actually in a teaching program. Both she and Davidson said it’s cool seeing teachers who are passionate about their field and who bring that passion to middle school.
Sophomore chemistry and Spanish major Eliza Brown said she likes going back each semester and seeing the improvement the students make. The majority of them don’t like math, she said, but enjoy being with the college mentors.
Halvorson said a lot of the Ramsey students don’t think they can go to college. The tutoring partnership exposes them to college students who look like that, something he said provides inspiration.
He added that having tutors allows the students to math problems from a different perspective, which gives them an additional opportunity to understand concepts.
Halvorson said he’d like to provide bus passes for the tutors, for whom the commute to Ramsey can take up a chunk of their day. Manley said it takes her two hours to get to and from the school.
Ramsey Assistant Principal Angie Martin said the tutors provide additional support to the math teachers. They are there to answer questions for students and to help them think aloud and stay engaged in lessons, where as students may otherwise shut down.
“Students look up to college kids (and) look to them for feedback and affirmation,” she said.
That connection is especially key in math, a subject that requires a step-by-step approach to solve problems. Middle school students don’t necessarily know how to advocate for themselves, Martin said, so having extra support allows for increased engagement.
“We’re trying to instill this growth mindset,” she said. “That’s what the tutors are for — to build that confidence.”