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Sunday, September 26, 2021

Q&A with Mathnasium

Mathnasium, located at 618 Fourth St., opened December 2012 in Davis. Rene Tsang, the center director of Mathnasium, works with his daughter Rebekah to help students learn and understand mathematics. Currently, three UC Davis students work there as tutors.
The Aggie sat down and talked with both Rene and Rebekah about the goals of Mathnasium and its differences from other educational programs that are available to students in Davis.

The Aggie: What is the goal for Mathnasium at Davis?
Rene: Our goal is to help the students from first grade to 12th grade to understand math, for it to make sense to them. To get the lifelong skills and concepts.

Rebekah: Math is a conceptual skill so we want everyone to develop that. Our goal is not to get everyone to calculus but to make sure that they are comfortable and that they are ready. Many kids are afraid of math. Math is simple and if you talk about it in different ways it can be simple. We have different ways we teach them, not just homework. We are a supplemental educational program.

What is the Mathnasium method? How is it different from any other methods?
Rebekah: It’s different in the sense that it is a consistent program that they come to twice a week. The power of the program is rested in that it is the material the instructors use and the different ways we try to explain the concept so that they understand. Other programs are purely based on homework. The power of our program is that we just focus on math and since we focus on one thing we teach it well. The key is to make sure the kids understand what they are doing. It can be a very mechanical process. But we want to make sure the student can understand what is happening in those processes.

Is the instruction customized for each individual student?
Rene: When there is a new student we do an assessment test, so we can see what level the student is at that time. Based at the time we design a lesson plan for a specific student.

Rebekah: This focuses on targeted specific areas so that they can move along on their mathematical career. If they are behind, they can move ahead. If they are ahead, they can move forward. The assessment process is to figure out what they do and don’t know.

Rene: To find those gaps that they are missing and fill those gaps.

Rebekah: Each kid has their own customized learning plan; they work on it under a watchful eye of the instructor. The instructor will help them when needed. It is individual instruction where the teacher is teaching four students at once, so the students have the ability to work on their own. This avoids learned helplessness, which is when the student looks up to see whether they are right. This allows the students to succeed since they are prodded on. Our goal is to allow the students the opportunity to work on their own. The unique combination of private tutoring and being able to fly on their own.

Are students able to come in with homework and class questions or do they just concentrate on the exercises given by the instructors at Mathnasium?
Rene: The time each student comes in can be devoted to homework. We will leave some time to help student do current schoolwork.

Rebekah: We are able to do that but the main focus is to focus on the material so we can teach them our methods. Homework is easily incorporated into the program, however. The program is easily adapted to focus on what the student is learning in school.

Rene: The time commitment is at least twice a week. Part of that hour is working on the lesson plan we have based on the assessment to fill in the gap as well as helping them with the areas that they are good at so we can help them master that skill. We help the student.

Rebekah: We focus on mental math, which is a key area; we want the students to know when you can use mental math and how you can effectively use it to your favor in speeding up your mathematical thinking. We try to teach kids tips and tricks to help their mental process. I feel like that’s something that’s not touched upon often enough. We’re called the learning center because we are giving them our own material to provide to them, not just giving them any information.

Is the program flexible with schedules?
Rebekah: Yes, we are a mostly after-school program. Instructional hours are 3 to 7 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday and 2 to 7 p.m. on Wednesday. On Saturday, we are open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. It is not done by group lessons. The basis of the program is Mathnasium because it’s like a gym. The students have scheduled times that they are coming in. Everybody has their own schedule. So the classes are of one but there may be four different students at one time.

Rene: We want to schedule the students so that we don’t have 10 students at once and so that the instructor will instruct them efficiently.

What are the pricing for the tutors per hour?
Rebekah: It is a little hard to describe. Pricing is a monthly fee based on time commitment, anywhere from three, six or 12 months. It also varies on your academic level; elementary is cheaper than high school.

KAMILA KUDELSKA can be reached at city@theaggie.org.

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