Math Coaching

If you are an engineer or scientist, or have the degrees but never used them, or you just plain love math, this role is perfect for you!  If you’d like to find out more, or you’re ready to volunteer as a coach, please email mpmathclub@gmail.com.

Below are some questions that new coaches often have.

Why is coaching important?

Our math coaches play a central role in Math Club  Coaches share their passion for mathematics with motivated students so they can excel in contests, while gaining skills and confidence that are key to success in the modern world.

What grade levels are you looking for coaches in?

We need coaches for 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th grade.  We could also use some part-time coaches as well.  Note:  Grades K-2 are not eligible for math club, because there are no math contests for them.  3rd-graders are eligible if they’re working on math at the 4th-grade level (so they have the foundation to learn the advanced concepts they will need at contests).

As a coach, what am I supposed to do?

As a coach, you lead a class of about 5-12 kids who are usually the same grade.  Typically, your own kid is one of the students.

You teach them methods, tricks, and shortcuts which are relevant to contests that they are preparing for.  You give them assignments so they can practice in the classroom, then walk around and see how they’re doing.  You assign homework as well; you can grade the homework (recommended at least at the beginning) or you can have students grade themselves.

Then you go with the students to contests.  You arrange them into teams of 3 or 4 (ahead of time, if possible) if the contest has a team component.  Some contests are at the school and some are offsite.

What is the time commitment?

The class is 1 hour per week, throughout the school year.  To ensure a smooth classroom experience, about 2 hours of prep work per week (figure out what to teach next, print worksheets, etc.) is recommended.  Depending on how much you want to enrich or customize the experience (writing your own problems or activities, preparing demonstrations, etc.) it can be more.

How many students will I be coaching?

Math club is a PTSA sponsored club and the PTSA policy stipulates a 1 (coach) to 10 (students) ratio limit.  Some classes have an assistant coach which allows us to add a few more students.  We typically like to keep it at about 15 students max.

Do you have a curriculum ready for me to teach?

Partially.

We have worksheets and contests from prior years that we can provide.  This year, we’re working on formalizing the curriculum to make things easier and the goal is to have that ready by year-end, if not before.  We also have experience with a number of games and activities that we’ve found to work – not fully organized, but you can ask the other coaches for suggestions.

The main goal is to teach techniques that will help students get to a solution.  In earlier grades, a lot of focus should go on techniques like working backwards, making organized lists, rearranging operations, and ignoring extraneous information.  In later grades, you can start to use algebra and other advanced and abstract techniques.

It also helps to try some contests yourself, so you can think to yourself, “Wow, I’m glad I know how to multiply fractions to solve #6 and #8.”  Then you know to focus on multiplying fractions (and shortcuts such as canceling).

I’m not sure I can make every class.  Can I still coach?

If you’re going to miss certain weeks, you can usually find a sub, or if necessary it’s OK to cancel the class for that week.  If you do cancel, just send out a homework assignment for the kids so they have some practice to work on.

To make the commitment work, you’ll want to make the vast majority of the classes.  But unforeseen events and changes do happen.

A tag-team setup can work, but it’s not typical and takes significant effort to coordinate.  However, that’s better than having to cancel a class for the year due to lack of coaches!

I’ve never taught kids before.  What’s it like?

When I first stood up in front of kids, I was terrified.  I thought they would run around throwing paper airplanes or just sit there looking bored while I droned on about the distributive property.

But I soon realized five things that made coaching easier and much more fun:  (1) the kids are motivated – they want to be there and hear what you have to say; (2) you are not alone – a room parent will usually be there to help, and parents who aren’t there are still generally very supportive of what you’re doing; (3) if you’re having fun and making a game, story, or challenge out of it, the kids will have fun too; (4) teaching is a learning experience – you have to be ready to have different or better ideas than you and flow with them; (5) you have ultimate control over whom, how, what, and when you teach.

It helps to keep the kids busy.  So spending less than half the time talking, and more than half the time having them discuss or solve problems, helps.

What about discipline problems?

They happen.  The short answer:  be direct, be positive, be brief.  Simply talking to the student(s) in question and understanding the root cause/feeling resolves most issues; moving students resolves most of the rest.  There are further disciplinary steps that can be taken, up to having students take a break from math club, but it rarely comes to that.

Do I have to coach my own kid’s class?

It’s not required, but it makes some logistics easier for your family.

Is coaching fun?

Yes.  It’s incredibly rewarding.  Watching the kids grow and succeed, as you yourself grow and succeed, is an absolutely amazing feeling.  There’s no job like it.

Interested in coaching?  Email mpmathclub@gmail.com to find out more or get started!

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