Imagine Alexis. A freshman in Washington, D.C.'s Ward 4. She sits through Algebra class, and kind of gets how to do the problems. After school, she heads home to watch her younger siblings while her mom is still at work. She makes dinner, feeds the kids, and texts with her friends. Any math homework? Well, yes, but now that Alexis looks at it, she can't figure it out. With nowhere to turn to for help, she pushes it aside; another day goes by without her doing her homework. "It doesn't matter; I'm so behind anyway. I don't care." Another bad grade, another missed opportunity.
Everyone has heard news stories which tell us that U.S. students have fallen behind the rest of the developed world when it comes to math and science. Whereas once we led the charge, we're now straggling in. Particularly disturbing is the achievement gap between low-income, minority students and their more affluent white peers. To address this problem, there have been studies conducted, curriculums changed, teacher's enriched, and much discussion. However, these big picture changes will take years to take hold and improve student achievement. Meanwhile, kids need our help TODAY with their math homework. During those frustrating hours after school, when a student is trying to do math homework, many kids have nowhere to turn for help, and they muddle through without truly learning, or shut the book in irritation and drop out of the learning experience altogether.
NSTEP's Study Buddy is an innovative, collaborative program that connects struggling students like Alexis with volunteer math honor students who can help with homework NOW. Completely online. Free. Live. Volunteer student tutors wait online in a virtual "lobby" to be invited into a student's notebook and help with homework. The tutor and student can then simultaneously write, draw, and chat on the same computer screen, whether they are across town or across the country. Study Buddy works because most students are not only familiar with working on computers, but actually prefer it, frequently communicating via email and text message, in lieu of telephones or meeting face-to-face. Study Buddy reaches youths in a place where they already spend a large portion of their time—on computers, online.
Study Buddy's volunteer tutors are the nation's best and brightest math students. Recruited from math honor societies, NSTEP has successfully harnessed the talent, skills, and resources of this generation in a nationwide program that truly enables a generation to raise up its own, improve peer math skills and proactively develop our nation's future talent. This original peer-to-peer approach enables the tutees to feel more comfortable because they know that the person on the other side of the computer is a student just like themselves. Because our tutors have recently taken the subject, they are also able to provide explanations in ways their peers understand. Tutors build their own skills by analyzing mathematics problems, crafting solutions, and communicating that information to peers, gaining additional insights into mathematics, since there's no better way to truly learn a subject, than to teach it. Moreover, these honor students gain a valuable life skill by helping disadvantaged students, as well as providing a meaningful community service.
NSTEP engages and introduces students to Study Buddy by coordinating with teachers, school district administrators, and after-school programs. These contacts know their community and students best and how Study Buddy should be incorporated into their teaching methods. This approach localizes our efforts, leading to increased program success because Study Buddy use is encouraged and supported by a caring adult.
NSTEP needs your help. We believe Study Buddy should be available in every school district to help struggling math students, particularly those who cannot afford nor would generally seek out extra help. We have willing tutors and students in need...Let's give them all the opportunity to succeed.