Math Madness Tutoring Program Enriches Local Community Schools

Students playing math Bingo in order to learn math concepts. PEARL MARINAS/COURTESY

By, Angelina Persaud, News Editor

The Math Madness Outreach Program has had another year of success in teaching children to love the learning process through math tutoring services from Manhattan College students. 

The initial idea for the program stemmed from the donation of an MC alum, who chose to remain anonymous, of the class of 1965. The alum felt that the community needed to be enlivened from an educational standpoint. Particularly, they felt that students and adults in the area needed to strengthen their math skills early on in their education. 

Sister MaryAnn Jacobs, a professor in the School of Education and faculty advisor for the Math Madness program, spoke about its success and significance to the local community. 

She noted that there has been a need for math tutoring in schools since many children’s mathematical skills show a sharp decrease as they transition from elementary school into high school. 

“We see a key age level between grades four and grades eight, to really capitalize on getting students to have conceptual knowledge of math, not just procedural,” Jacobs said. “And our students, they’re the students in the school. They work on the problem while our students encourage them to pose questions.”

She also highlighted the connection of the outreach program to the Lasallian mission of the college that emphasized service to the community. 

“The students don’t even realize they’re learning, so they become engaged that way,” Jacobs said. “And we’re hoping that it is planting in them a seed to love math, and to do math. Also in the schools, we’re trying to help them to understand how important collaboration is rather than competition and grades.”

Currently, the program exists for students to sign up voluntarily, though they do offer paid opportunities through Jasper Corps for students as well. Additionally, Jacobs stated that she sees the program remaining as voluntary for the future and not forcing it to be integrated into the School of Education’s curriculum for education majors.

“I think in some ways, maybe it’s just our identity that this is what we should be doing as a part of our mission,” Jacobs said. “I think it’s just who we are and I think I’d like to keep it that way. So it’s not a mandate on students, but rather a choice by our Manhattan students to become a part of this and go out there to those young people who can benefit from a quality education.”

Kevin Courtney, the director of capital campaign, spoke about the contribution of the alum supporting the program and how it ties back to the college’s mission.

“The alumnus who is supporting this grew up in the Bronx,” Courtney said. “So I think, for us to be able to serve the Bronx, to be able to connect with our community is beneficial. And in many ways, there’s nobody better to do that than our students.” 

Jacobs also emphasized the academic impact the program has had on the students and how it can translate into more hands-on knowledge as they progress through their classes. 

“It’s helping them to develop some of those teacher skills, such as the importance of planning,” Jacobs said. “Each week they meet and they actually do the problems that they’re going to present to the students. So, they have to go through that process to have a sense of what it’s like.”

Pearl Marinas, a sophomore adolescent education major with a concentration in mathematics, has been a “math madder” since the program’s founding. She spoke about her most memorable moment while tutoring. 

“We were doing this moving stack problem…and all of them were super engaged,” Marinas said. “And I thought that was super awesome to see them all, even though they’re all at different age levels, they’re enjoying it.” 

James Mitchell, a junior adolescent education major, is also part of the tutoring program and recalled his most memorable experience with the students. 

“One of the things that we have always tried to push is problem solving skills,” Mitchell said. “So we found a video online from TED Ed which was a 50% reading 50% math problem. And the kids worked on it for like an hour. And they just couldn’t figure it out. I asked them if they wanted an answer, and they were like, no, we want to do this again next week. And it is very rewarding.”

Victoria Pascale, a sophomore adolescent education major, is another math madder and described how the tutoring experience has enhanced her academic career at MC. 

“I would say that it’s preparing me for my future students [as a teacher],” Pascale said. “We don’t really get much actual experience in the classroom. We do fieldwork in preparation to be a teacher, but it’s just observing, not always actually working with the students. This is an opportunity to actually work with them and see how it actually is when paired with an actual child.” 

Vedaa Kapur, a freshman childhood education major, is a tutor for the program and has a personal connection to tutoring. She described how her current tutoring experience has helped her to grow as a person. 

“I wanted to participate because I myself have a learning challenge and I had the support in high school with my tutors,” Kapur said. “So, because of that I thought that this was a great opportunity for me to help students, specifically with math..and gain more teaching experience for the future when I become a teacher.” 

Marinas and Mitchell also emphasized the importance of these types of tutoring programs  where it can lead to young children developing critical thinking skills while also learning to enjoy math. 

“Math is not everyone’s favorite subject,” Marinas said. “It’s one of those really difficult subjects to teach. And so being able to do this and being able to inspire kids in the community and help them realize that math…is all around us.”

“I think that programs like this are important because other than trying to teach math we also try to teach problem solving, which isn’t something that is taught in the standard first or 12th grade classroom,” Mitchell said. 

The Math Madness tutoring outreach program is open to students of all majors who are looking for a volunteer opportunity to teach young children. Anyone interested in joining the  program can email Sister MaryAnn Jacobs ( 

Students playing math Bingo in order to learn math concepts. PEARL MARINAS/COURTESY