University of Chicago student Joseph Pinto had been tutoring Kenika Aldridge’s two sons through the University’s Maroon Tutor Match (MTM) program for a few months when Aldridge heard something surprising: her 10-year-old, Dylan, confidently answering a question when he was called on during his virtual math class.
“Dylan was talking and talking and at the end you could hear the teacher say ‘Yes! Dylan!’ and I was like ‘Alright, Dylan!’” Aldridge, who lives in the Riverdale neighborhood on Chicago’s Far South Side, recalls. “If the teacher had called on him before he started working with Joseph, he wasn’t confident enough to be the one to unmute himself and answer a question. Now, with Joseph always asking him questions, Dylan was able to understand it and say what the teacher was looking for. A smile came on his face when he got that ‘Yes! Dylan!’ and I had to hurry up and text Joseph ‘Thank you so much!’”
Dylan and his older brother David were matched with Pinto in the fall after 16-year-old David’s struggles with math led Kenika Aldridge to the MTM program. David, a sophomore at Simeon Career Academy, and Dylan, a fifth grader at Turner-Drew Language Academy, now each work through concepts like graphing relationships and fractions with Pinto over Zoom for an hour every Saturday.
With remote learning leaving students feeling disconnected and facing learning loss, many student employees in the University’s Neighborhood Schools Program have spent the year participating in MTM, which provides personalized one-on-one tutoring to CPS students like the Aldridges at low or no cost.
Since he started working with Pinto, David has brought his D in math up to a high C and says he better understands the material and how to approach tricky problems.
“The way that we go through it, [Joseph] makes it easier and more understandable for me to work on,” David Aldridge says. “He goes through slowly and teaches me the steps.”
As students, teachers, and families like the Aldridges have navigated the uncharted territory of remote learning, the individualized support — and, on average, one full letter grade boost in students’ focus subject — MTM offers has been especially helpful. In fact, research out of UChicago’s Education Lab published in March found that personalized tutoring programs similar to MTM were shown to make a significant positive impact on Chicago high schoolers’ test scores and course grades.
Pinto signed up as a tutor with MTM soon after he started at the University, having helped launch a tutoring program at this own high school on the East Coast. A triple major in Math, Economics, and Chemistry, Pinto wanted to support local students in STEM and says working with a teenager and an elementary schooler has pushed him to experiment with different tutoring approaches. The remote environment has presented its challenges — knowing Zoom exhaustion firsthand from his own studies, Pinto now makes sure to factor in breaks during his time with David and Dylan and is careful to move through material at an appropriate pace for each of his tutees. The tutoring experience has not only been fulfilling, Pinto says, but it’s made a positive impact on his own academic outlook.
“I definitely feel a lot more patient, a lot more, ‘Alright, I’ll just work through it.’ I’m telling myself the same things I’d tell David or Dylan,” Pinto says. “It’s also really nice to see things actually come to fruition [for David] with a significant grade improvement — it feels really good personally and I hope it feels good for David as well, knowing he’s making progress.”