It’s a basic idea, students teaching students to help reinforce skills and also to develop new ways to learn.
After all, students have been helping other students in classes for as long as there has been school. The concept was simply to formalize the process to allow teens to consistently help other teens with math.
Wausau East High School math teacher Brian Buege installed the program, called Math Co-Teaching, at the beginning of the school year. It was a low-risk, low-cost attempt to help students who might be struggling with their math. Now teachers, administrators and students involved in the Math Co-Teaching program are finding the basic concept is having some deep and lasting impact — and could change the whole culture of the school.
The idea actually came from a student a few years ago, Buege said. Cutbacks meant that only one teacher could staff the school’s math resource center. One teacher simply couldn’t devote a lot of time to a large number of individual students who needed help. She suggested having other students augment the teacher.
“I didn’t quite get that off the ground,” Buege said. “But then I went to a conference about year ago, and they were doing this program at a different high school in Wisconsin. And I really liked it, and thought it would be great — instead of doing it in the resource center, hit the students right when they’re learning the material.”
Now 17 students from advanced math classes, picked by teachers because of their knowledge of the subject and their leadership abilities, are co-teachers in lower-level math classrooms. They mingle among younger students, and act as teachers’ aides.
It’s working better than Buege or anybody else had ever imagined. “It not only helps kids (struggling students), it helps us,” Buege said. “It promotes the idea of teaching, for some of the students who are thinking about teaching later on. … The teachers and students who are involved all really like it.”
Students often are better able to relate to other students than teachers can, and relationships between older and younger teens are developing.
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