Buckley Math Camp adds up to student success

As an adult, Mark Thompson graduated from college with an engineering degree, but in elementary school he struggled to learn the multiplication tables.

Thompson tells his story to the students he works with at Village Tutors in Buckley.

“Yes, it was slightly embarrassing to be placed in a special class,” he said. “However, I knew I needed the help, and the class did a fine job of giving it to me. My mother also participated by giving me 15-minute flash-card drills at home, displaying dedication and interest in my education that greatly influenced my work ethic.”

Village Tutors’ Multiplication Flash-Cards class reflects these values.

The class, offered from 9 to 10:30 a.m. Aug. 22-26 at the Buckley Youth Activity Center, provides a hands-on demonstration of the do’s and don’ts of flash card instruction. He said the camp offers many messages. The first is memorization skills are just as important as reasoning skills. The second is nothing worth having is easy, but given time, almost anything can be accomplish, and thirdly, the effort doesn’t have to be torturous.

“Flash-card memorization is a excellent opportunity for parents to be more involved in the education of their children,” Thompson said. The class encourages parents or a parent substitute to attend. “ In this course, parents will enjoy a shared experience with their child.  Students will benefit from visual aids, enabling them to see their progress and to defend themselves from feelings of discouragement.  And both parents and children will learn helpful memorization techniques.  And don’t we all want to improve our memory?”

“Have fun,” Thompson tells his students. “Enjoy your mind. You’ll have it with you for a long time.”

The second class is a reading course called Reading with Ricky and Fido. It is offered from 10 a.m. to noon Aug. 22-26.

Students are asked to choose a book  and bring it  to class where they will read it out loud to Fido, a certified therapy dog from the Delta Society, or Ricky, a volunteer.

“Whether it’s reading to a dog or to a human, reading aloud uses more of your brain, involving both the audio and visual portions,” Thompson noted. “ Reading human-to-human provides opportunities for gentle correction, but if the student is intimidated by even the most gentle of voices, he or she may choose to read to a canine facilitator.  Friendly dogs do not criticize and are located outside on a picnic blanket, weather permitting, or inside on a rug, reading nook, or bean bag chair.

Both the multiplication and reading class are $10 with snacks provided. Preregistration is required for the reading class.

Thompson works with Bob Howie, who along with Thompson, also offer the advanced courses at Math Camp.

“My partner, Bob Howie, is a joy to work with, let me tell you,” Thompson said. “He has a knack for drawing out my potential, as well as with other adults and children.”

Thompson and Howie offered Algebra and Geometry for Math Camp last year. Student success from those two classes encouraged them to add Reading with Ricky and Fido, Multiplication Flash Cards and Calculus this year.

Village Tutors will offer four seminars, by grade level: Algebra 2, 9 to 11 a.m., Aug. 1-5; Calculus, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Aug. 1-5; Algebra 1, 9 to 11 a.m. Aug. 8-12; and Geometry, 9 to 11 a.m., Aug. 15-19.

Algebra 1 is oriented toward eighth- and ninth-grade students who plan to take Algebra 1 in the fall. Geometry is for freshmen and above who have completed Algebra 1.

According to Howie, the goal is to demystify the subject and introduce students to the broad scope of terms and notation, major theorems and formulas, and practice working problems so that when students re-encounter these concepts in the next few months at high school, they will be familiar and easy.

Mathematics is about problem solving skills, Howie noted, not just lectures and technical details. Instructors use practical problems like measuring the height of Mount Rainier without going there and finding the coordinates of an enemy submarine off the New Jersey coast in 1942, without going there either. Algebra 2 and Calculus students get a glimpse into how stuff works like springs, planets and roller coasters as instructors focus on applications.

Instructors use textbooks from Glacier and White River High Schools. For Algebra 2 and Calculus, the group uses a computer-based visual teaching tool named GeoGebra which brings trigonometry, derivatives and integrals to life in a way that has only recently been introduced to high school students. Students who attend Math Camp in August have priority access to free tutoring at Village Tutors, by appointment, throughout the school year during afternoons and weekends, when the regular drop-in tutoring program is not open.

Each five-day seminar costs $50, refunded if students earn a B grade or better on their January report card, and is limited to 10 qualifying students. Parents are welcome and encouraged to attend with students. High school student tutors from the White River Honors Program and Buckley Kiwanis Key Club assist instructors.

The class ostensibly teaches Algebra, Howie said, but in the process, it also teaches organization and note-taking skills.

Howie and Thompson call the three-ring binder is the “single greatest organizing tool on the planet” and use the class as an opportunity to show students how to use it.

For information or to register any of the Math Camp courses, call the youth center at 360-829-6534.