OPINION: Not a numbers whiz? For Math’s Sake promises to change that

Gabrielle Tobin, 14, of Smyrna created a video series to help her peers master math. (Courtesy of Gabrielle Tobin)
Gabrielle Tobin, 14, of Smyrna created a video series to help her peers master math. (Courtesy of Gabrielle Tobin)

Credit: Courtesy of Gabrielle Tobin

Credit: Courtesy of Gabrielle Tobin

With some schools here and across the country closed and unlikely to reopen any time soon, families are struggling to find ways to keep kids engaged, especially during remote-learning school hours.

Even parents who are pros at packing lunches and juggling sports practices are feeling overwhelmed with managing their kids' curriculum at home — especially when it comes to math.

Well, now there’s a series of peer-to-peer videos for that.

And if your student happens to be a sixth grader, count your lucky stars.

The For Math’s Sake series, by Gabrielle Tobin and seven of her fellow math whizzes, covers every component of the sixth grade math curriculum from coordinate planes to understanding base 10 to statistics.

The idea to create the virtual classes came to Tobin soon after the coronavirus forced schools in her Smyrna neighborhood to shut down.

Math had long been a favorite subject for Tobin, and Lindley 6th Grade Academy, a Title I school about a mile from her home, had long held a special place in her heart.

The love affair with Lindley began the year Tobin turned 10 years old, she told me recently.

That year, instead of accepting birthday gifts from friends and family, she asked for donations of gift cards and school supplies for Lindley instead.

For Math’s Sake's team: (top, from left to right) Nicholas Rosel, Gabrielle Tobin and Samar Kibe; (bottom, from left to right) Nandana Avasarala, Megan Jones, Marissa Copeland, Coralie-Anne Hilaire and Joshua Stewart. (Courtesy of Gabrielle Tobin)
For Math’s Sake's team: (top, from left to right) Nicholas Rosel, Gabrielle Tobin and Samar Kibe; (bottom, from left to right) Nandana Avasarala, Megan Jones, Marissa Copeland, Coralie-Anne Hilaire and Joshua Stewart. (Courtesy of Gabrielle Tobin)

Credit: Photo courtesy Gabrielle Tobin

Credit: Photo courtesy Gabrielle Tobin

She has continued that tradition ever since. Last year, she upped the ante, collecting approximately $4,000 in donations and recruiting 40 adult tutors for math and reading.

When Tobin realized the coronavirus made it impossible to continue her annual school supply drive and tutoring sessions, it hit her hard. Kids in Title 1 schools struggle the most to meet grade-level proficiencies. With school shut down, the gap would only widen. Instead of a “summer slide,” kids would endure a semester or even a year slide.

“I didn’t want my peers to get further behind,” the Lovett School ninth grader said.

She called Lindley’s principal, Denise Magee.

“Dr. Magee suggested I come up with an idea to connect with students in the area of math,” Tobin said.

Boy, did she ever.

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There’s no “Bueller … Bueller” monotony, it’s real and it’s what one Georgia Department of Education staffer said is both refreshing to hear and important for getting through to kids.

State Superintendent Richard Woods called Tobin a leader among her young peers and her video series an example of how young leaders can contribute to education and help their peers engage in learning mathematics in fun, engaging ways.

For Math’s Sake, Tobin said, was a group effort that included a diverse mix of seven friends who share her love of math.

The series is getting rave reviews and is being shared between schools in Georgia, California, North Carolina, the Bahamas, and beyond.

Middle school Principal Gernavia Leverette, who partnered with Tobin to launch a free Math App and is using the videos at Sugar Creek Charter School in Charlotte, North Carolina, believes For Math’s Sake will not only help students academically but inspire them to think creatively and to help someone else.

“Middle schoolers aren’t always easy to reach,” Leverette said. “But kids speak the same language and there are times when students are better able to understand a math concept once they see a fellow classmate’s explanation of that concept.”

Principals are asking for more. Tobin and her team are working on creating a foundation focusing on developing videos for seventh and eighth grade curriculums.

Those outside academic circles are taking notice, too.

Each week, Gracie Bonds Staples will bring you a perspective on life in the Atlanta area. Life with Gracie runs online Tuesday, Thursday and alternating Fridays.
Each week, Gracie Bonds Staples will bring you a perspective on life in the Atlanta area. Life with Gracie runs online Tuesday, Thursday and alternating Fridays.

Late last month, Smyrna Mayor Derek Norton presented Tobin with the Mayor’s Education Award for her efforts.

And if Tobin has her way, the project will earn the Gold Award from the Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta, making her eligible for thousands of dollars in college scholarships.

The award, the highest honor in Girl Scouting, is presented annually by the council to girls demonstrating extraordinary leadership in projects benefiting their communities with lasting impact.

Fewer than 6% of Girl Scouts earn the Gold Award.

Amy Dosik, CEO of the Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta, said projects like Tobin’s can make a huge difference for any student struggling with math but especially Black, Hispanic, and Native American girls because their scores continue to lag behind those of other groups.

“Keeping girls engaged in STEM is a Girl Scout focus, and today’s students will hold tomorrow’s STEM jobs,” Dosik said. “We want our girls to have a seat at that table.”

Hear! Hear!

Find Gracie on Facebook (www.facebook.com/graciestaplesajc/) and Twitter (@GStaples_AJC) or email her at gstaples@ajc.com.

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