Math Motivators Tutor Spotlight: Tim White
April 24, 2019
When a student feels like they’re not “good” at math, it can be a frustrating and stressful experience going to class and tutoring sessions each day. As a volunteer tutor with The Actuarial Foundation’s Math Motivators tutoring program, Tim White, Program Manager, Customer Experience Analytics, Unum, has seen this frustration firsthand in one of the students he tutors.
“I noticed that he would press down really hard with his pencil about 25 minutes into the sessions,” White says. “The level of frustration I could see in his mind around all of the questions I was asking him was pretty intense.”
Because White had the opportunity to work one-on-one with this student—and knows how tough math can be on anyone—he decided to approach the situation with understanding and open communication.
“I ask him about his week, starting light and not jumping straight into the math, because I don’t want him to feel like the only reason I’m there is to hit him with some more schoolwork,” White says. “I want him to feel comfortable enough to talk to me if he’s struggling with school in general, and just open up so he can get whatever is bothering him off his chest—because math can be frustrating and stressful.”
After sessions progressed and the connection between White and his student grew stronger and more comfortable, White saw a big change his student’s confidence and capabilities.
“During the first tutoring sessions, he’d need help with every step along the process,” White says. “Now, he can take a problem from start to finish, and it’s more of him just saying, ‘Tim, can you look this over for me?’”
This shift from confusion to understanding is what keeps White coming back each week. The opportunity to offer clarity and encouragement to his student is his favorite thing about tutoring.
“I give him a lot of encouragement, because I enjoy seeing someone understand what’s going on without needing me to guide them to the next step,” he says. “And it’s also to let him know that I recognize the difference in his ability, and I want him to recognize it—regardless of his grades or anything else. [Learning and understanding math] is a process, and it’s only going to benefit him for the future, even if it’s not perfect right now.”
The Society of Actuaries has generously offered to match any contributions its members make to the Math Motivators tutoring program (up to US$62,500) through Oct. 30, 2019. By donating to this program, SOA members give high schools students the opportunity to improve their math skills while advancing awareness and appreciation for the actuarial profession.