Steve Siegel: On Being a Newton School Volunteer

For the past three years I have been working as an elementary school math tutor in cooperation with the Newton School Volunteers (NSV).  I am a STEM professional and have always been comfortable helping my own kids (now in 8th and 11th grades) with their math.  I realized that the curriculum knowledge and teaching techniques I developed would be of use to other young children struggling with their math, so I reached out to the NSV and offered to tutor at my neighborhood school.

I’ve found this effort to be deeply satisfying as I help guide a child from confusion to clarity.  And I’m not left alone in this effort.  I’m in regular communication with my student’s parents and math teacher; also the NSV holds periodic short instructional seminars to improve my own tutoring skills.  The total time commitment has averaged an hour per week, broken down as ½ hour of tutoring, ¼ hour of reviewing material prior to our session, and ¼ hour emailing parents and teacher.  This time may vary slightly depending upon a particular child’s needs, but is accurate for the two children I have worked with so far.

What I find most interesting is that ½ hour of weekly 1:1 time can make a meaningful difference in a child’s academic life.  How can this be?  Much of our time is using math as a medium to reinforce problem-solving skills, excellent technique, the value and method of checking one’s work, and more.  Under the pretext of working on math, we are actually reinforcing life skills.

If you have patience, common sense, and a desire to help a child, you already have ¾ of what you need to be an effective math tutor.  For more information, please contact Ellen Bender at 617.559.6131 or at  You can also contact me at