NM Tech MST Alumnae to Continue PATHS Program

by Tiffany Chisum

SOCORRO, N.M., Aug. 16, 2007 – Two local alumnae from New Mexico Tech’s Master of Science for Teachers degree program will be continuing the mathematics curricula program they designed and implemented as a part of their independent study.

Sarracino Middle School Math Teacher Barbara Martinez and Socorro High School Math Teacher Peggy Mitchusson created the “Parents and Teachers Helping Students” (PATHS) program for their required independent study in the university’s Master of Science for Teachers (MST) program.

PATHS received such a warm welcome from parents and students alike that it will continue to run in the Socorro Consolidated School District for at least the next five years.

The original concept for PATHS was conceived while Martinez and Mitchusson were taking a math modeling class from Tech Professor of Mathematics and Department Chair William D. Stone.

Apparently, a classroom discussion arose, concerning parents being unable to assist their children with math homework. The two teachers took their novel idea to Stone, their academic advisor, and things progressed from there.

PATHS is designed to be a 90–minute session that takes place once a week. Parents who signed up for the initial program were taught how to tutor their children and given refreshers in the math areas that their children were learning about at that time.

Refreshments were provided, and babysitting and translation assistance were offered if needed.

Every week of the PATHS program, a small gift was raffled off (such as calculators, backpacks filled with school supplies, or baskets with school or office supplies); and, at the end of the ten–week program, two complete computer systems were raffled off to eligible high school and middle school parents.

Throughout the program, Martinez and Mitchusson had parents take pre- and post-math tests. Test results showed a marked improvement in the math skills of participating parents.

Surveys were also provided to parents and their children. All of the attending parents reported how helpful the program was and offered up several good suggestions on improving it.

Of the many suggestions offered up by the parents, most wanted the program to continue after the ten–week period. Others suggested offering something similar for other subjects. One student survey comment gave the idea to have the parents and their children attend tutoring sessions together.

The majority of the parent’s children reported that their parents helped them with homework and, in turn, that the program helped improve their math learning experience.

Plans call for PATHS to continue in the Socorro schools for at least the next five years under the Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Program (GEAR UP).

With funding provided by the U.S. Department of Education, GEAR UP is a discretionary grant program that is designed to help students attending public schools in low-income areas become better prepared for postsecondary education. The federal grant for Socorro schools follows a cohort from 7th grade through 12th grade. The students who are receiving the benefits of GEAR UP and PATHS were 7th graders last school year.

During their graduate studies, Martinez and Mitchusson were told that New Mexico Tech at one time offered a type of remedial math course through the Tech Community College. Both teachers explained that they would consider offering their program through the Community College if the local middle and high schools were no longer able to offer PATHS. However, they said they would prefer that the program remain in the public school system.

PATHS has been a great success so far the two math teachers said and related they are hoping for a greater turnout and an earlier start this fall. They also hope that more middle and high schools throughout the state — even throughout the country — will start to offer similar programs.

Martinez and Mitchusson met in their very first MST class, and ended up taking several classes together. When asked if the teachers enjoyed working with one another, the response was "Oh, yeah," in unison.

Martinez's feelings about New Mexico Tech's MST program was summed up with "Loved it!" When asked about the best aspects of the program Mitchusson replied with "It's hard to pick one."

Mitchusson praised the Survey of Physics class which she took, along with Assistant Professor of Technical Communication Julie Ford's Technical Communication class. Both ladies stated that "Dr. Stone's math classes were very helpful." They also extolled their advisor, explaining that "He (Stone) was always available."