BY ADAM HEATER
In a section of the basement of Cowles Library, a special breed of people tackle two tasks that many Drake students fear: doing math and talking about math. These quantitative warriors spend hours with fellow Drake students in the Math Lab, battling with questions, calculations, equations and anything in between. As guides through arithmetic jungles, tutors gain worthwhile experiences.
“My favorite part about tutoring is the people,” said Nathan Fastje, a senior double majoring in math and math education. “I’ve worked with people who often aren’t super great with math, but they’re generally great people.”
As soldiers prepare for war and performers rehearse for shows, tutors are groomed for tutoring.
“A class is offered once every three semesters, and students must take that to become a tutor,” said Milan Sherman, director of the Math Lab. “We go through best practices in tutoring, like how to help the student understand the material and not just hand out answers to the students.”
Students also spend time shadowing a current tutor to get a real-time understanding of how tutoring works, Sherman said.
Once tutors have been indoctrinated and prepared, they fortunately receive more compensation than if a friend nagged them for help outside of the Math Lab. Tutors are paid hourly, and their pay increases the longer they work.
“I’m a senior, so I get paid roughly 10 dollars per hour, and the juniors make about a dollar less than that,” Fastje said. “Sometimes I just sit there for six hours and get payed 60 bucks to just sit there, but other times I’ll be working with five or six students and I’ll feel like maybe ten dollars wasn’t enough for that one hour, but I think it equalizes out pretty well at the end.”
The increase in pay would be one reason for tutors to continue tutoring for multiple years, and the retention rate of tutors is not something that the Math Lab is worried about.
“The biggest thing is that some of them just get a lot of activities going on and so they’ll cut back or they’ll discontinue, but I would say about 75 percent of them continue until they graduate,” Sherman said.
But with any job there are vexations and irritations, and even our numerical nomads face recurring issues.
Both Fastje and Sherman said the most recurrent problem is that students are adverse to putting in the effort to understand the problem, and they come to the tutor just to be given the answer.
Sometimes issues will fall to tutors that are much more unique and far more memorable.
“I’m an avid baker, and I like to make stuff for tutoring because the easiest way to help someone who’s stressing out is to bring comfort food,” said Fastje. “One day, I had made a whole tub of chocolate cake, and it was great, it was a great cake. This one girl in the Lab was having a really bad day and, without me noticing, ate the entire tub of cake, and five minutes later started crying about her stressed life, which is understandable. Everybody gets stressed, so it definitely stays interesting in the Math Lab.”