Math Teachers Hold Successful Review Sessions for Students


Michael Savage thinks tentatively

Kyle Morrison

With the stress of final exams coming up, many students are trying to be as efficient as possible with their studying.  They will be studying with their friends and asking help from their teachers.  Depending on the course, some teachers may even be holding review sessions outside of school for students to ask questions and get help outside of the everyday classroom setting.  For some teachers, like math teachers Craig Levin and Anne Thomas, these study groups and review sessions are things that they do year round for every test, including final exams.

“Study groups are a good idea, because I think that, especially in college, study groups really help you be successful,” Thomas said.  “I’ve started doing them more because students have demanded them, and I love that.”  Thomas credits the idea of these review sessions to Levin, who got the idea from when he was in graduate school, where he did much of his homework and studying with his fellow peers.

Upon coming to Community High School to teach, Levin based a lot of his teaching around group work and interaction among the students, since it was so helpful for him in college.  “That’s why I moved to tables in my classroom and why I try to do as many things in a group as possible,” he said.  “I don’t think that math is the type of thing that you should learn by yourself.  I think you should learn it together.”

Oriol working hard to study for a Calculus test

Levin and Thomas have been holding these study groups primarily at Zingerman’s, but Levin occasionally holds them at Sweetwaters Coffee and Tea across the street.  Both of them particularly like the open space of the upstairs of Zingerman’s, where students can get settled and buy food or coffee if they want from downstairs.  Levin has also held the sessions in the tent of Zingerman’s occasionally.

Levin holds review sessions mostly for his Analysis classes, while Thomas holds them for her Calculus and Algebra 2 classes.  About 50% of the kids in these classes come to Zingerman’s the night of the review session to finish up their review packets, ask questions, help each other, and socialize.

“It’s astonishing how much the math sessions help.  I go to bed afterwards thinking about math and I swear I learn it in my sleep,” said senior Garrett Wood.  “It’s really helpful to get out of the classroom setting and into a much more relaxed environment where you can socialize and reinforce your knowledge of the material by helping others and getting helped.”

The true value of these sessions, Thomas said, is how the students help and teach each other the material.  “I really love the dynamics, because I’m finding that a lot of the students are helping each other,” she said.  “And I do feel like, by teaching, you get a deeper understanding, and it’s really neat.”

Michael Savage thinks tentatively

Ed Kulka, another math teacher at Community High School, also holds review sessions for students.  However, he has a different approach to them.  Occasionally, during school hours, Kulka takes his Geometry students to Starbucks Coffee Shop to review for tests.  These sessions are very similar to those of Levin’s and Thomas’, where the students work together and ask the teacher questions.  Kulka does not do this for every test, just now and then.  “Students need to learn how to review on their own and manage their own time, like they will be for college,” he said.  Kulka believes that the kids will know what they need to do, and leaves it up to them to do what they need to do in order to succeed.

Regardless of the method or the teacher, these review sessions are embraced by the students.  “My parents don’t usually let me study on week nights, so sessions at Zingerman’s are great because I can tell my mom that I’m going to meet friends to socialize at Zingerman’s and then secretly go and study.  It’s probably the highlight of my month,” said Gil Eisbruch, a senior in Thomas’ Calculus class.

However, there is always room for improvement.  Problems such as volume level may interfere with what students are able to gain from the sessions.  “All I can remember from them is lots of noise and shouting.  I just wish people would keep the noise level at a more manageable level and learning-friendly environment, in order to be more conducive to a learning environment,” said Aiko Fukuchi, another senior in Thomas’ Calculus class.

In spite of these small problems, these review sessions have been student driven since the beginning, Levin said.  When he started doing these sessions, students were eager to get out of the classroom setting and find a comfortable and less stressful place to study and review.  “I think that last year, the study sessions got to a point where they were pretty much running themselves.  The Analysis kids had gotten into the routine of doing it before every test,” he said.

As a tradition, Levin brings brownies to every review session for the students to snack on while they review.  He believes that it’s a good incentive for kids.  Whether they come for the brownies or for learning, he said, everyone learns.

It appears as though these math review sessions have developed into an enthusiastic and comfortable environment for the students.  Levin and Thomas hope that this enthusiasm continues in the coming years, and that this tradition will be passed down from class to class.