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Twenty-six juniors and seniors served as mathematics tutors in the Peers Educating Every Rider program at Caesar Rodney High School.

CEHD’s School Success Center pilots peer tutoring program in mathematics with Caesar Rodney High School

One of the greatest challenges teachers face is being the only instructor in the classroom. A single teacher is often responsible for facilitating a lesson, monitoring students’ progress, providing additional support to those who need it and ensuring a positive classroom environment.

To support teachers in the classroom and foster student engagement with mathematics, the University of Delaware School Success Center (SSC), housed within UD’s College of Education and Human Development, partnered with Caesar Rodney High School to offer the Peers Educating Every Rider (PEER) program. Funded by the Delaware Department of Education (DDOE) and piloted in the spring of 2024, the program trained and integrated 26 peer tutors into four mathematics classrooms at Caesar Rodney High School, supporting more than 300 students in algebra and geometry.

“We received very positive feedback from the teachers, peer tutors and the students that participated in this new program,” said SSC Director Faith Muirhead. “In addition to supporting our Delaware teachers and students in mathematics, we also want to use this program to create new pipelines for recruiting talented high school students into teacher careers.”

About the PEER program

The PEER program at Caesar Rodney High School is a math tutoring initiative designed to foster academic success and enhance student engagement in mathematics through peer-to-peer support. The innovative program grew out of the tutoring initiatives of Mu Alpha Theta, Caesar Rodney High School’s chapter of the national mathematics honor society. The program enlists qualified high school students to serve as math tutors for their classmates and provides training for both teachers and tutors.

Classroom teachers and tutors participated in tutor training and monthly education seminars to develop a shared understanding of the importance of building relationships with students, unpack the characteristics of student-centered instruction, support students in confronting misconceptions and learn how to use evidence-based practices for teaching mathematics alongside their partner teachers. Muirhead facilitated these seminars in partnership with Sarah Baldwin and Ashley Thompson, co-directors of the PEER program and mathematics teachers at Caesar Rodney High School.

The PEER tutors also met with their PEER teachers weekly to discuss upcoming lesson plans, related classroom materials and the PEER tutors’ roles within the classroom. While in the classroom, PEER tutors built relationships with students, created reference charts, reviewed notes or assisted with note-taking and helped students with difficult problems during independent work.

Faith Muirhead, director of CEHD’s School Success Center (left) with the participating PEER teachers at Caesar Rodney High School.
Faith Muirhead (left), director of CEHD’s School Success Center, with the participating PEER teachers at Caesar Rodney High School.

Success in the classroom

Students and teachers shared enthusiastic feedback with the SSC after the conclusion of the pilot. Students appreciated the accessibility and approachability of their PEER tutors, while teachers appreciated the classroom support and the growth they observed in their students.

“The PEER tutors are really easy to talk to and understand,” said one participating student. “They’ve helped me build confidence in my math skills, and I don’t feel lost in class anymore.”

“The students that leaned into the tutors and asked for help or embraced their help not only increased their understanding, but, in turn, increased their grades,” said a participating teacher. “Students were more eager to work with other students in their class or group by the end and were leading their own content-based discussions.”

Survey data also confirmed the success of the program. In March 2024, at the beginning of the pilot, 55.6% of the PEER tutors reported that their students understood their math lessons well. By mid-April, that percentage grew to 81.3%. Similarly, 83.3% of PEER teachers reported believing that the PEER tutors significantly impacted student engagement in math, and 87.6% of PEER students reported finding the presence of math tutors in the classroom to be helpful.

The PEER tutors also reported a positive experience, sharing an appreciation for collaborative learning and a sense of accomplishment.

“It’s not just about teaching; it’s about learning together,” said a PEER tutor. “The seminars at the University of Delaware have equipped us with the tools to make math more accessible and enjoyable for everyone.”

“It was enlightening to see the level of impact the PEER program had on the PEER tutors,” said Thompson. “So many discovered strengths and struggles in their own mathematical abilities and had a new window of opportunities open up in the world of tutoring. One PEER tutor in particular comes to mind with the amount of growth that they showed throughout the program. They were hesitant about participating in the program and decided to go out on a limb and make themselves vulnerable. By the end, they developed a love for teaching and a new sense of confidence in themselves.”

Next steps

With the support of their principal, Freeman Williams, Baldwin and Thompson are also working towards institutionalizing the PEER program at Caesar Rodney High School. They have proposed an elective course that will teach students to tutor and create tutor placements in mathematics classrooms during free periods. The course will be available as an elective or to students pursuing a teacher pathway.

“Mathematics can be a trying subject for many students,” said Thompson. “Including PEER tutors within the classroom can make students feel more comfortable asking questions, talking about math and it boosts their overall confidence in the classroom. PEER tutors are given the opportunity to foster a love for teaching and possibly influence a future career. And PEER teachers appreciate a helping hand and value the additional support within the classroom for their students.”

To learn more about the PEER program or initiate it in your school, contact Muirhead at muirhead@udel.edu.

Article by Jessica Henderson, Ashley Thompson, Sage Sawhney and Faith Muirhead. Photos courtesy of Caesar Rodney High School.

Header image caption: Twenty-six juniors and seniors served as mathematics tutors in the Peers Educating Every Rider program at Caesar Rodney High School.