A Great Addition to the Team: An Interview with Katie Kirwin, Math Tutor

Katie Kirwin, a sophomore at Bates College, has been working as a tutor in the Mathematics and Statistics Workshop since the beginning of the Fall semester. As a mathematics minor, Katie had used the Mathematics & Statistics workshop for help with previous classes, and after having a positive experience at the workshop decided she also wanted to help students grasp mathematical concepts, stating “I tutored math throughout high school so coming into college I planned on continuing.” Katie applied for the position by talking directly to Grace Coulombe, the head of the the Mathematics & Statistics Workshop, and told Grace of her interest in the position. Katie was then hired at the end of her Freshman year, excited to have a job that related to her interests and class courses. Katie had a leg up in applying for the position of Math tutor “because I have taken Linear Algebra (a relatively advanced math course), and Grace always needs more tutors who know Linear”. Because of this, Katie found that the application was quite easy. “I talked to Grace and after she spoke to my mathematics professors, she hired me.”

Katie is a tutor at the Math Stats Workshop during drop in hours. During the day session, Grace, their supervisor, is present as well as 2 or 3 other tutors. During the night session however, Grace isn’t present and the workshop usually have about 3 tutors there. “Students come in with their questions or homework assignments and ask us for help. I explain processes for questions from Calc I, Calc II, Linear Algebra, and sometimes from other classes (such as economics) that relate to calculus or algebra.” Depending on the number of students present and the amount of tutors working, Katie either helps a few students at once with the same type of homework or works one-on-one with students as they have questions while working through their homework independently). Katie loves that her job “is not just to tell someone the exact steps and what to write down—I am there to help them realize that they have the tools to solve problems on their own. I love being the facilitator.” Katie works three to four hours a week.

For Katie, the best part of this job is the variety of students she meets that she expects she never would have otherwise. “I love knowing that I have helped to make their math careers a little easier. I also really appreciate the review that I get from answering questions—this usually benefits me in my current math class.” Indeed, working as a math tutor has made Katie an even stronger math student at Bates College. “It is one thing to know a subject well; it is another to know it well enough to explain it clearly to another person. When someone doesn’t understand something in the way that I’m explaining it, I have to look at the problem from a different viewpoint to explain it a completely different way. This has really improved the way I think about math.” Katie also adds that in the real world after college, things are rarely done alone. “Knowing how to communicate what you are doing is an essential skill.”

Through her job as a math tutor, Katie has learned that she “loves to help other people and that watching people figure out how to accomplish something makes me happy.” Katie believes working as a tutor is helpful for her future career due to the fact that “most all jobs require working with other people and being able to communicate ideas clearly. Besides helping me review math, this is definitely going to apply to my future life.”

With the Math and Stats new location in the library, getting math help is more accessible than ever, as is is quite central to students. “This has been a fantastic improvement and now more students than ever are coming for help! This means that more tutors are needed and the entire program is stronger.” So if you’re interested in receiving math help or possibly giving it, try visiting the Mathematics and Statistics Workshop in the basement of the Library!