Over the past two years, the already fragile U.S. education system has faced one of the, if not the, biggest threat to academic success with the Covid-19 pandemic. Since the Spring of 2020, when public spaces began to shut down, citizens were advised to stay indoors and schools went virtual, there was a shift in how educators and children approached learning. Due to many factors related to the global emergency and its effect on education, there has been a notable decrease in academic performance across the board. Now that schools have reopened and teachers assess the students who have been learning in a virtual environment, it is becoming more and more evident that many have fallen behind. As professionals and parents seek solutions to what is becoming a longstanding problem, one traditional approach remains as effective as ever and that is tutoring.
Tutoring: What is Old is New Again
Sometimes, complex problems require simple solutions. This is one formula Adrian Cox-Settles knows all too well. She is the owner and CEO of Math Does Matter, LLC, also known as Diverse Interactive Learning, a pre-K to college level tutoring service that offers everything from math help to SAT prep. Cox-Settles is a math educator, specialist, consultant, and has been teaching, homeschooling, and tutoring for over 20 years. She is an advocate for individualized coaching to improve educational outcomes and has been working passionately to help students of all ages achieve success.
A Muslim convert and avid homeschooler, she grew up in the housing projects of Baltimore City, Maryland. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biology specializing in Pre-Med from Morgan State University and attended their graduate school for a master’s in mathematics education. Her extensive career which spans over two decades has taken her from teaching and tutoring to leading mathematics departments in public, private, charter, and community college settings, and in both Maryland and Pennsylvania. She also has a keen interest in helping marginalized children from low-income families. When she is not using her skills to boost her tutees’ academic performance, she is helping her son as his teacher and virtual coach. Cox-Settles currently resides in Lehigh Valley, Penn., with her family.
Finding the Missing Link Through Tutoring
We interviewed Ms. Cox-Settles to get her insight on how tutoring can help parents and children overcome even the biggest obstacles in their educational career. Here is what she had to say:
Q: How do you think tutoring can aid in improving and/or getting students caught up in their academic performance?
A: Tutoring is the missing piece to improving and getting students caught up on their academics. I know this because I have tutored hundreds of clients from preschool ages all the way up to adults. Each time, there was a missing piece of information that hinders the client’s ability to effectively go on to the next level. Whether the client needed remediation, maintenance, or enrichment, there was something missing. I am extremely blessed that I was able to positively affect the lives of so many people doing the thing that I love best, (which is) Math.
Q: In your experience, what subjects are most difficult for children to grasp and how do you approach the issue?
A: Speaking of math! Math has been the most challenging subject that most people, including children, have difficulty grasping. Math is difficult for most people because the teacher that he/she is learning from has not found the bridge needed to propel the digestible information across, meaning, there is a disconnect. Some of the disconnects comes from:
- The student’s individual learning style is not being utilized.
- There could be a cultural disconnect.
- There may be personal tension between the teacher and student.
- The student has learning gaps that need to be addressed.
- The student feels unsafe emotionally because of a negative learning environment.
- The teacher is focused on teaching rather than facilitating the learning process for students.
The first steps to resolve the interruptions in student achievement is identifying that missing piece and coming up with an effective plan to address it.
Q: How did your initiatives Math Does Matter, LLC and Diverse Interactive Learning begin?
In 2018, I decided to start my online tutoring business, Math Does Matter, LLC, because I moved from Maryland to Pennsylvania, and I had several clients from Maryland that wanted to continue my tutoring services. As my clientele grew, I hired additional math tutors and from there, tutors from other general subjects like foreign languages, Islamic Studies, Quranic recitation, and more came on board. This occurred during the time that I decided that my business would be called Diverse Interactive Learning Tutoring Center.
At first, I was online and working from a location nearby and then the Covid-19 Pandemic hit us, and I went totally online for a while. Now, we are online and mobile with tutors that travel to libraries in the Lehigh Valley areas.
Q: What is your education philosophy and what has been your approach to tutoring?
Most people teach based on their learning styles and preferences, so they are happy when they receive carbon copies of themselves (in their students). However, the most effective educators are the ones that can connect with the student intrinsically. This is done by caring and respecting the information that the student already knows and asking guidance questions to push the student’s own thinking forward.
The student needs to feel important and that he/she matters! When someone approaches any situation with the attitude of “I know all and you know nothing,” automatically that person will lose their audience. The relationship between the student and the teacher is extremely important because if the student does not trust the teacher, the student has the ability to block the information. Therefore, it is not that the student cannot learn, the student has chosen not to learn from that particular teacher.
I have spent many years incorporating the humanistic strategies into my classroom and with my tutees. I received the Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award in 2014 from the National Technical Association because of my students’ successes. When I taught at Al-Rahmah School, a private Islamic school in Maryland, I entered my female Muslim high school students into a math contest. My students placed in all the top categories in the competition! The organizer was so impressed because never in the history of the competition had so many girls, Muslim at that, taken the top positions in math, so he inquired about me (and what made my teaching style distinctive).
During this time, I was incorporating learning techniques, filling in gaps, differentiating, and allowing my students to solve problems in their own unique ways. My story was published in the local Muslim Link Newspaper. It was a beautiful experience and I learned a lot. I allowed my students to be the teachers and their intrinsic motivation increased drastically. My main goal was to make them lifelong learners and not carbon copies of me.
Q: How do you measure student success rates?
A: I measure my (students’) success rates by administering individualized assessments, whether informally with verbal questions and/or via a pretest on paper or online. At the end of the session, I ask questions verbally and via posttest. I am looking for conceptual understanding, not just repeating what I said. I continue to ask questions to see if the student really understands the concepts.
Q: The Covid-19 pandemic has affected students’ academic performance across the board (for public, private, and even homeschooled students). Why do you think that is in your opinion? How can we counter this problem and get our students back on track?
A: During the Covid-19 pandemic, all schools were online. This put pressure on the entire school system because many families did not have the technology and wi-fi to keep up with demands. Students in low socioeconomic areas struggled even more because of the lack of resources with technology, special need services, access to free lunch, and basic human interaction. As a result, I had many parents contacting me because they were not able to help their child academically, whether it was because it was stressful or because they lacked the knowledge.
Parents had to step up and take accountability for where their children were academically because teachers needed an enormous amount of help. People had to work as a community – parents learned about their children’s real reading and math levels, and they were shocked. Reality kicked in during the pandemic and many people turned to the homeschooling options because they realized that the system was failing their children.
Homeschooling was the best option at the time. I was already homeschooling my youngest son, so everything stayed the same for us. Being able to homeschool gives parents the opportunities and control to incorporate what they want their children to learn. It is (still) a great choice, if you are able to do it, pay a trusted person to do it, or become a part of a homeschool program.
Q: What grade levels can benefit most from tutoring?
A: When it comes to tutoring, all grade levels can benefit. Diverse Interactive Learning offers tutoring services for children of all ages and adults in college or university level courses.
Q: What types of services are currently available through Diverse Interactive Learning? How many tutors do you have working for you?
A: We have 16 amazing tutors at Diverse Interactive Learning Online Tutoring Center. We offer an enormous amount of services for pre-K through high school, college, and even for professionals. Below is a list of our services:
- Reading Intervention
- Language Arts
- Social Studies
- Test Prep (SAT, ACT, TEAS, ISEE, and More)
- American Sign Language
- College Scholarship Searching, Essay, and Personal Statement
Q: Are there any other supplemental programs that you have developed or that you recommend?
A: To help parents, I have created the following online resources:
- YouTube Channel - Adrian’s Life Advice for homeschooling and more here: https://www.youtube.com/@adrianslifeadvice7629
- YouTube Channel - Adrian and Sons’ Math Channel here: https://www.youtube.com/@adrianandsonsmathstrategie7492
- Website with a Free Parent Resource page featuring numerous resources for every general subject, including apps, videos, assessments and more here:
- Online Store - (Books, Apparel, and more) here: https://diverseilearning.com/extraservices/
Q: Is there anything else you would like parents to know about tutoring or about Diverse Interactive Learning?
Diverse Interactive Learning Tutoring Center is more than a tutoring center, we are a learning community. I know all my clients because we communicate regularly. When the pandemic occurred, I was able to assist parents through my consultation services with how to deal with their children whether it was for traditional schooling or homeschooling. I am cc’d on all communication with my tutors, so I am always in the loop. I have great relationships with my tutors because we keep in touch and exchange ideas. If you are looking for a learning community that can assist you and your children that has an owner who cares about people and learning, Diverse Interactive Learning Center is for you!
Educating children in all required subjects is extremely difficult – if we did not already know, we certainly learned it during the pandemic. Parents do not have to do it alone. There are many resources available online and incredibly talented tutors like Adrian Cox-Settles and her Diverse Interactive Learning Center team that are ready to help families get back on track. Whether it is to prepare for one test, increase mathematics or critical thinking skills over a few sessions, to improve reading comprehension long-term, learn a foreign language, or study for the SAT, tutoring is a great option for every family. There are also online and in-person options, and parents control the number of sessions and their duration. Consider how tutoring can help you and your child meet your goals.
For more information about how tutoring can help you, your children, and your family, or to learn more about Diverse Interacting Learning’s services, contact Adrian Cox-Settles via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Wendy Díaz is a Puerto Rican Muslim writer, award-winning poet, translator, and mother of six (ages ranging from infant to teen). She is the co-founder of Hablamos Islam, a non-profit organization that produces educational resources about Islam in Spanish (hablamosislam.org). She has written, illustrated, and published over a dozen children’s books and currently lives with her family in Maryland. Follow Wendy Díaz on social media @authorwendydiaz and @hablamosislam.