In every Berkeley High School advanced math course, each student is required to tutor other students to get full credit in the class. According to Masha Albrecht, who teaches AP Calculus AB, it’s very helpful to the tutors and the tutees. “I strongly believe in tutoring,” she said.
All students can share the responsibility of helping each other. Instead of adding less helpful ways to get credit to the Advanced Math classes, the tutoring requirement was added to the curriculum over 30 years ago.
Until about a decade ago, the amount of hours students needed to tutor was much higher. Due to protests against these extended amounts of tutoring, the hours were reduced by as much as half. Since then, there have almost been no complaints about tutoring, and some students even do it for fun. “In 2022 I had a student who tutored every day in my class,” Albrecht said. Tutoring had a huge impact on him, and he went on to study math at UC Irvine. “He was an excellent tutor,” Albrecht said.
Students tutor at elementary schools, BHS bilingual classes, the College and Career Center, and more. One former tutor started Willard Math Works, a paid afterschool tutoring project for high schoolers at Willard Middle School. Students in the faster paced AP Calculus BC class can also help students in AP Calculus AB, and are required to spend the most hours tutoring.
Charlotte Kurre O’Heaney, a senior in AP Calculus BC, strongly supports the tutoring programs. “The act of helping someone else reinforces your learning by making you repeat your knowledge,” she said. She added that because students are often around the same age, they can understand each other’s thinking better.
Greta Wang, another senior in AP Calculus BC, said, “I think the tutoring requirement exists because teachers can’t single-handedly help out all the students who need it.” She agrees with most of what O’Heaney says about tutoring, though it hasn’t been as helpful for her personally. “Tutoring isn’t useful to me, but I do think and hope it’s a helpful resource for the students I tutor,” Wang added.
O’Heaney enjoys tutoring, but finds it isn’t always used how it’s designed. “People often do tutoring in the easiest way they can,” she said. She feels like sometimes people just help their friends, because it’s the simplest way to tutor. “I find it a lot easier than helping strangers,” O’ Heaney added. She doesn’t think her class would be too different without tutoring requirements, and admits that “it only really plays a role at the end of the quarter, when people start rushing to get the requirement over with.”
At one point, just having the advanced math students tutor for extra credit wasn’t enough. BHS hired seniors to come every day after school to help tutor. Every day, more and more seniors came.
“I feel like this was really useful, and the seniors really enjoyed it,” Albrecht said. “I didn’t have any type of tutoring at my high school, but it would have been fun to do.”