Campus wide, College of Education, College of Science and Mathematics, Elementary/Early Childhood Education

CSU students tutor elementary students with Heart Math

By Kathryn Thorne | February 14, 2022
CSU student Caroline Smith with Ladson elementary student. Photo provided

Charleston Southern students are volunteering with Heart Math Tutoring in an effort to give back and provide academic assistance to students in need.

Heart Math Tutoring is an organization passionate about empowering young students to improve their math skills. Each student has unique challenges they face and the one-on-one attention provides specialized help. Since 2013, the program has grown from two to 24 school sites (19 virtual sites in 2020/21), providing individualized, volunteer-delivered math tutoring to over 4,500 elementary students to date. This program targets students nominated by schools from grades 1-5 who are below grade level in math. Heart Math then assesses the students to determine individual gaps and pairs them with a weekly tutor during the school day with targeted lessons and staff support. Their goal is to continue to help as many students as possible.

Currently, Heart Math Tutoring is in need of 50 volunteers to support 40 elementary students at Ladson Elementary in Spring 2022. 

Dr. Karen Fonkert, professor of mathematics education at CSU, said the program is well scripted and not that time-intensive with an hour here and there each week. “The volunteers don’t have to have any math background or math teaching experiences because the tutoring is set up so nicely.” She added, “The volunteer will get a folder that holds the questions they are supposed to ask and there is a set of supplies that they are given. They get out the supplies they are told to and basically do what it says to do.” 

Through this program, local members of the community have a chance to make a difference in a child’s life. The experience gives college students the chance to gain experience and learn hands-on tutoring techniques. 

CSU junior elementary education major Sarah Riddle said, “It’s definitely rewarding to see them get something and see them gain confidence in themselves.” 

Riddle is a college tutor volunteering on Mondays at Ladson Elementary. She said the opportunity is helping her develop classroom experience. She shares advice for those considering volunteering. “Be patient with students and be open-minded to the new way of learning math. Have faith that the program will work.” 

This is an incredible program that is producing real results from one-on-one tutoring. Ninety eight percent of students participating in the in-person model have met program growth goals, set with guidance from elementary math specialists at UNC Charlotte and Charlotte-Mecklen Schools. Eight-five percent of students passed one or more curriculum levels if they attended at least 15 sessions and 90% of teachers annually report increased student confidence/enthusiasm towards math. This program is making a difference in students’ lives and providing them the tools to be successful in their academic career. 

Prior math tutoring experience is not needed to be able to tutor with Heart Math. Tutoring times are Monday through Thursday from 7:45 – 8:45 a.m. or 12:40-1:40 p.m.

To find out more information on how to volunteer and join the Heart Math Tutoring, visit

Kathryn Thorne is a senior at Charleston Southern University and is an intern in the Marketing & Communication office.

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