ACCESS grad assistant offers virtual math classes for kids

Jillian Deas

ACCESS grad assistant offers virtual math classes for kids

By Aaron Marshall

With Ohio schools shut down for the year by Covid-19, ACCESS graduate assistant Jillian Deas has leapt into action offering two math classes a day for nearly a dozen children whose mothers are enrolled in the ACCESS Collaborative, an innovative program for Buckeye parents.

An Ohio-certified middle school teacher in math and science, Deas has turned to video conferencing tool Zoom to provide math classes for two age groups—kindergarten to first graders and third and fourth graders. For Deas, the idea came organically after some parents in the program expressed concern that their teaching skills might not be up to par, especially in math.

“A lot of parents are really perplexed and uncomfortable with the newer teaching models of math,” she said. “I think it's a lot easier for parents to handle helping kids on the reading stuff—it's basically read this and answer these questions about what you've read.”

Deas said learning math virtually is a real challenge, especially for her youngest students who are just beginning to grasp the most basic concepts. “At that age, math is very tactile, so it's hard to do math on the computer,” she said. “It's really difficult for them to understand this is a one block, this is a 10 block, this is a 100 block, without them having it in their hands.”

With kids isolated from each other because of necessary social distancing, Deas said the 40-50 minute sessions each day are about more than learning math. “Part of the goal is to get kiddos seeing other kiddos because the majority of the kids I'm working with are only children,” she said. “The social muscles are a little weakened right now and need extra attention.”

Traci Lewis, director of the ACCESS Collaborative, said the virtual math classroom set up by Deas is making a huge difference. “Knowing they are with a licensed and experienced teacher is a real relief for our parents,” she said. “It helps them not stress about helping their child adapt to this new way of learning.”

Deas' online schoolhouse supporting the ACCESS Collaborative is being run out of the Scholar House, an apartment building on the near East Side housing dozens of single parent-students and their children. The building serves as the focal point for the academic and social support program assisting single-parent students who are pursuing an education at The Ohio State University.

Teaching virtually is a new style of instruction for Deas, who cut her teeth the old-fashioned way as a student teacher in a Columbus middle school science classroom last year. “It does stretch your teaching because you have to choose your words more carefully,” she said. “You can't gesture to them. It also really makes you evaluate the sources and resources you are using more critically.”

With everyone hunkered down for the immediate future, Deas' sudden virtual teaching load is making for a real careful balancing act as she also tackles her own education policy coursework as well as caring for her soon-to-be three-year old son, Jahlil.

“It's a lot of juggling, but I'm making it all work,” she said. “But I definitely wouldn't recommend it to anyone.”