Since 2005, Boston Partners in Education has run Math Rules!, a program targeting third through fifth grade students who are struggling in math. Small groups of students are matched with an academic mentor who works with them in the classroom while math is being taught. They work under the teacher’s direction and motivate students to strengthen their math performance. Since 2007, Robert Denn has been one of those math mentors, bringing his expertise and dedication to the children of the Marshall Elementary School in Dorchester.  He feels that Math Rules! is truly all about the kids, and that his role is to encourage them to believe in their ability to solve problems. In the 2008-2009 school year Robert began working in Tracey Lavin’s fourth grade classroom, and he has been there ever since!

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Robert Denn with a student

Ms. Lavin recently shared a wonderful letter about the impact of Robert’s work in her classroom over the past three years.  It’s a fantastic example of the powerful relationships that all of our volunteers have the opportunity to create with teachers and students.

Robert has been a reliable, knowledgeable and supportive volunteer for the last few years through the program Math Rules!. He knows the content! He asks the right questions to get my students to think about the big ideas rather than helping them just get an answer to a problem. Because he has been working with the Investigations curriculum for so many years, he has seen and explored with the students over the years, a variety of strategies. This is helpful because he can support students in his group that are struggling by offering different approaches that they might not have explored otherwise.

Every Tuesday, he is there. My students get right up and go to the table they meet with him at without being told. This excites me because they see their time with him as an extension to their learning! One student particularly checks to make sure that he will be coming each Tuesday and seems excited when I tell her he will be there. During his hour with us each week, I am able to move around the classroom working with all of the other students. I am able to challenge those who need it as well as support those who are struggling. I also love having another adult in the room for the times when an idea I am trying to clarify isn’t clicking with my students.  I turn to Robert for his idea. It’s nice for the whole class to get his answer.

I love to see my students smile when math class finishes. Sometimes, the students get discouraged and it is hard to support and encourage my entire class each lesson. I know that when my students meet with Robert, they do get the support and encouragement they need. They are smiling when they leave his group and they understand the concepts! It is also helpful for me when Robert lets me know that they are still struggling with an idea or if they got it, but it was challenging. It helps me to adjust my lessons for the next day.

Tracey Lavin
Grade 4 teacher
Marshall School

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Robert Denn, Tracey Lavin and students