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Math Education in the Era of COVID-19


As we all navigate our way through the COVID-19 pandemic and into a new normal, many thoughts are going through our heads: can I bring my COVID puppy to work? Where the heck did I put my vaccination card? What’s math going to be like this fall? More fun I hope!

With schools (and tutoring centers) fully reopening for in-person learning, parents, students, and instructors alike are wondering what that is going to look like. Virtual learning has brought about ingenuity and innovation amongst teachers, tutors, and administrators, but it is not a system without its drawbacks.

Obstacles surrounding getting one-on-one help from a teacher, access to technology, and studying with classmates have pervaded the virtual learning environment. And while a (hopefully) once-in-a-century pandemic has taught me to speculate cautiously, a frequent scenario is already playing out in my tutoring practice: parents and students attempting to close the resulting content gap. 

The Content Gap

Whether a student has been struggling with online learning, or their class has simply not covered as much material online as they would have in-person, it’s important to recognize that many (if not most) students this year will be experiencing a content gap.

Interestingly enough, school boards and individual teachers actually account for somewhat of a content gap already; educators refer to it as the summer slide. A loss of “some of the achievement gains they [sic. students] made during the previous school year,”] curriculum already accounts for summer slide (source). For example, a Pre-calculus class will likely begin the school year with concepts from Algebra 2. While the summer slide and resulting fall backtracking is not ideal, we can definitely apply this concept to our current predicament: the pandemic-induced content gap. 

There are many approaches and techniques that can help close the content gap and set students up for success in their next math class:

  1. Summer bridge tutoring. Since the content gap between math classes is likely wider than pre-COVID, summer bridge courses (e.g. Algebra to Geometry, Geometry to Algebra 2, etc.) can really help mitigate that. Many students find it helpful to cover the first chapter or two from the textbook they will be using in the fall. This helps prepare them for the school year, and also provides an opportunity to identify holes in content knowledge and have a specific review instead of one that is broad and all-encompassing.
  2. Look at the course syllabus and backtrack accordingly. A student’s syllabus is a great metric for the pace of the class and the extent to which it is accounting for content gaps. Some classes may review more of the previous year’s material than usual, and others may not. Lessons can be customized to incorporate as much review outside of class as each student needs.
  1. Make use of the virtual learning tools adopted during distance learning. Returning to in-person tutoring does not mean that we have to completely return to the status quo. Even as the educational world starts to return to normal, we can continue utilizing any aspects of virtual learning that worked well for individual students. While many students benefit greatly from one-on-one, in-person learning, online tools such as Conceptboard and open-source e-textbooks can be really helpful as well. These resources often help with note-taking, and make lessons more intuitive and interactive for students.

If you or your student is concerned about their upcoming math class, one of our math experts can tailor a tutoring plan to fit their needs and help them start the school year strong. Give us a call to discuss your unique situation.


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