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Lisa Loving of The Skanner News
Published: 21 July 2011

Derry Jackson working with young college students to tutor local residents in math and computers. Left to right is Evelyn Hyman, Jackson, math coach Carlin Washington, electrician's apprentice James Steele (who came in for a brush-up session to get ready for his apprentice exam), and Will Robinson, a coach trainee.
Jerry Foster photo

Math is not only good for you, but it's fun – and a free summer tutoring program for kids aged first through fourth grade aims to unlock the doors of knowledge for as many people as are willing to step through.

Former Portland School Board member Derry Jackson's company Sankofa LLC offers math tutoring and technology training to people of all ages Mondays through Thursdays at its headquarters, 3802 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

The free one-on-one tutoring for grade-schoolers is at Reflections Coffee Shop at 446 NE Killingsworth St., Mondays through Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

"Math is a thinking exercise and when we look at the data we notice something profound: kids that are good at math are good at almost every other subject," Jackson says. "The beauty is any student can benefit from math and see benefit in all other areas because it teaches them how to think."

Sankofa is also hosting technology training in computer science, using coaches one-on-one with participants.

"Our coaches are made available to assist students interested in learning about various aspects of technology and computing, from building computers to programming, networking and desktop publications," Jackson said. This summer the company will be giving away free computers to "eligible/proven/deserving attendees."

Math tutor Evelyn Hyman, a pre-med Biology student at Concordia University, says an important part of the math program is to get rid of the fear and stress most people associate with the subject.

"When kids realize math isn't hard they have fun with it and so that's the exciting thing for me," she says.

Other coaches currently include Carlin Washington, Arjun Ratnathican and Dylan Jackson, working with adults and youths at the Sankofa office.

For the summer, Hyman is coaching the youngsters at Reflections, but she also works with women in the Passage for Higher Education program, and fellow students at Concordia.

She says most people just need a brush up, which they can do in a session or two.

"What I've seen with the people that I have had is that most of them – even if they have gaps or holes in other concepts – mostly its multiplication they have problems with," she said.

"Once you know multiplication you can move to division, but if you didn't learn multiplication you can't move to division, and if you don't know multiplication and division you cannot move to fractions -- and so that's the key," she said.

"So they're turned off by math, but once I show them little tricks and they get turned on by math, they say, 'that's not hard at all.'"

Jackson said he was moved to create a math and technology coaching program because it is a simple, yet critical way to uplift the Black community.

"Most people will tell you the smartest person in their class is usually the one that's the best mathematician," he says. "Our goal is to turn our students into valedictorians and make them mathematicians in their class, in their school, and by doing that in a profound way that makes it personal to them so they actually can be comfortable and come to love math."

Hyman says the most important thing is creating a fun and relaxing environment for her students, which is why she doesn't require homework but rather comes up with games and activities to make learning fun – and get rid of math fear for good.

"I want to give back to community and I wanted little Black kids to see there is somebody like them who loves math at school," she says. "I think it's important for parents to realize they play a very big part in how their child gets educated, and that if there are free opportunities they should do it."

Math coaching lab hours for adults and kids in fifth grade or higher are $9 per hour, with half-price scholarships available for up to 18-year-olds. The scholarships are being paid by an unnamed donor who wants to make sure young people can afford the program, Jackson says.

"Our pledge is to offer top-quality math instruction, redressing math anxieties and poor fundamentals, by partnering with bright and aspiring young people (high school and college), those strong in math and capable of being a witness to others regarding the ability to know and master mathematics," Jackson says.

For more information or to sign up call 503-583-2251, email [email protected], or go to www.sankofallc.com.

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