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Denver schools program to boost math scores successful, expanding

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DENVER -- Peter Carlisle guides students at Green Valley Elementary in their daily lesson. But Carlisle isn’t their teacher. He’s a Denver math Fellow - a tutor who helps small groups of students get ahead in math.

“Even by the time they get to fourth grade they’re often two or three grade levels behind where they should be in math,” Carlisle said.

Fellows like him work with small groups of three to four students to give them specialized attention.

“Mr. Carlisle if we don’t understand it, he explains it in a different way and if we still don’t understand it he helps us,” said fourth grader Shanaz Mohammad.

The program is currently in seven DPS schools but is expanding to more than 40. And the numbers show it’s working.

“Green Valley Elementary was in the highest in the state for growth in math last year,” said program director Tim Johnson.

These students are learning a new love for math.

“A lot of times when they come in they don’t like math,” said Carlisle. “But by the end of the year it’s their favorite subject.”

They’re excited to learn and it shows.

“I used to be really bad at multiplication, but now I’m really good,” said fourth grader Destinee Spikes.

“They made me know multiplication, division, fractions - I didn’t even have any idea about fractions!” said Mohammad.

Carlisle encourages others to look into math fellows both for the students’ sake, and their own.

“People who are looking to make a difference should do this job. It has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, for sure,” he said.

The program is currently hiring nearly 300 new tutors for its expansion. It is a full-time, paid position. Tutors must have a bachelor’s degree, but not necessarily in math. For more information, visit www.denvermathfellows.com.