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Local math tutor helps kids who love math and hate math

Dave Pitcher tutors kids in math. Contact him at mrpmathhelp@gmail.com. - Seraine Page
Dave Pitcher tutors kids in math. Contact him at mrpmathhelp@gmail.com.
— image credit: Seraine Page

A lot of people don’t like math, which is something Dave Pitcher can understand.

Pitcher, the owner of Mr. Pitcher’s Math Help, travels around Kitsap County to help students improve their math skills.

“This is what I do full-time,” said the National Board Certified Math Teacher. “Students can gain so much confidence if they’re working one-on-one with a teacher.”

Pitcher taught math for 30 years which gives him a sense of how much patience is needed during the learning process. Students range from first grade all the way through college.

At the moment, Pitcher sees about nine clients daily, and he is working with 27 clients this summer. Some students he worked with during the prior year stay with him through summer to keep up on their skills, he said. Many of his clients are Central Kitsap School District students.

“The math material keeps being loaded onto. There’s more and more every year,” he said. “The kids are sitting in the class. They’re confused by the book or teacher. They don’t want to draw attention to themselves by asking a question.”

Some kids just need additional help that can’t be found in the classroom. Others need a little motivational push. Usually within three to four sessions, students start making improvements, Pitcher said.

Amy Campbell received Pitcher’s information from a guidance counselor at her son’s school. He originally struggled with geometry, then, later on, algebra, and Campbell wanted to bring in an extra resource to help her son.

She immediately could sense the passion Pitcher had for mathematics and his enthusiasm when her child got an answer correct during a tutoring session.

“The biggest thing for teachers is they have to have a passion to teach and a connection with the kid,” said Campbell. “If you don’t have those two things, you shouldn’t be a teacher. He gets excited when kids understand.”

Campbell watched her son get frustrated with math because his past teachers gave one-word answers or didn’t seem to want to truly help, leaving her son confused and unsure. She said the respect Pitcher gives the kids is one of the reasons she believes he is so successful in working with students. Mutual respect is key in the learning process, she said.

For every dollar she’s spent over the last few years for her son’s tutoring, Campbell said she thinks it is worth it. Tutoring is factored into her budget, and because she wants her son to not only pass math, but understand it.

“Just knowing that I know he knows algebra and geometry and he can figure it out later in life is worth all the money I’ve spent,” she said. “Not only does he help him with math, he’ll ask if he has questions with other subjects.”

Pitcher’s passion is contagious and is obvious in her son’s own victories when it comes to better understanding math, Campbell said. Not only has he gotten better in the subject, but his confidence and work ethic both improved as well, she said.

For others, math is more of an enjoyable challenge rather than something to be despised.

Such is the case with Bonnie Adams’ two children. Her children love math so much that they want to spend time improving upon their skills with a tutor.

Adams’ son and daughter both use Pitcher as an extra challenge to excel in mathematics.

“Neither one of them struggle with math. They just wanted to get better at math. That’s the cool thing,” she said. “I’m a believer because my kids have done even better. You can tell he loves math. It kinda blows my mind there are people out there who love math.”

Pitcher said the largest issue he sees with students and their mental block with math is that the subject content is something that is slightly unfamiliar and is seen as a “set of rules” that must be followed.

“Basically I show people the reason math is confusing is not because it’s hard, but because they don’t understand it yet,” he said. “If you understand math, suddenly you feel smarter.”

To ease the heavy schedules of parents, Pitcher is more than willing to travel to places like libraries or the gym to help students out. He also will meet in a student’s home if the parent is comfortable with it, he said. He allows parents to sit in on tutoring sessions, which he generally finds to be a positive experience because students feel proud when they get the right answers in front of their parents.

Additionally, Pitcher also helps students via text message. If a student is having trouble with a particular homework problem, Pitcher is open to the student sending a text photo of the problem. In turn, he will work out a similar problem and try to coach the student by showing them how to do one similar. In today’s technologically advanced world, Pitcher notices that students appreciate the gesture, even if it isn’t during normal tutoring hours.

“I love math, and I love helping kids even more,” said Pitcher. “It is amazing to see kids change before your eyes.”

Once such student was Leah Adair who was an honors student, yet she was failing math. Adair recently graduated from the Central Kitsap School District system, but almost didn’t.

According to Leah’s mom, Kim Adair, the math curriculum changed several times, leaving students confused as to which concepts were important to master.

“She was an honor roll student. Getting an F was pretty telling of the situation,” she said.

Her daughter agreed that when she had Pitcher as a math teacher, he had to reteach the students work that should have been learned previously.

“He brought us backwards and then brought us forwards,” Adair said of Pitcher’s classroom teaching.

After finding out that Pitcher had started private tutoring, the worried mom jumped on the chance to get her daughter personalized help. Her daughter’s teacher had told her that there were too many students in class for one-on-one help to be offered. That’s where Pitcher took over, the Adairs said.

“I was all over getting her a tutor. I was so excited to have him work with her,” Kim Adair said.

After working with her most of her junior year, Pitcher helped Adair raise her failing grades up to a B, allowing her to graduate on time.

This fall, Adair will start classes at Olympic College, focusing on business. Her major will be organizational leadership and resource management, which consists of several math courses.

“I’m going to a business major. Math is definitely a key point in that,” she said.

Despite her former worries about math, Adair has the confidence to move forward in coursework and is actually excited about the math courses she will take because of her experience with Pitcher.

“He showed me that there’s business math and other forms that you can use out in the world….He showed me that it’s not just the calculations,” she said. “I’m awful at math and by the time I was through with him, I actually got a really great grasp on it.”

Pitcher generally hosts one-hour tutoring sessions that includes reviewing concepts, doing homework and previewing upcoming chapters if a student is caught up. Along with improving grades, Pitcher helps in prepping students for big tests like the ACT, SAT or Compass. After a session, Pitcher will review with the parents what was worked on if they did not sit in on a session.

“Students can gain so much confidence if they’re working one-on-one with a tutor,” said Pitcher, who has been in the tutoring business for almost two years. “I see such an immediate benefit.”

Campbell couldn’t agree more. In fact, she posts on her Facebook page about Pitcher’s services so all her friends with students know that help is available.

“Mr. Pitcher, I’ve gotta say, I absolutely love him,” said Campbell.  “I would recommend him to anybody. I think math and science are probably the hardest two subjects out there for kids … I wish there were more people out there like him.”

 

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