A shared love of sports guided a tutor to help his student, a high school football player, to master the basics of math.
When recent high school graduate Jaylin started working with tutor Han Schiet in Jaylin’s sophomore year, it was apparent to both tutor and student that Jaylin had a lot of catching up to do in math. Although Jaylin had been attending Cluster Tutoring since kindergarten, he always struggled with the subject. Executive Director Kara Kalnitz matched the tutor-student pair just so Jaylin could receive more help in math.
Jaylin played wide receiver and sometimes safety on the football team for Christ the King Jesuit College Prep. He also ran track and played on the school’s volleyball team. So Han used football — as well as basketball — to explain math concepts.
“At first, he correlated what I do in football into math,” Jaylin said. “He’s a sports fan, so it worked.”
For instance, Han explained that he would use measurements of feet on a basketball court to illustrate the Pythagorean Theorem and demonstrate the mathematical formula for how to figure out the third side of a right triangle (a2 + b2 = c2).
“My degree is in math and computer science, so I can easily do high school math,” Han said. “At the beginning, he was having trouble with basic subtraction and negative numbers.” By the end of Jaylin’s senior year, when the two were tutoring over Zoom, Han was explaining quadratic equations with an online white board.
While Jaylin was disappointed to miss his final football season and spent only his last semester of school in person with hybrid attendance, he said his grades actually improved. “I wasn’t around a lot of distractions,” he said. ” I was more focused, doing work every day. Before coronavirus, I’d get home and do a little homework. This time I had to be serious about it. I ended up with a 3.1 GPA.”
In the fall, Jaylin will play football and run track at Millikin University in Decatur. The Millikin football coach recruited him, so he visited the campus, “and I just fell in love with the place.” He plans to study archeology at Millikin. “If I don’t make it in professional sports, I’ll try archeology. Or real estate.”
Cluster Tutoring has been a family affair for Jaylin. His uncle attended before he started, and he has a younger sister and brother in the program.
Jaylin said he felt that Cluster helped him overall. “It made me study harder. Even though I wasn’t doing all of the homework, it prepared me for tests and quizzes. Freshman year I wasn’t focused, but Han showed me ways to study and improve my test scores, including my SAT scores.” He said the materials available at Cluster provide helpful resources for many students.
Han said Jaylin definitely goofed off sometimes, but he reached out to Jaylin’s mother to get him to buckle down. “That helped,” Han said. “He was hard to motivate, so I told him to call me whenever he wanted help.”
Han plans to continue tutoring in the fall with a new student. Cluster is not his first tutoring experience; he tutored some 30 years ago in a program with kids from Cabrini-Green.
“Jaylin has matured — that’s for sure,” Han said. “What he’s learned as being part of football he’s been able to use in real life.”