Since Harvey Mudd College launched its Homework Hotline a decade ago, tutors have fulfilled a much-needed service that more than 30,000 student callers have utilized.
HMC Homework Hotline tutor Lucy Wong ’22 answered the 30,000th call on Oct. 29 at 7:45 p.m. Wong says an eighth grade student from Paramount Park Middle School, a frequent user of the service, called to get help with algebra. “She wanted me to verify the answers to her math problems. For the ones she got wrong, we went over how to do them,” says Wong, a mathematical and computational biology major who has been a Homework Hotline tutor for two semesters. “Once she fully understood all the problems, she graciously thanked me and said good-bye. She is one of the most engaged students I’ve helped during my time at Homework Hotline.”
Originally conceptualized by the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, Homework Hotline is a free, over-the-phone math and science tutoring service for students in grades 4 through 12. High-achieving Harvey Mudd students answer calls about math- and science-related questions from 6 to 9 p.m., Monday through Thursday, throughout the academic year. Tutors receive training to help them effectively communicate with callers, are equipped with books and materials from local school districts and have a dropbox link so callers can upload materials if necessary.
HMC’s Homework Hotline currently serves students from 10 school districts in the Greater Los Angeles area, with tutors averaging 3,000 calls per academic year. The majority of the calls to the hotline come from students in junior high and high school, with over 60% of callers requesting help in trigonometry, geometry or algebra.
Gabriela Gamiz, director of community engagement, who has directed the program since its inception, says the program provides a resource that is accessible from nearly anywhere.
“Homework Hotline is mutually beneficial to student callers and HMC student tutors,” Gamiz says, “Student callers have access to a free mathematics and science tutoring program, and tutors guide them to understand the concepts they are studying.”
HMC students also benefit from tutoring younger students in subjects that are the foundational blocks of their own studies in math- and science-related fields, strengthening their knowledge of basic concepts and helping them develop communication skills.
When a student calls the hotline with a question, an HMC tutor helps the student with one problem and then encourages the student to try the rest on their own. Students are welcome to call back if they need more help.
“I am very proud of the achievements of the Homework Hotline and its staff,” President Maria Klawe says. “In 2000, when I helped recruit the staff and secure funding for the program, I could not have imagined how incredibly successful it would be, bringing homework support to heavily impacted school districts and helping to seed community outreach among HMC students, faculty and staff.”
Karen Romero Sandoval, now assistant director of housing and first-year experiences at Harvey Mudd, used the service when she was a high school student seeking calculus help and found it to be a valuable tool. She remembers Homework Hotline being a unique resource for students, and her calculus teacher encouraged its use. She says she’s thrilled to see the program still going strong after 10 years.
Virginia Kelsen, the executive director of career readiness for Chaffey Joint High School District, says the district began working with Gamiz in 2016 to build a connection between the program and the schools in the district. Kelsen says the district provides materials for Homework Hotline tutors to use while assisting students and intends to continue promoting the program as a resource to its students.
“The beauty of Homework Hotline is when it is open in the afternoon, students can plan to do their homework during that time and can call someone who can help them understand the material,” Kelsen says. “It’s such a vitally important resource.”
Gamiz says she wants to continue ensuring the program is accessible for all students, especially those without internet at home. She’s looking into adding an online component to the program now that many schools are developing and implementing strategic plans for expanding student access to technology outside the classroom. But mostly, she wants Homework Hotline to continue serving area school districts and the students seeking help with math and science.