Doug Baldrey was attempting to break down a subtraction problem for Martin Luther King Magnet School third-grader Dominiyah Jennings.
The question: Megan gave her friend 35 of her 86 games. How many games did she have left?
“You’re going to use this big number and subtract from it your little number,” he said.
“Oh,” Dominiyah said as she feverishly erased her work and started over. “Like that?”
“Perfect! Fifty-one — you got it,” Baldrey said.
Dominiyah said she likes having a mentor to give her a little extra help.
Baldrey is part of a group of more than 40 Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory employees who participate in a weekly mentoring program at the school.
“I find it’s rewarding in coming in, working one on one with the kids,” he said.
The school has had the program since the 2003-04 school year, according to according to Chris Greco, magnet resource teacher. The mentors take the students out of class for about 45 minutes at a time for tutoring. Greco said some students just need a little boost to get them over the top.
The program started with just fourth-graders, but it expanded to third grade, as well, five or six years ago. That is about the time when students started taking yearly standardized tests in mathematics. Each mentor works with the same two children for the entire school year.
Baldrey said the company sends out a memo to try to recruit new people for the program. The engineers who participate in the weekly program have to make up their missed work time.
“That’s pretty easy with a couple hours a month,” he said.
Greco said that with the new Common Core curriculum, there is more emphasis on students solving real world problems. Under the curriculum the district is using, the strategy to solve them is to break down the problem by drawing blocks on a piece of paper that represent the various parts of the equation, according to Greco.
“Knowing when to do what operation is like a doctor knowing when to do what surgery,” he said.
Alfred Espiritu of Schenectady was helping out 9-year-old Alexander Ramirez, encouraging him to break down the problem into smaller blocks to decide if it required addition, subtraction, multiplication or division.
“You always want to know what you’re trying to solve,” he said.
Espiritu said he decided to participate in the program because he is planning to have a child soon. He also teaches martial arts on the side and enjoys mentoring youths.
“Kids at this age, they’re the most open-minded,” he said.
Baldrey said it is rewarding to see the growth of the students — both academically and physically.
“I saw one of the guys walk by, and he said ‘Are you guys still doing it’ and he was like 6-foot-1,” he said.