Math Motivators Tutor Spotlight: Allison Justo

Math Motivators Tutor Spotlight: Allison Justo

Allison Justo

From raising awareness about the actuarial profession to expanding networking opportunities for actuarial students and professional actuaries, The Actuarial Foundation’s Math Motivators program has had a variety of positive outcomes for the industry. But at its core, Math Motivators has one important goal: to help high school students succeed in math. And volunteer tutors like Allison Justo are doing just that, one session at a time.

Justo, a May 2018 graduate of the University of Connecticut (UConn), where she studied actuarial science and finance, volunteered to be a Math Motivators tutor almost as soon as she heard about the program from her department advisor, and has been helping high school students with SAT math and algebra ever since. “I think it’s really rewarding to be able to see the students progressing, and if there’s a topic they’re struggling with, being able to help them understand it better,” she says.

While switching gears from more advanced concepts in her own studies to lower-level math during tutoring sessions can be tough, Justo has a knack for perceiving when students are struggling and guiding them to understanding the problem at hand.

“One of the hardest things about tutoring, especially in math, is that it’s easy to memorize the steps and just get the right answer by repeating those steps,” she explains. “But connecting [the information] and actually understanding what you’re doing—sometimes you can get by without doing that. So, I try to figure out if a student is just repeating the same steps with different numbers, or if they’re actually understanding the steps that they’re going through and why those steps need to be done. Then, I make sure I get them there if they’re not at that point.”

Justo enjoys many aspects of tutoring, but seeing her students reach their “aha” moments is one of the reasons she keeps coming back. “Last semester, I was working with a girl and we spent a good amount of time going over one question,” Justo says. “I could tell she wasn’t really understanding it, but then it finally clicked and she was able to get the right answer on her own. Her whole demeanor changed; she got really excited and wrote down ‘yay!’ next to her answer when I told her it was right. It was really nice to see how excited she got overcoming the hurdle of learning that topic.”

Justo plans on continuing her tutoring sessions after she begins her actuarial career, because seeing professional actuaries from the area tutoring while working full-time has been inspiring. She also doesn’t want to give up something she enjoys and knows is making a difference for the students.

As the lead sponsor of Math Motivators, the Society of Actuaries has generously offered to match any contribution its members make to the program from April 1 through Sept. 1, 2018, up to US$62,500. That means until Sept. 1, SOA members’ gifts to the Math Motivators program will double—$25 will become $50, and $100 will become $200. This is a great way to give low-income high schools students the opportunity to improve their math skills while advancing awareness and appreciation for the actuarial profession.

Post by Kathleeen Hagan

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