Homework Hotline up and ringing at New Kensington campus

Students from local school districts receiving math tutoring over the phone
Student tutors

Penn State New Kensington Homework Hotline tutors guide callers through math homework problems. 

Credit: Bill Woodard

NEW KENSINGTON, Pa. — After a successful internal pilot program in the spring, Penn State New Kensington’s Homework Hotline enters Phase II as middle and high school students from local school districts are getting help with their math studies from campus students.

The Homework Hotline is a Penn State initiative that provides free math tutoring to students in grades 6-12. Burrell, Fox Chapel, Highlands, New Kensington-Arnold and Plum were selected as the initial school districts to participate in the pilot program. Other districts — Franklin Regional, Kiski Area, Leechburg, South Butler County and Woodland Hills — will be on board by December.

“Our tutors are excited that we are continuing to add school districts to build the program,” said Colleen Smith, STEM outreach coordinator for the campus. “They look forward to the phone ringing, and really enjoy working with the student callers.”

Campus students with strong technical math skills, such as engineering, information sciences and finance majors, serve as tutors, guiding students through their homework problems by focusing on the callers' understanding of the terms and processes. The tutors work out of the same textbooks used by the school districts.

The initial focus is on math courses — general math, algebra, geometry, trigonometry, pre-calculus and calculus.  Science courses will be added as the program expands. The hotline phone number is 724-334-6007, and tutors are available from 6 to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, during the school year.

“We opened our Homework Hotline for five nights per week starting on Sept. 11,” Smith said. “Highlands was the first district partner. We're adding districts one at a time, getting the word out, collecting textbooks, and building relationships.”

The first phase of the program ran from March to May with campus students enrolled in math courses serving as tutees in the trial run. The hotline was open for two days.

The tutors work under the direction of Julie Wolfe and Jenn Motosicky, math teachers at Highlands High School, and Dave LaSota, student support specialist at the Community College of Allegheny County-Boyce. The supervisors trained the tutors, and one of them is on duty each night for support.

Penn State’s program, which also includes homework hotlines at the Berks and Schuylkill campuses, is based on the model designed by the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, Indiana. Rose-Hulman provided training and resources for the campus’ project. Founded in 1874, Rose-Hulman prepares students for careers in engineering, science and mathematics.

Penn State New Kensington is well-known for its technology programs — electro-mechanical engineering technology, biomedical engineering technology, and information sciences and technology. Since its founding in 1958, engineering has been the most popular major for incoming students at the campus. The engineering building was the first academic building constructed when the campus moved to its current Upper Burrell location in 1966.

For more information on the Penn State Homework Hotline, call 724-334-6138 or email Colleen Smith.


Bill Woodard

Alumni and Public Relations Specialist

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