The Ready to Learn Program

The Center for Urban Education’s Ready to Learn program (RTL) is research-practice partnership that supports personalized learning through tutoring and mentoring which connects University of Pittsburgh undergraduate students with students in the Pittsburgh Public Schools. RTL's goal is to provide grade school students with experiences to support their academic improvement in mathematics and social skill development. Since the program’s inception in 2014, RTL has served 60 middle and high school students, and supported 30 Pitt mentors.

The overarching goal of the program is to develop scalable learning personalization by integrating the distinctive and complementary strengths of human-mediated personalization, on one hand, and computer-mediated personalization, on the other. Computer-mediated personalization has distinct benefits for adapting to the cognitive/content conditions whereas human-mediated personalization has distinct benefits for adapting to the social-motivational conditions.  The Mathia web-based software program offered by Carnegie Learning will serve as the tool providing computer-mediated personalization.


Program Objectives


The Ready to Learn program is more than just math tutoring.  Students who participate in the program will also benefit from the development of a meaningful relationship with their mentor, interdisciplinary academic enrichment blending computer science and civics with math concepts through real-world, project-based learning activities.  Moreover, students who participate will gain confidence in their ability to approach and solve math problems, as well as increase their math literacy and ability to apply math concepts to solve real-world problems. Students will also have the opportunity to work together in teams and strengthen relationships with peers, as they work together on projects.


Pitt Mentors

To effectively tutor and mentor UPrep students, the Pitt mentors must complete seminar-training sessions to build five program competencies: 1) urban context, 2) teaching, tutoring and pedagogy (e.g., mathematics, English, financial literacy, life skills, and study skills), 3) mentoring and social support, 4) Research (action research), and 5) arts and technology.

Upon completion of this program, undergraduate mentors will be able to:

  • Demonstrate foundational knowledge of urban contexts.
  • Critically examine the social and cultural contexts of urban education, including race and socio-economic class.
  • Demonstrate knowledge and display behaviors of the professional aspects of tutoring and mentoring students including dispositions, reflective practice, and classroom observation.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of how to provide pedagogical supports in urban schools with and culturally diverse students.


Why Focus on Math

High levels of mathematical competence are an increasingly central requirement for high-paying careers in the 21st century (Rose & Betts, 2004). Racial and economic learning gaps are preventing millions of American students from realizing their potential, and this perpetuates inequalities of income and opportunity across generations (Autor, 2014). While these are longstanding problems, researchers have struggled to identify effective solutions.  Fortunately, advances in computer-aided learning may provide a method of substantially lowering the cost of personalized tutoring, while maintaining the magnitude of the learning gains. Research on AI-driven computer-based tutoring has shown that computer tutors can substantially accelerate student learning, especially in mathematics (Koedinger et al, 1997). In one recent large-scale randomized control trial, this technology was shown to double the rate of math learning (Pane et al., 2014).  However, implementation matters, which is why Ready To Learn blends human-mediated and computer-mediated tutoring along with mentorship to offer students with access to interdisciplinary math enrichment from near peer Pitt students. Although building math literacy is the main aim of the current program, students engage with other content areas, such as civics, English and computer science.

For more information on the Ready to Learn program, contact Cassandra Brentley.


Interested in being a mentor? Apply here!




Autor, D. (2014).  Skills, education, and the rise of earnings inequality among the “other 99 percent.” Science, 344(6186), 843-851.

Guryan, J., Christenson, S., Claessens, A., Engel, M., Lai, I., Ludwig, J., & Turner, M. C. (2017). The effect of mentoring on school attendance and academic outcomes: A randomized evaluation of the Check & Connect Program. Institute for Policy Research Working Paper Series, WP-16-18. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University. Retrieved from http://www.ipr.

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