Most kids doing their math homework wish they could have their teachers present to walk them through difficult problems. 

Though it might not be their own teachers, kids in Kern County have the next best thing: tutors and other students showing them how to do math problems on live television.

The Kern County Superintendent of Schools' award-winning “Do the Math” live TV broadcast and free tutoring program returned for its 18th season on Tuesday.

For the past 17 years, the program has helped students strengthen their skills when it comes to addition/subtraction, fractions, geometry and other math problems as credentialed teachers and students help them work out the problems on television.

"When kids are watching the program, they can see kids and how they do the problems instead of just adults only," said Michael Cushine, host and executive producer of "Do the Math."

Free, phone-in tutoring is available to students from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays by calling 661-636-4357 or toll free at 866-636-6284. From 4 to 5 p.m., Cushine and several math tutors take problems from callers and work them out live on air.

Math problems from any age can be seen on the show, but most callers are in fourth through eighth grade, Cushine said.

The show also visits schools in the county on Tuesdays, and tutors do math problems with students who are in after school activities. Once a month on Tuesdays there is also a Science for Kern segment, where kids will complete science challenges.

Math in the Real World airs every Wednesday and shows how professionals in local businesses and organizations apply math concepts in their every day jobs.

New this season will be Robot Rumble, which will take place on five Tuesdays throughout the season — Sept. 17, Oct. 15, Jan. 21, Feb. 18 and March 17. Robot Rumble is a live showcase of middle school robotics teams competing against each other as they climb the ladder to culminate in the crowning of the "Do the Math" Rumble Champion.

"When we started, there was no STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). It was just let’s get a service together in case if kids need math homework help," Cushine said. "Now STEM is the whole focus."

During Tuesday's season premiere, Cushine and math tutor Marylou Long were joined by Stockdale Elementary School fifth grader Katelyn Kaff, who was showing viewers how to work with decimals. 

One of the math problems on air was to express twenty-four thousandths as a decimal number. Stumped on how to do it? Kaff knew exactly what to do and was able to explain the answer — 0.024 — in just seconds. 

It was her first time on the show, and though she is a math whiz herself who has never had to call in, she said her friends have found the show helpful.

What she was most excited about was that she "got to be on TV and use a Smart Board." She was also looking forward to helping kids, of course.

The show also featured Kern County Superintendent of Schools Mary Barlow and a visit to Berkshire Elementary School.

Math is a tricky subject for kids everywhere, but Cushine is trying to do his part to make students feel more confident.

"Some kids have this thing where they say, ‘My parents tell me I’m not good at math because they weren’t good at math.’ Most parents don’t say, 'I’m not good at reading, so you’re not going to be good at reading,'" he said. "A lot of it is just do you practice it enough? When a kid takes up an instrument or sport, they give it their all, they want to be good at it so they practice it a lot. You have to do the same thing with math."

“Do the Math” can be seen in Bakersfield on Spectrum Cable channel 15, in California City, Boron and Mojave on channel 19 and in Rosamond on channel 180 and online at www.dothemathonline.net. The season will run through March 25, 2020.

Ema Sasic can be reached at 661-395-7392. Follow her on Twitter: @ema_sasic.

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