Mr. Ken Does Math
Mr. Ken Does Math
Posted on 12/07/2017
Kenneth Ames Maultsby plays chess at Clyde A. Erwin Middle School on Monday, Dec. 4, 2017. By Tim Reaves
BCS Communications Department

At 90 years old, Kenneth Ames Maultsby has plenty of stories to share and no interest in slowing down.

He grew up during the Great Depression and served as a Navy electronics technician in the Pacific Ocean theater of World War II, where he witnessed an atomic bomb test at Bikini Atoll. He spent decades of his life self-employed as a civil engineer and contracted on more than 500 buildings. But it was his lifelong passion to help others that led Maultsby to tutor Buncombe County students in math. He comes to every Homework Diner at Clyde A. Erwin Middle School and wears a helpful sign around his neck that reads "Mr. Ken does math."

“It’s a very practical way to get a good night’s rest, helping someone else,” he said. “There’s nothing in my handbook of beliefs that says ‘retire.’ ‘Six days shalt thou labor.’”

Kenneth Ames Maultsby, left, poses for a photo with Erwin Middle School seventh-grader Tamika Foreman.Maultsby began tutoring with his church about 10 years ago, and former students still recognize him. They call him Mr. Ken and thank him for believing in them.

“I get so satisfied seeing these young people make good choices,” Maultsby said. “And I’ve been looking for another chance to get involved.”

Earlier this year he heard about Homework Diners at Erwin Middle School. The program, sponsored by the United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County, provides students with homework support from teachers and volunteer tutors, along with a free meal for the whole family. Maultsby signed on as a math tutor, and he’s gotten a lot of enjoyment thus far. He helps Erwin students understand angles, circumference and area of circles, factoring, proportionality, and more. He also teaches and plays his students in chess.

“It’s my favorite mental gymnastics game,” he said. “It’s like life. You make decisions. And every time anything happens on the board you need to reevaluate all your choices and make changes. What’s past is past, but you can do something about today. Spend time doing things that will pay dividends.”

“There’s nothing in my handbook of beliefs that says ‘retire,’" Maultsby said.Maultsby also keeps an open mind about new techniques. He realized that students today learn math in different ways than he did.

“It’s the same result, but they go at it with arrows and tables in contrast to my old-timey approach,” he said. “And this is both stimulating to me and gives these students a slightly different slant.”

Erwin seventh-grader Tamika Foreman said she was struggling a bit with her homework and with organization, but after working with Maultsby she’s making progress.

“It’s good to learn new things every day,” she said. “So every Monday when we meet I ask him for homework help and also about things that happened back in the day.”

“We challenge each other every now and then,” Maultsby said. “She was interested in me, growing up in the Depression and being in the Navy. And she wants to be a plastic surgeon one day, so I want to help her work on the steps to get there.”

Buncombe County Schools encourages volunteerism from our community. To find out more, click here. To find out more about Homework Diners, click here.
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