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Math students trust `Pythagoras’ of Sweetwater to tutor them to success


Special to The Miami Herald
Palmetto Middle School student Gabriel Paez wanted to finish the school year with a high grade in his math class.

So, like many students over the past two decades, Gabriel turned to math tutor Armando Arroyo to help him.

“He has helped me a lot,” said Gabriel, who said he will end eighth grade with an A in math.

Gabriel is one of many students who have sought assistance in everything from geometry to calculus at Pitagoras-Arroyo Math Academy, 10384 W. Flagler. Arroyo’s tutoring acadamy has been a Sweetwater fixture for 24 years.

“I don’t like math, but I like how Arroyo teaches because he makes it fun,” said Gabriel, after getting an algebra lesson.

The Sweetwater-based tutoring academy opened its doors in 1986. Arroyo, 65, who was born in Costa Rica, has dealt with numbers all his life.

“Math is important because it changes students’ minds,” said Arroyo, who at 18 first tutored classmates and high school students in Rivas, Nicaragua.

After studying math and physics at the Universidad Nacional in Nicaragua, he later became the math department chair at Colegio Primero de Febrero, a school for children with military parents.

In the early 1980s, he immigrated to the United States. In New York and Miami, he taught at several schools, including the Little Havana Institute, an alternative education school, before opening the tutoring academy.

He names his new venture after the nickname previous students had bestowed upon him: Pitagoras, or Pythagoras, the Greek philosopher and mathematician.

Since then, he has drawn students from Coral Gables, West Miami-Dade and other parts of the county.

The academy has four tutors, including Arroyo, who teach everything from pre-Algebra to college-level calculus.

Prices range from $18 to $20 an hour, with discounted prices for tutoring for SATs and other national exams. Tutors teach three students per hourly session.

For Arroyo, there is no satisfaction like watching his students succeed.

“Our intention is that students understand math,” said Arroyo, who is known for making jokes during lessons and offering words of encouragement. “That’s why people look for us.”

The academy is tucked away in the second floor of the Biltmore Plaza. The office is filled of whiteboards with written numbers and equations along with computers, where students practice math problems.

In opening the business more than two decades ago, Arroyo has helped future doctors, actors and teachers like Sergio Sotolongo, 32.

Sotolongo started attending tutoring sessions with Arroyo when he a was student at Ruben Dario Middle.

“I was struggling early on,” recalled Sotolongo, who is a social studies teacher at Mavericks High in south Miami-Dade. “We reviewed and built from there. I passed my classes with a good grade.”

Like father like son, Sergio Sotolongo, 14, is also following his dad’s footsteps. The younger Sotolongo is now taking classes at the academy.

Sergio, who attended Rockway Middle School this year and is going on to high school, said Arroyo makes learning easy.

“It’s more of a one-on-one where he explains to you, as opposed to a teacher that is just explaining to the entire class,” Sergio said.

Arroyo is proud that his former students bring their own kids back to his academy. “Many parents come and present me their children when they are all grown up,” said Arroyo, who has five children.

The academy has changed a little over the years — tutors now also e-mail practice problems and other online work to students.

Arroyo said math is a never-ending adventure.

“The mathematician always needs to read and figure problems,” he said. “Math is a passion.”

Pitagoras-Arroyo Math Academy is located at 10384 W. Flagler. For information, call 305-227-2928.

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