Sometimes the regular school classroom, for a variety of reasons, does not sufficiently improve a student's math skills and achievements. In this situation a math tutor can bring a new perspective to the learning experience that can make the difference between a passing and a failing grade. The decision to include a math tutor into a student's learning experience is a personal one and there are no generalizations that can be made about who should or should not be tutored. Students who are in need of math tutoring generally fall into two categories: there's the student who is able to complete all the school work, studies hard, and yet continues to have a hard time grasping the concepts and applications of math; then there's the student who is unmotivated and disheartened and who is just not doing well with any school work. Both kinds of student can benefit from the expertise of a math tutor.
There are many scenarios that could cause a student to have anxiety about math. One of the symptoms of math anxiety is that a student will memorize formulas without actually understanding how the problems are solved. If this habit of just working mechanically gets too deeply ingrained, students can find that they require extra help to get out of the "math hole" that they find themselves in and only then begin to adopt a true problem-solving approach -- one which can be useful in a variety of different situations. It is important to stress to the student that needing a tutor is not in any way a reflection of his or her intelligence. Especially with young people, the thought of being "different" or being labeled as "slow" is extremely counterproductive. Grasping the mechanics of mathematics is usually about HOW we think and not about how WELL we think. A student should consider a tutor as more of a personal trainer for an academic subject than as a punishment for doing poorly. Having a tutor can make a dramatic difference for a student who sincerely wants to confront a problem with math.
Getting the Student On Board
The first thing to consider before getting a math tutor is always to ask the student how he or she feels about the idea. Students who are receptive to the thought of working with a tutor, and who realize they need help, are much more likely to benefit from tutoring. Imposing a new teacher in a close one-on-one environment when is student is resistant to the whole idea, can simply create added pressure. Frustration over low performance in the context of the social and academic pressures of school is enough on its own to cause stress, on top of the prospect of working with yet another teacher. So it's important to help the student to understand how useful a personal tutor can be. The
After doing your research by searching online, reading your local classifieds or asking your school or people in your community for a referral, you should have a list of several good candidates to interview. Some questions you should ask yourself in advance include: Where do you prefer that the tutoring to take place? How much of a budget do you have for math tutoring throughout the year? And what does your child and your child's school consider to be the attainable goals for using a tutor.
How To Interview a Tutor
Always ask to meet the tutor in person. This way, you can address all your questions and get your answers right away. You will also be able to get a sense of what the chemistry might be between tutor and student. Here are some questions to consider asking when interviewing a prospective tutor:
What is your experience in math tutoring?
What are your qualifications?
How would you describe your teaching style?
How do you handle difficult situations especially if the student doesn't pay attention?
How long is a regular tutoring session?
Can you extend regular tutoring hours if the need arises?
What are your preferences as to where the tutoring sessions should be held?
Do you have experience working with my child's age group?
Are you open to consulting with my child's classroom teacher?
Once you have secured the services of a tutor, you should describe as clearly as you can, what you see as the goals for the student. A good tutor will ask to see some of the student's math work. Looking at their class work and test results will assist the math tutor in developing a good approach for the learning process. If the process and the chemistry are right, the student will start to find the homework getting easier and school in general less frustrating. When you see the student beginning to take pride in what he or she has learned, you will know that your decision to hire a math tutor was the right one.
About author: Gary King is the founder of King Academics which provides math tutoring in New York. Mr. King holds an honors degree in mathematics from the University of London and was awarded a post-graduate degree, with distinction, in math ed. from the University of London Institute of Education. He was Head of the Mathematics Faculty at Columbia Prep in NYC for 10 years before his appointment as Dep. Principal of Bangkok Patana School, the pre-eminent international school in Southeast Asia.