How to Choose a Maths Tutor
Benefiting from a Maths Tutor
Sometimes the regular school classroom, for a variety of reasons, does not sufficiently improve a student’s mathematics skills and achievements. In this situation a mathematics 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 mathematics tutor into a student’s learning experience is a personal one and there are no generalisations that can be made about who should or should not be tutored. Students who are in need of mathematics 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 mathematics; 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 mathematics tutor.
There are many scenarios that could cause a student to have anxiety about mathematics. One of the symptoms of mathematics anxiety is that a student will memorise 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 “mathematics 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 mathematics.
Getting the Student On Board
The first thing to consider before getting a mathematics 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 realise 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 Parent’s Homework
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 mathematics 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 mathematics 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 mathematics work. Looking at their class work and test results will assist the mathematics 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 mathematics tutor was the right one.
Gary King (www.gkconsultants.org) was educated in England and holds an honours degree in mathematics from the University of London. He was awarded a post-graduate degree, with distinction, in mathematics education from the University of London Institute of Education, specializing in the teaching and learning of mathematics at the secondary (grades 6 – 12) level. In addition to teaching mathematics at a large inner-London Comprehensive Secondary School he was also Dean of Students and ultimately became the Head of Upper School. He was Head of the Mathematics Faculty at Columbia Preparatory School in New York City for 10 years before his appointment as the Assistant Principal of Bangkok Patana School. He has also taught mathematics at ISB and was the Director of Professional Development at the Regent’s School Bangkok. During his career Gary has tutored literally hundreds of students in mathematics and has prepared many more for standardised tests such as the SAT and the ACT. In addition to tutoring individual students he has designed SAT and ACT courses for classes of students both in New York City, in the UK and in Southeast Asia. Gary is the Founder and Director of King Academics in New York and GK Consultants in Bangkok.