Maybe you’re not sure about hiring a math tutor, especially in light of the cost. However, there are numerous benefits that can more than make up for the expense.
So, why should you hire a math tutor? Hiring a math tutor will improve your child’s grades. A math tutor will also save your child time on homework. Finally, a math tutor will build your child’s confidence and motivation in math.
There are other benefits to hiring a math tutor, such as catching up to peers or preparing to move into more challenging classes.
In this article, we’ll talk about the benefits of hiring a math tutor and what you should look for when choosing the best one for you.
Let’s get started.
What Is A Math Tutor?
As any mathematician will tell you, it is always a good idea to start off a discussion with definitions!
A math tutor works one-on-one with a student to learn, review, and apply math definitions, concepts, and problems. A math tutor can teach new material if:
- the student missed the material in school (due to illness or family emergencies)
- the student wants to get a preview of math concepts to improve class performance (for example, before certain high school math classes like algebra, geometry, or calculus)
- the student wishes to learn advanced topics outside of what the school offers
A math tutor can also review material with a student to solidify concepts, connect related ideas, and gain confidence through practice problems.
In addition, a math tutor can help to identify areas of weakness and work on improving those areas.
Finally, a math tutor can act as a coach and mentor, encouraging a student to learn, build confidence, and excel in math.
According to AmeriCorps, one tutoring program with community support in Minnesota resulted in statistically significant positive effects. Translation: math tutoring works!
Benefits Of Hiring A Math Tutor
There are several benefits when you hire a math tutor. First of all, you get personalized instruction for your child. You also save time and energy for yourself and your child.
In addition, a math tutor can help with both basic and advanced topics in high school math courses.
Finally, a math tutor can help to prepare for transitions, including a family move to another city/state (and a new school) or admissions tests for high school, college, or graduate/professional school.
Get Personalized Instruction
One of the best parts about hiring a math tutor is that your child will receive personalized instruction. In a classroom, a teacher has to aim for a pace of presentation that most students can follow.
This means that your child may be overwhelmed if the pace is too fast, or bored if the pace is too slow. This is not a problem with a math tutor, who can move at exactly the pace your child needs!
In a classroom, a teacher has very little one-on-one time with each student. There is not much opportunity for a student to ask a question before the teacher moves on to the next lesson.
However, a math tutor can answer any specific questions that your child has about the material he is learning. A math tutor can review this material as needed until your child understands the concepts.
Another benefit of personalized instruction is that your math tutor can identify areas of weakness in your child’s math background. Once these areas are identified, the tutor and student can work to improve in these areas.
Often, much of the frustration in trying to understand new concepts in math stems from an incomplete background in foundational topics (such as basic algebra or geometry). Without knowing earlier concepts, a student will not be comfortable with more advanced ideas!
Save Time & Energy
Maybe your child spends a lot of time on math homework every night. You might even spend time trying to help with homework, but to no avail. In that case, a math tutor can help to save you and your child a lot of time and energy!
Instead of struggling with a concept, a student will receive a clear explanation from a math tutor. The student can then practice the concept until he has mastered the idea.
Having expert help in any field can save you time, and math is no exception! With the time you save with a math tutor, your child can spend time on other things, such as:
- studying for other challenging classes
- playing sports
- joining clubs
- working at an after-school job
- spending more time with your family
This will lead to a more balanced academic and social life for a student.
Help With Transitions (High School, College, & Beyond)
A math tutor can also help your child with transitions, including:
- moving to a new school
- skipping a grade
- taking summer classes
- staying sharp during breaks from school
When your child moves to a new school (especially mid-year) the transition can be difficult. Saying goodbye to old friends, making new friends, and getting familiar with the new school, teachers, and expectations can be overwhelming.
During this time of transition, a math tutor can help to keep your child focused. It is also worth considering that the math class at the new school may be a few weeks ahead of the old school (or cover topics in a different order).
A math tutor can help your child to bridge the gap and catch up, so he doesn’t get lost in the shuffle when changing schools.
Students who are taking classes in summer school or skipping a grade may also need extra help to catch up to grade level. Sometimes, this means just a couple hours of extra practice for a few weeks. In other cases, it might mean daily practice for a period of months.
In any case, remember that it is important for a student to spend time practicing on his own, aside from the time spent with a tutor!
If your child is home schooled, then there may come a point when you are not capable of teaching more advanced math concepts (there’s nothing wrong with that!). This is a transition point where you will need outside help to continue your child’s math education.
For example, a math tutor who specializes in calculus can help to teach the material to your child. He can also answer any questions that your child is unable to solve by himself.
Finally, we all know that for muscle strength, “if you don’t use it, you lose it”. This is true for math ability as well. During a couple of weeks over winter break (or a couple of months over summer break) a student can forget or become rusty on many concepts.
A math tutor will help to refresh your child’s memory and keep old skills sharp. A math tutor can also present some of the early material for the next grade level, in order to prepare your child and ensure a strong start to the next school year.
Work On Basic Or Advanced Math
A math tutor can help with basic or advanced math topics – whether your child is learning a concept for the first time or reviewing an old one.
Learning and reviewing math concepts can help your child to catch up with peers. This is especially true if your child missed some time in school due to an illness or other family emergency.
Having a solid foundation in the basics of mathematics will make it easier for your child to succeed in later classes. For example, a solid ability in arithmetic will make algebra easier. Likewise, being comfortable with algebra will make calculus much easier.
Learning math concepts well translates to other subjects, including advanced math and science high school classes, such as:
- AP Calculus
- AP Statistics
- AP Physics
- AP Chemistry
Remember that math builds on previous knowledge, much like the top layer of a pyramid rests on the layer below, which rests on the layer below, and so on and so forth, down to the foundation.
(The Louvre is another pyramid from a more modern era).
One other benefit of having a math tutor is that your child has a “trusted advisor” for math questions. If there is a question that seems simple, your child may be embarrassed to ask his teacher in class, but will probably feel comfortable asking a tutor in a one-on-one session.
A math tutor can also help with practice for exams, such as:
- high school entrance exams (for example, the SSAT)
- standardized college admissions exams (for example, the ACT, SAT, and SAT Math subject tests)
- state specific tests (for example, the MCAS in Massachusetts)
- AP Exams
- IB exams
- math competitions (such as the AMC Math Test and Math Olympiad Exams)
Many of these tests offer free practice problems online. There are usually books available for these tests as well, which contain a study guide and full-length practice tests.
Your child will likely get more out of practice for these exams by looking over missed questions and taking notes. A math tutor can help even further by answering tricky questions, explaining difficult problems in detail, and pointing out shortcuts to save time on timed tests.
If necessary, a math tutor can also help your child with a more comprehensive review of material that is a little rusty. In some cases, a student has not seen the material on a test like the SAT since one or two years before!
What Should I Look For In A Math Tutor?
Before you hire a math tutor, you should make sure he is qualified, as you would with any professional for hire.
You should look closely at education, experience, personality, and any references available.
In some cases, a local high school student may be able to tutor your child in basic math, such as arithmetic. A high school student may even be able to tutor your child in some algebra concepts.
This can be beneficial, since a student who recently completed the material will have it fresh in his mind. He will also remember where he struggled, and be able to relate to your child if they are at a similar age.
However, for more advanced topics (such as calculus or statistics) you will want to make sure that the tutor knows the material well enough to teach it.
I would suggest that you look for a minimum of a Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematics. A degree in a related field (such as Physics) would also indicate that the tutor has a strong knowledge of mathematics.
A Master’s Degree in Mathematics or Education would be a bonus when interviewing candidates to tutor your child. A Ph.D would be great too, but it is not really necessary for most high school topics (such as algebra, geometry, calculus, probability, statistics, etc.).
Experience matters even more than education, since a big part of tutoring is knowing how to present material well, identify weaknesses, and build a student’s confidence with targeted practice.
These abilities only develop with time, so make sure that you hire an experienced tutor for your child!
You should also ask to make sure that a potential tutor has experience in tutoring students at your child’s age and grade level.
Finally, it is always a good idea to ask for references, to ensure that a tutor is experienced and has done good work in the past.
References, Recommendations, & Testimonials
Many tutors have a website and/or social media profile (LinkedIn, etc.), where they will list testimonials from past students. They may also have recommendations from teachers or parents who endorse their work.
Of course, some students and parents don’t want to be contacted, even if a tutor did good work for them. In this case, you can still check references from previous employers.
Some tutors are outgoing, while others are reserved. Depending on your child’s own personality, you will want to hire someone who is a good match.
Think about the people that your child gets along with best, and look for a tutor who has the personality traits of those people.
A student who is shy may need an outgoing, personable tutor to draw him out of his shell, or he may relate better to a calm and quiet tutor.
On the other hand, some students may need a serious, no-nonsense tutor to help them get down to the business of hitting the books, learning math concepts, and doing the practice that is necessary to do well!
Should I Choose Online Or In-Person Math Tutoring?
There are benefits to both online and in-person math tutoring approaches. You will have to weigh both of these options to decide which one is best for your own situation.
Here are some things to consider.
The Case For Online Math Tutoring
If you use an online math tutor, you can hire any math tutor in the world! This means that you have a larger pool of tutor candidates to choose from.
You can also have tutoring sessions during bad weather, either at your location or your tutor’s location.
In addition, you don’t need to rush around, driving your child back and forth to and from a tutor’s house or a tutoring center. You also won’t need to reschedule sessions at the last minute if you are at work late, your car breaks down, or whatever else happens.
Finally, technology such as screen sharing (available on Skype or Zoom!) and tablets make it easy for your child to connect with a tutor and work through problems. Online payment methods (such as PayPal, Wise, Venmo, Zelle, etc.) make it easy to pay a math tutor without paper checks.
The Case For In-Person Math Tutoring
If you opt for in-person math tutoring, you will never need to worry about internet outages or poor service disrupting your sessions.
It is also easier for an in-person tutor to explain some concepts face-to-face. Geometry and certain calculus topics come to mind.
In addition, having a tutor in the room with your child means that there is no place for distractions. (With online tutoring, there is a temptation for your teenager to check YouTube, social media, or other distractions in another tab while on a tutoring call!)
Finally, it is easier to pay an in-person tutor by cash or check, which you can’t do with an online tutor.
Remember that if you are using VA educational assistance, you may qualify for help to pay for a math tutor.
There are many benefits to hiring a math tutor, and there are many factors to consider before you hire one. Make sure that you find someone who is a good match for your child, has experience as a tutor, and knows the material well.
I hope this article gave you a good starting point on what to look for in a math tutor.
To find a math tutor, check out the Local Tutors page here.
You might also be interested in learning more about math circles.
You can learn about dyscalculia (and some ways to work with it) here.
You can learn more about SAT Math scoring (and what makes a good score) here.
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