Tutoring Analysis – What It Means to Be a Good Math Tutor

 

Tutoring Analysis – What It Means to Be a Good Math Tutor

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The ability to tutor someone in math, and to do it well, depends largely upon three critical traits on the part of the tutor.  The first characteristic of a good tutor is a solid, as well as broad, knowledge base in the subject matter they are preparing to teach.  The second characteristic is an ability to communicate with the learner in several formats.  Finally, a good tutor has to have a firm grasp of the tutor/student relationship and the need to empathize with different types and styles of learners and be prepared to adapt their teaching methodology to each student’s unique needs.

It is obvious that in order to consider tutoring someone, a person would fee they are knowledgeable in the subject matter.  However in math, in particular, it is important to understand that a broad knowledge of problem solving techniques exists.  For instance, a tutor should be prepared to work with a student on percentages using both a ratio problem solving technique as well as a formula based approach.

Communicating with a struggling math student is often where math tutor can fail to connect with their learners.  If a tutor understands that some learners are visually oriented, while others are perhaps auditory or tactile learners, they can be prepared to either diagram a problem solving technique, “talk a student through” the strategies of problem solving, or perhaps even bring in manipulatives for a student to grasp the concept being explained.  A good tutor should not insist that the way in which s/he understands how to solve a math problem is “the only way.”

Finally, math tutors need to be empathetic to the plight of the math challenged student seeking help.  For many students, math is a lifelong struggle, and the act of seeking out tutoring help usually comes as a result of failing performance in a course, or fear of failing in the future.  This puts the student in a dependent and often defensive position.  A good tutor understands that they hold the position of power in the tutor/student relationship and does everything in their power to put the struggling student at ease, and to not demean or cause the student to feel even more uncomfortable.

By accepting the struggling math student for who they are and how they learn, a good tutor can both instruct and reassure a student.  If a tutor can acknowledge that there are multiple ways of working certain problems and support the student in their efforts, even if they are different from their own problem solving techniques, they will help the student to build confidence.  Lastly, a good math tutor understands that they are in a position to help, not hurt, and through positive communication and a broad skill set, they can effectively help their students in math.

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