News from Mathnasium of Springfield
Sep 14, 2018
"Do you know a good math tutor?" That question is one that a number of people find themselves asking at some point in their child’s educational career. The reasons are varied, but usually fall into 2 categories
- The student is doing well in math, and desires supplemental work that is designed to move them further in math or build a stronger base.
- The student is struggling in math and needs help.
Both are valid origins for looking for math help. As parents, at the end of the day, we want our kids to have opportunities in the future. Not every student is going to grow up to be a mathematician, and that's OK. If our children grow to be what they are passionate about, and are productive members of society, parents have done well. What we don't want is for our children to say "I wanted to be an engineer, doctor, biologist, etc... but I wasn't ever good at math." The academic world is also becoming more and more competitive, and as such, our kids are not just competing with local kids to get into a specific program in the future, but they may be competing with kids around the world. Our job as parents is to prepare our students.
1. School tutoring: This is usually done by a teacher at the child’s school.
- Teachers are usually familiar with the current body of work that the student is learning, and the techniques used.
- The teachers are usually educated and experienced with teaching the subject matter.
- The tutoring usually takes place at school, which can often lead to a less than enthusiastic student - they see it as "another hour at school".
- There is also the concern that if the material is taught in the same way as the student has already seen in the classroom, it will not be effective.
2. Online: As the internet has grown, so have options regarding education. One of the most popular online options is Khan academy ( //www.khanacademy.org ), but there are more. Purple math, wolfram alpha all have similar programs.
- The service is free. Many organizations and individuals donate to Khan academy to keep the entire service free for all.
- Can be as specific as needed. If a student is struggling with a specific topic (say dividing fractions), you can type that into the search bar, and their material on that topic will come up.
- Video based: The videos show exactly how to work specific problem types. The use of colors and voiceover help to explain the topic.
- These videos don't often explain the "why" they simply explain the "how" to work a problem. After watching the video, a student may be able to do a problem that looks exactly like the example they saw, but if the problem is different, they will often struggle. A main difference between being pretty good at math, and being really good is the understanding of why things work the way they do in math.
- Obviously the student can't ask questions of a video. If they don't understand a step, or don't follow how something was derived, they are stuck.
3. Private Tutors: These can be found via many avenues. They are found through recommendations, Craigslist ads, or college bulletin boards. The quality of their instruction can vary greatly. Usually, they meet their students at a public location (the public library is popular), and session length can vary by the need of the student as well as the tutor availability.
- Individualized attention. It is usually a 1:1 tutoring relationship.
- Able to answer most questions
- May only be teaching what the child brings. Often if a student is struggling, it is because they haven't mastered prior material. If the student is only going over current material, the underlying issue isn't solved, and they will probably need more tutoring in the future.
- The 1:1 relationship may not build the confidence the student needs. Often if a student sits with a tutor for an hour, they'll do great during that hour - but when they get to school, they won't have the tutor available, and they will struggle. Make sure your tutor is letting your child struggle during the session. That is what builds the confidence of the student that they can do the work.
4. Private businesses. These are businesses that specialize only in education. There are a number of examples locally. Obviously, Mathnasium, but also Sylvan, Kumon, Club Z are all in the Springfield area. Each has developed a protocol that is designed to help the students. These groups have probably helped thousands of students respectively, and as such, have fine-tuned their work to maximize the student’s effectiveness.
- Each of them should do an "assessment" or "placement" type test. These are designed to identify strengths and weaknesses the student currently has.
- The instructors should be highly trained and vetted.
- Look for individualized plans for each student. Nothing will frustrate students more than being taught something they already are strong at.
- Caution areas:
- Cost may be higher - or may not? Make sure you understand the cost structure of the program. Often what may seem higher initially, may not really be after you factor in the number of sessions.
- High pressure sales techniques: If you're getting pressure to sign up, be careful. The focus should always be on the student, not on the business gaining a customer.
Finding and hiring a math tutor is a big decision for parents. As with any decision that impacts their children, the parent should gather as much info as possible about options, explore those options, and then make the decision that works best for their family. Also, don't be afraid to change course if you're not getting the results you expect.
As you make gather information, please feel free to give Mathnasium of Springfield a call. We are focused solely on helping our students get stronger in math everyday.
Center Director Mathnasium of Springfield