Elementary Education: 6 Keys to Finding the Perfect Math Tutor
My eight year-old son, Connor, has always been a pretty mellow and happy-go-lucky child. That is until this year. About a week before he entered 3rd grade, his half-full glass suddenly became half empty. He claimed he wasn't starting school because he said he was "bad at math." He had never complained about being bad at math before and had always received decent grades, so we dismissed his comment, thinking he was more concerned about summer ending and not being able to play with his neighborhood friends as much.
The first week of school was awesome. He came home one day proclaiming that he had "the best teacher ever." Every day was awesome! The second week, even though he loved his teacher, he was back to not wanting to go to school again.
We finally got to the bottom of the problem. He just was not getting math. He felt stupid in class when he didn't know the answers. Homework had been really difficult so far so we weren't doubting him. But, it had escalated to the point where it impacted his confidence. He had little doubt he would always "suck at math" and since that was the case, there was no use in his mind for going to school.
Even though we worked with him every night on his homework and he was able to get through it, it was not without lots of tears, and candidly, lots of persuasive tactics. A friend finally suggested we hire a tutor. I won't lie that we resisted for a while, feeling like we should be able to help him ourselves and like we were failures as parents if we didn't. But finally, we gave in and hired a tutor.
6 Keys to Math Tutoring Success
We have found these six things to be helpful in creating a successful tutoring experience:
- Find the right person. Finding a great tutor is critical to a successful tutoring experience. We decided to search through word of mouth and an email to Connor's teacher, asking for help in locating a good tutor. She directed us to my 10 year-old son's teacher, who happens to be fabulous at math. Score! She started the next week and came twice a week for an hour each time.
- Hire the right person. A lot of people have math skills. A lot of people can teach math. But, fewer people come with the right attitude, which I have found to be critical in selecting the right tutor. Ours believes that attitude is half the battle. That if a child can increase his or her math confidence, that the math skills will follow. We have seen this in spades with Connor and are grateful to have found a tutor who focused first and foremost on building confidence.
- Build in incentives. The tutor suggested an incentive-based approach to help Connor get over his initial fears of wanting to meet with the tutor. We went to the Dollar Store and bought lots of prizes the tutor could use to reward him. He resisted meeting with a tutor and doing more math until he learned about the prizes.
- Create the right environment. Carving out a quiet space where the two could meet was really important. Connor has learned to love his one-on-one tutoring time and doesn't want anyone to disrupt his learning experience. Even though they meet in our living room and prefer to sit on the carpet, we make sure they have peace and quiet so Connor can focus during the time she is here.
- Have the right equipment. The tutor should come with activities and lessons. But, we found having basic supplies and equipment was also helpful. We ensure Connor has his math book from school, his latest tests, a pencil and some paper, as well as a lap top. This helps to maximize the tutor's time and doesn't require her to bring a lot of stuff with her.
- Communicate! After most tutoring visits, I spend time with the tutor to get up to speed on how Connor is doing and what we can do at home to help him. She has amazing insight and has helped us a lot to be able to help him.
The benefits of hiring a tutor have far outweighed any cost or feelings of failure on our part as parents. Connor is confident at math now. He loves school. And he is acing his tests. Sure, he still has to work hard and maybe even harder than most. But, he is learning the basics early on and loves the subject. He is also learning that sometimes, mastering something requires hard work, diligence, and practice.
What is your experience in hiring a tutor for your kids? What tips do you have for finding the perfect tutor?