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5 Things to Look for in a Math Tutor

5 Things to Look for in a Math Tutor

For thousands of years, mathematics has been central to education. Ever since the Greek philosopher Pythagoras set about trying to discern and codify the underlying scientific laws that govern the universe, mathematics has been an essential tool for understanding the world around us.

For some students, math comes easy — the beautiful symmetry, the unambiguous nature of the answers, and the simple puzzle-solving pleasure that comes from getting a question right make learning fun. For others, even basic arithmetic can cause anxiety.

Even if a student isn’t planning on going into a mathematics-related discipline like engineering, mastering basic math and succeeding in the math curriculum at school can open lots of important doors. Math and numeracy skills can help provide:

  • Improved financial literacy
  • Greater independence in business accounting and filing taxes
  • Improved capacity for everyday tasks like home renovations to calculating exchange rates
  • Better problem-solving skills

For these reasons, investing in tutoring that can help students who are struggling with math excel can be essential in helping them overcome obstacles and develop a healthy relationship to math.

But if you want the best results, it is also important to make sure that the tutor you hire has the necessary skills to help your child succeed. If you live in Ontario and you’re looking for a math tutor for the coming year, here are just a few qualities you should look for in potential candidates.

1. Knowledge of the Local Curriculum

If you are hiring a math tutor to help your child improve their math skills, there’s a good chance it is because you want to make sure they can succeed in school and build the kind of transcript that will give them plenty of options when it comes time to graduate.

For that reason, you are probably looking for more than just a candidate who knows math well — you also want someone who can tailor their approach to the particular curriculum your child is using at school.

While it is possible to find tutors online who offer a range of different educational services, when it comes to hiring a math tutor, you should look for someone who:

  • Has experience with the Ontario education system and the local math curriculum
  • Is able to provide lessons that complement what is being taught in primary or secondary math classes
  • Is able to prepare students for upcoming challenges they will face in future modules and grades

At Prep Academy Tutors, we understand how important it is for tutors to work alongside the curriculum a student is learning in school. If you are looking for a math tutor in Kitchener for example, we can make sure to provide someone with the detailed, specific knowledge that can help augment what your child is learning in their regular classes so that when test time rolls around, they are equipped for academic success.  

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2. Familiarity with Pedagogical Methods

The world has changed significantly since the days when elementary math classes were mostly about memorizing times tables and regurgitating formulas, and a lot of progress has been made in math education in recent years.

Pedagogical experts have broken new ground in figuring out how it is we come to understand abstract mathematical concepts, and how we can master these ideas more easily. These insights are having a huge impact on how math is taught at all levels of school — which is why, when it comes to finding a tutor, you should make sure that the individual you hire has a good working knowledge of the latest teaching methods.

One particularly striking example of this is the way educators prepare students for the jump between more basic mathematical concepts, like arithmetic, and more complex ones, like algebra.

In the past twenty years, researchers have found that the kind of rote teaching that works rather well when teaching addition and subtraction does not actually prepare students for the more sophisticated thinking that algebra, trigonometry, and calculus requires.

This has led to a shift toward dynamic and engaging education methods designed to help students approach math more creatively, and to prepare them for more sophisticated forms of problem solving. 

Another example is the massive strides that have been made in understanding how to deal with math anxiety in young learners. If you want tips for beating math anxiety that will actually work, hiring a tutor who understands the psychological and emotional reasons that math anxiety happens in the first place is essential.

3. A Supportive Attitude

A good tutor has to know the curriculum and has to know their subject: but they also need to know how to work with students.

As anyone with teaching experience knows, education is about a lot more than imparting information and developing skills. It also requires a supportive attitude that can help students become more confident and master the study strategies and problem-solving skills that will help them prepare for a life of learning.

One of the frequently-cited benefits of tutoring for elementary school kids is that it helps them learn how to learn, insofar as it helps them develop tactics for dealing with unknown information and the temperament to approach new problems methodically and rationally.

For example, tutors can help young children discover:

  • How to learn from mistakes
  • How to handle negative emotions that come from difficult material
  • Where to go for help (dictionaries, reference works, etc.)
  • What resources are available when they are struggling

Adults often take for granted that children have the tools they need to face down the often bewildering learning challenges they face over the course of their primary school years. Not all parents are themselves equipped to guide their kids through the difficulties of these years.

One of the reasons tutoring is so effective is that it helps students build confidence in their own problem-solving skills, so that when they come across something they don’t know, they know how to break the learning task down into manageable pieces and approach it in ways that help them overcome it.  

4. A Student-Centered Approach

5 Things to Look for in a Math Tutor

As parents know very well, every student is different. An approach that works for one kid won’t necessarily work for others, and the learning goals of one child may be very different from those of their neighbour — or even their sibling.

One of the challenges that seems to be baked into modern education systems is that the people staffing them and providing primary services like teaching tend to be people who place a lot of value on higher education and abstract thinking.

This can mean that students who don’t necessarily want to go on to university are given less attention and support than their more academic peers — there are plenty of students who simply need a math education that will help them go about their daily life, and these students deserve just as much attention as the future astronomers do. 

A good tutor understands that their role is to help each individual student achieve their potential, even if that simply means helping them achieve sufficient grades to get their diploma so that they can enter a rewarding and valuable career in the trades.

At Prep Academy Tutors, we believe very strongly that no matter what a student’s goals are, they deserve the support and instruction that will help them to realize them. If you want to learn more about our educational philosophy, you can get in touch with us today to find out how our one-on-one service works, and how you can find the tutor who will be right for your child.

According to the latest numbers, Ontario math students are continuing to fall behind in rankings. According to Ontario’s Education Quality and Accountability Office, less than half of Grade 6 students scored above the provincial standard for math in 2017-2018, down from just over half four years earlier. 

This alarming trend could have serious repercussions for these students down the road, and while the Ontario government has pledged to do something about the situation, there is no guarantee that a quick fix is available. Parents whose children are currently in the Ontario education system may want to consider alternatives that will ensure their own kids don’t fall behind.

Tutoring has consistently been shown to be one of the most effective tools for improving student performance in mathematics, in part because math tutoring provides the kind of one-on-one help and support that is becoming increasingly rare in Ontario’s under-resourced schools.

At Prep Academy Tutors, we work with well-trained, experience tutors across the province to help you get the best education results possible, so if you want to find out what math tutoring options are available near you, get in touch with us today.