Does Your Teen Need A Math Tutor?

By: Linda Hinkle

The students who should consider a math tutor usually fall into two categories. There is the student who is working really hard, doing everything the teacher asks, and still genuinely having trouble mastering concepts and getting good grades. Secondly, there is the student who isn’t applying himself, doesn’t do homework, and doesn’t pay attention in class. Students in both of these groups can benefit from working with a tutor, but in very different ways.

Let’s start with taking a look at that first group. The student who is working very hard and not getting desired results quickly becomes frustrated, and understandably so. Using a tutor usually proves to be quite beneficial for this type student. I say usually because the decision to look to a tutor for help is a very individual and personal one. Some students view having a tutor as a status symbol while others shy away from the idea for fear of being labeled slow, stupid, or something similar. So the absolute first step in deciding whether to use a tutor should be a serious conversation with your student. Determine how he or she feels about working with a tutor and go from there. Most students in this category will be receptive to the idea because they are serious about their work, realize they need help, and welcome the relief of easing their frustration. When this is the case, it usually doesn’t take much at all for a good tutor to help smooth out the rough spots. The student who is studying and working hard will be able to point out the exact problem areas to the tutor. In turn, the tutor will be able to address those problems with the student thoroughly and effectively.

Now let’s take a look at the second group of students possibly in need of a tutor; the student who really isn’t applying himself to the course work. This student may be entirely capable of understanding and mastering the concepts and getting good grades without a tutor. The problem lies in the fact that the student hasn’t attempted enough work to know whether or not he is capable. Working with a tutor can benefit this type student in a couple of ways. First, having a regularly scheduled session for one-on-one tutoring forces the student to focus on the course work for at least the time of the tutoring session. Secondly, the student who isn’t applying himself will quickly fall behind, which is a major concern in high school math courses. Math concepts build on one another. Even if a poor student suddenly decides to apply himself, he will have trouble if past concepts haven’t been mastered. Starting to work with a tutor early, when poor performance is first detected, can help prevent the student from falling too far behind.

It should be noted that students sometimes feel that having a tutor automatically equates to instant success. I have sometimes had students in my classes who would not stay on task during class time assignments intended for drill, practice, and understanding. When I would attempt to steer them back on task, I would get replies such as “Oh, my tutor is coming tonight. I’ll get it done them." Parents should keep an eye out for that kind of attitude and try to guard against it. Working with a tutor should be supplemental to, not instead of, regular class work supervised by the teacher.

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