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I have been a private maths tutor for three years now and during that time I feel I’ve learnt a few things which you might find useful to know. If you have a tutor or interested in getting one then I hope you find this article insightful.

Firstly I think it’s important to know a few things about me. I am English and used to work as a youth pastor in Durban (I moved to South Africa in 2012). I came here after completing a Mathematical Studies BSc Hons Degree from the University of Leeds in 2010. Tutoring was a great way of helping to boost my income. Because of my qualifications I knew that I had the knowledge to help students despite having studied a different curriculum in the UK. Mathematics really is a “global language” which everyone studies and only varies slightly country to country.

I work for Advantage Learn alongside some other brilliant Maths tutors such Trish Pike and Heather Collis who are both passionate about teaching and have taught me a lot.

Tutoring can be really rewarding for everyone

I’m a people-person which means I get my energy off working or being around people. Maths tutoring is a really great time to connect with someone one to one and watch them grow in their education. There are some really special moments when you see a students eyes light up as they suddenly realise how to solve a problem which they just couldn’t do before your help.

Over the years I’ve worked with Grade 6 to Grade 12’s. Personally I prefer working with older students as the mathematics is a lot more interesting and the students are more sociable. A lot of the students I worked with also pushed their parents to get them a tutor. If a student wants to learn then the one hour tutoring session with them is a lot more enjoyable and successful than if they are forced to be there.

The bad parts about tutoring and tutors

I want to be brutally honest, from a tutors perspective, about what tutoring is like. I always tried my best to be the best tutor I could to be respectful of the money being paid to me to teach the kids, however there are certain times where I felt that I had been slack and probably shouldn’t have charged for a whole session! If we are all honest to ourselves, we don’t perform at 100% all day at our workplaces, sometimes we have a “slow hour” or time when we know we didn’t do anything. Tracking how a tutor is performing at teaching your student is really hard to do, unless you sit in the lesson and watch and listen you have no-idea how good they are at teaching. If your student likes the person who’s teaching then they’ll give you the impression they are doing a good job, but if they don’t like them then they will tell you they are not a good tutor… not an ideal feedback mechanism!

The worst kind of tutoring session is when both the tutor and the student turn up with no pre-planned activity and the student just does their homework. Unless a student has learning problems resulting in them needing someone to babysit them whilst they work then this is a complete waste of a tutor lesson. It is really important that steps are made to make the most out of tutoring sessions, after all your paying for them so get your money’s worth!

3 steps to make the most out of a tutoring session

Here is a list of steps you can take to make sure the tutoring sessions are being used in the best way:

  1. Make sure that your learner wants the extra lesson. If a student doesn’t want a tutor then the lessons will be difficult and the student will never come to them in the right mindset.
  2. Sit with the tutor and student in the first session to make a plan of how the sessions will work. From this, you will get an understanding of what is happening and then you can check in to make sure the sessions are working. If you have a confident student and a timid tutor, your student will dictate the sessions, so make sure the personalities will work well together.
  3. Before each session starts, ask your student what they have prepared for the lesson, or what they want to get out of it. If they have no idea then this would raise alarm bells that the session is not going to be useful so is a waste of time and money.

Teachers and ex-teachers are probably the best tutors

Most of what I have said above applies to people who are tutoring because they have a great understanding of a subject but have never been a teacher, like myself. Examples are Varsity students who use tutoring for a part time job, or other people who just want extra work on top of their jobs.

Generally speaking, Teachers who tutor students will approach a lesson in a completely different way. They are plugged into the school curriculum and will follow it directly so already know exactly what your student needs to know for that term and will come with a collection of textbooks and example questions which they have access to. Teachers devote their full time job to teaching and most of them love what they do and take the extra lessons out of the pleasure of helping students. Trish Pike (who appears in the teaching videos for Advantage Learn) is one of these teachers who just adores teaching. I’ve watched her a few times and the energy she brings to a classroom and to a private tutoring lesson is amazing to witness. She’s so good at what she does because of that passion she brings that she has a waiting list of students wanting lessons with her.

The future of maths tutors

Provided you have a good tutor, nothing can completely replace how valuable the time is with them. However with the demand and high costs of that one hour, is tutoring the best way to help a student with their learning?

I strongly believe that the future of mathematics tutoring is found in online learning. I have started to adopt online learning into my tutoring lessons. I ask all my students to sign up to Maths Online. Tutoring in itself is not enough to help students. The most important skill any student can learn is how to study alone. Previously this has been from a text book and so is difficult when you cannot understand a question. In the modern age no one is ever truly “alone”. We all have cellphones and can quickly call or whatsapp a picture of a problem to someone to seek help when we get stuck. The reason I make them all sign up to Maths Online is firstly so I can set homework and targets for the students to study in their own time, and secondly because one of my jobs is to sit on the student support team. If any Maths Online student asks us a question, then someone from our student support team will answer them.

With technology constantly improving, and becoming cheaper it’s foolish not to take advantage of it. My advice to anyone who needs or wants the extra help in learning is to use all the resources they can. Make the most of what the school offers, sign up to online learning platforms such as Maths Online and if you can find a good tutor then take advantage of those extra lessons. Every student is unique and there is no “one shoe fits all” solution to education. Experiment with the different offerings and find out which is right for you.

Happy Learning!

About the author
Adam Kinder

Online learning manager at Advantagelearn.com. I help manage our systems to provide the best online learning experience for our Students. Besides that I am a passionate Mathematician and enjoy solving students questions on our site.

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