Math Tutoring Tips

Initial Steps*:
Step one:  Always look at the problem in the book. Don't assume that the student has set it up correctly.
Step two:  Ask the student to explain the procedure s/he is using to solve the problem. You can troubleshoot and listen for erroneous logic or incorrect procedures at that time.
Step three:  Reinforce any correct procedures (e.g. "This part is done correctly", or "You are target here".) Then identify incorrect logic and ask the student to consider what else s/he might try. You can provide a hint, but avoid explanations until after the student has attempted a guess. (E.g. "When you evaluate an integral, what do you evaluate first, the upper or lower part?")
Step four:  To check for understanding, have the student re-explain the procedure to you. Avoid asking questions like, "Does that make sense to you?" and "Do you understand now?"
Step five:  Disengage! Encourage the student to work the next problem on his/her own, but let him/her know you will check back. Do not get drawn into working the next problem with an insecure student. S/he needs to develop the ability to apply what s/he is learning without your supervision.

Five tips for math tutors*:

1. Guide student:  A math tutor should guide a student through the solution process. Ask the student leading questions that will direct the student towards the correct steps.  Avoid doing problems for the student.   If the student cannot get the correct answer and asks for help, the tutor should look at what the student has done and try to locate the error. Then have the student work a similar problem to make sure he/she has grasped the concept or procedure.
2. Teach Concepts:  Tutoring goal should be to help students become an independent learner. In mathematics, it is important to teach concepts rather than just processes or procedures. For example, the tutor should explain why it is important to follow the "order of operations" rule, PEMDAS, rather than just showing the student how to do it.   Understanding the concepts makes remembering the procedures easier.
3. Address Math Anxiety : Tutors will deal with students with varying degrees of math anxiety. Tutors should avoid using phrases such as, "this is easy." Such phrases intimidate the student. Sometimes it is helpful to learn about the student's math background.
4. Don't Confuse the Student!:  If the tutor is unsure of a mathematical procedure or concept, check with a math instructor. It is helpful to find out what approach the text or instructor is using on a particular problem. A tutor using the same technique as the text or instructor will reinforce the concept or procedure, whereas using a different approach can confuse the student.   Tutors are strongly encouraged to stay in touch with instructors of the students they work with.

*Adapted from Boise State University: http://www.webpages.uidaho.edu/bestpractices/peer_train_math.html

page revision: 2, last edited: 16 Aug 2016 17:33