A Day in the Life of a Tutor

Mon, 09/16/2019 - 10:15am

I became a math tutor over 16 years ago, and I have loved the job from the beginning. What do I do on a typical day? Here is a description of a typical tutoring session.

A student arrives with his textbook, notebook and calculator. His idea is that he is going to get me to do his homework for him. My idea is that I am going to get him to understand the concepts he has been learning in his math class. This is a quiet, private time for him to think about how the pieces fit together. Educators know that it is important to have the time and space to make connections between the new concept and what you already know. This can’t always happen during class time. Sometimes it doesn’t happen when the student is just rushing through the homework assignment either. But I know what is important, and I can guide the student in our time together.

I start by having the student show me their notebook and recent notes that have been taken. I recognize that some important pieces are missing. I jump up and start outlining the topics on the board. We talk. We laugh. We make connections between the new material and past concepts. He takes down the notes in his notebook.

The next step in the process is practice. The student starts on the first problem. He can do it just fine, so I just kind of watch and ask him how he is figuring it out as he goes along. On the second problem, he gets stuck. I have him look at the notes we just compiled. I ask questions. My questions are geared to leading him to think about what he has been given, what he needs to finish the problem, and how he can get there. He succeeds.

After the third problem, I ask him what pattern he is seeing. How do all these different problems use the same principle? He expresses an idea, and I ask him more questions to get him to refine his ideas, add to them, and make a clear statement. He jots that information down in his notebook.

While he is doing the next problem, he makes a mistake that I recognize. I know what he was thinking, and I know that if he doesn’t learn to catch himself he will continue to have trouble. I point out the last step that was right and then ask where he went wrong. He finds his mistake, and now, since he discovered it himself, he will remember it.

On the fifth problem, I notice something cool about the topic that is a little bit off the beaten path. There is extra information here, foreshadowing material that we will cover next week. I show the student how this connects to last week’s content and ask if he noticed the similarity. Well, he didn’t before I brought it up, but now he does! He says, hmm, does that also work in this other case? Now he is interested and asking questions about the math material he used to not be interested in. Now he is primed to go back to class and listen for the clue I gave him. I encourage him to raise his hand and give an answer the teacher is looking for.

We also laugh a lot. Did I mention that? I really enjoy tutoring high school students, and I hope to give them a sense of how interesting, fun and creative math can be. If you know a student who could enjoy math more, call The Study Hall to discuss tutoring at 236-3949 or email rockport@thestudyhall.com.