6 questions to think about before you start looking for a maths tutor

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There are so many points to consider when looking for the right maths tutor.

A maths tutor. What type are you looking for?

So you’ve decided that your child needs a maths tutor. Perhaps you’ve had a look on facebook community groups, looked at a few websites but are feeling completely overwhelmed. There are so many choices – which is best for your child? What should you look for in a maths tutor? What questions should you ask?

Why do you believe your child needs a tutor?

Firstly, it is important to understand the reason behind looking for a tutor and what you want for your child. Are they falling behind in their maths work at school? Do they lacking confidence or have maths anxiety? Are you aiming for them to get a top grade so they can go to a new school or enter university? Do they have learning difficulties?

By thinking about these questions before you start your search, you will be able to narrow down your options considerably.

What are the benefits of having a maths tutor?

Maths tutors can really help your child boost their maths confidence. All too often, in school, your child does not have sufficient time to ask questions and ensure that their maths understanding is complete and correct. Maybe your child doesn’t like to ask questions in front of their peers. Over time, they can fall behind. Having a maths tutor provides your child with a safe environment where they can ask questions without worrying about what their peers think. A maths tutor can ensure that your child’s understanding of their maths foundations is secure and explore their misconceptions. A maths tutor can rapidly build maths confidence, improving their attitude and improving their school work.

What type of tutor should I look for?

Every tutor brings their own personality and style to their tutoring sessions. Some tutors focus on getting high academic results and often publish these on their websites. Other tutors specialise in tutoring students with learning difficulties, being able to adapt their sessions to their students’ needs. Some tutors use textbooks and worksheets whereas others use manipulatives and personalise their sessions to their students interests. It is important that you choose a maths tutor that you feel would work best for your child, knowing your child’s personality and the type of motivation they need.

Should I choose group sessions?

Group sessions are ideal if your child is working towards an exam or just needs a little extra boost. With group sessions, your child is able to work with other children, listen and learn from their responses and, of course, group sessions are generally cheaper. Many tutors who offer group sessions ensure that all children in the group have opportunities to contribute and celebrate each child’s achievements. 

Should I choose one to one sessions?

1 to 1 sessions are ideal if your child has learning difficulties or is really struggling in maths. A tutor is able to tailor the session to your child’s needs, ensuring that they fully understand the concepts being taught. If your child rarely speaks in group situations, then one to one tutoring would probably be more effective as they will feel more at ease.

How long should a session last?

Most tutoring sessions last an hour. An hour gives your child time to learn something new as well as practise and revise previous topics and skills. As the best way to learn maths is to do maths, and new maths concepts build on prior knowledge, your child needs to constantly revisit their early maths knowledge, ensuring that it is still secure. Maths tuition is more intense than having a maths lesson in school. For some children, who struggle to concentrate for an hour, especially in a 1 to 1 session, having 45 minutes or 30 minutes can be more beneficial. Several of the students I teach have 30 minute sessions twice a week, which works really well, especially for my students who find maths extremely challenging.

Which is better - online or face to face sessions?

Again, this depends on your child. Although most parents would prefer face to face sessions, many students actually prefer online sessions. Some of my students enjoy having their sessions from the comfort of their own home and find that they feel more relaxed and confident over video rather than being physically next to a tutor. Other students are unable to concentrate online as they find it too distracting, and therefore face to face sessions are more beneficial. 

What questions should I ask a prospective tutor?

What experience and qualifications do you have?

  • As anyone can be a tutor, it is up to you to make sure that the prospective tutor has the necessary qualifications you feel are essential. You may be looking for a university student who has recently completed the exams that your child is preparing for and you wish to have a role model. Here, you may want to know about their ATAR score and their successes with other students. You may be looking for a qualified maths tutor or tutor specialising in dyscalculia. In this case, you may want to know more about their specialist knowledge, and their experience in this area.

What is your tutoring style?

  • Ask for an example of a typical session – do they have a particular textbook or scheme of work that they use? Do they make their sessions interactive? What technology do they use if they are working online? 

How do you keep in contact with me and let me know how my child is progressing?

  • As you are paying for the tutor, it is important that you know about what is happening in the sessions and how your child is doing. This doesn’t mean that your tutor needs to give detailed information about every session but you should feel like you are able to talk with your tutor when you need to.

What is the minimum and maximum number of children in your group?

  • If you decide that group tuition is best for your child, ensure that you ask about the maximum number of children in the group and the opportunities for your child to contribute.

Please can you provide me with some references/testimonials?

  • Ask your tutor for references – a well-established tutor should be able to provide you with a number of testimonials as well as put you in contact with current parents.

Do you have a Working With Children Check or DBS?

  • Ask to see an up-to-date Working With Children Check in Australia or a DBS in the UK. It is really important to make sure that your tutor takes safeguarding seriously.

On average, how long do your students stay with you?

  • This question can give a good insight into a prospective tutor. Is it just a few months or a couple of years? If the tutor mainly focuses on public exams, then many of their students may be for a shorter period of time. However, if the tutor works with primary aged children or those in the lower years of high school and has a focus on nurturing and building confidence, it is likely that their students will stay with them for many months or years.

Final points to consider

Choosing a maths tutor for your child is a really important decision to make. For your child to get the most out of the tuition, they need to have a good relationship with their tutor. It is important that your child wants to go to their tuition session and they look forward to it. It is also important that your child ends their tutoring sessions happy and enthusiastic and with renewed motivation. 

A really successful way to start your search for a maths tutor is to ask your friends and family if they have any recommendations.

Catherine Rooke

Catherine is a specialist, international maths tutor helping children with maths difficulties, anxiety and dyscalculia have positive maths experiences. Through gaining confidence, enjoyment and re-establishing a love for learning, your child will find a new enthusiasm for learning maths.