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Hiring a Math Tutor For Your Child – Tips For Choosing Well

Hiring a Math Tutor For Your Child – Tips For Choosing Well

I have to get the painful news out of the way right at the start.

Many, maybe most math tutors, are not fully competent in the subject they are teaching.

Is this tutor really knowledgeable?
If you are looking for a math tutor, for example for Precalculus, you need to ascertain for of all that your prospective tutor has the curriculum for the course at his or her fingertips.

I mention this right way because, over the years, I have known many students who are being helped by tutors who are barely one step ahead of them, or actually over their head.

Facilitate good teacher-tutor communication
Second, you need to facilitate communication with the course teacher. In other words, give the teacher the tutor’s name and number and tell the teacher to call the tutor with specific information on the course and what your child should be doing.

I say this because too often the math tutor doesn’t know exactly what the course expectation is, or what will be on the coming test, or whatever. Often the student is not a clear communicator of this information.

How is math tutoring time being used?
Third, you need to make sure the time is being used well. You don’t want an hour of chatting about TV, sports, clothes, piercing or whatever. You want an hour of math!

You will need to assess that your tutor is pleasant and friendly, but also business-like and on task.

Does your child work well with the tutor?
There needs to be an element of chemistry with the tutor and your child. The whole point of this is that you are seeking some one-on-one reinforcement for your child, and that is not going to happen without good, clear communication. You will need to determine the quality of the tutor carefully.

Finding a tutor
How to find one? The best way is through a recommendation from someone you trust, preferably a math teacher you trust. Could be from another parent, or the school administration.

The more anonymous the source, such as a recommendation from someone who doesn’t particularly know anything about math instruction, or a newspaper ad, the more you are relying on luck.

And are you sure your child needs a tutor? I believe a tutor should be much more of a last resort than is often the case. If your child just needs a bit of reinforcement or repeated explanation, maybe the class teacher is available for this. Or an older sibling, or you could do it.

I think this kind of help is part of a teacher’s job, and also can be a wholesome family task. If your child simply needs hand holding to do his homework, maybe he needs to be guided to doing his work independently. Maybe in such a case a tutor is enabling a child with lack of independent work habits, rather than helping.

One other consideration
If your child needs regular help in a course, it is possible that he or she is simply in too advanced a course. I would encourage some sort of assessment of the situation, discussion with the teacher or a school official.

If your child is on a track that requires tutoring in fourth grade just to keep up, you need to ask yourself if this is in her interest, to be always running from behind to keep up. If the reason for the tutor is the teacher’s incompetence, I would encourage you to let the school administration know about it.

How to pay
How often and what you should expect to pay? Though often a tutoring arrangement is once a week for 45 minutes or an hour, if your child really needs help, I think twice a week is a minimum. If there is a problem, I don’t see what can be done in less time than that besides putting out an immediate fire.

Costs range from $10 or $12/hour for a high school student to over $100/hour for an experienced tutor in a major metropolitan area. In general, you should expect a higher rate for more advanced levels of instruction and a more experienced, educated tutor. However, there is a lot of variance in the marketplace: I personally know people in my area who are very good and charge about $40/hour, and some who are really only OK and charge closer to $70/hour.

I think you should have in mind what you are willing to pay, and ask before you start; if the tutor wants more, just keep looking. The main thing is that you are getting valuable tutoring done. If you find a “bargain” but the tutoring isn’t really helping your child, you’re just wasting your and your child’s time and your money.

Good luck and happy math tutoring!