When a child is anxious and frustrated by their lack of understanding and progress in maths, the stress experienced by the household can be significant. It’s then that parents frantically try to find a tutor. But before you rush off to do that, let’s diagnose your child’s difficulties and see if you really need a tutor at all.
1. Do they understand the work in class?
You first need to find out whether your child is finding the concepts difficult in class, or whether they just need to vent when they get home. Sometimes kids say they can’t do the work when really they mean they’re tired and don’t really want to do the work. Have a chat with your child’s teacher about your concerns. If you discover that they are struggling with learning some topics, then seek the teacher’s advice on how to address the problem. Perhaps there are some online programs your child could try or maybe there’s a remedial group at school. A tutor generally visits once a week and you need to consider whether this will be enough to get your child up to speed.
2. What sort of help do they need with their homework?
When your child needs help with their maths homework, how often and how extensive is the help they need? Do they just need help on a few questions, or do they need your guided help with each and every question? If it’s just a few questions each evening and you can help, then you’re playing a powerful part as their partner in education. If they have difficulty with all their homework all the time, then it is clear they need some reinforcement of the concepts and can possibly gain support through online programs like the Kahn Academy (free) or Mathspace (paid). If you decide on hiring a tutor, then ensure you find one who will teach your child, rather than just going through homework questions.
3. Is the daily work fine but they bomb out in tests?
It is very common, especially in high school, that students do fine with their work on a daily basis, but tend to underperform in maths tests. The problem here is that they lack test taking skills and also the ability to revise adequately for tests. Your child might simply need to do some practice test papers to help them improve their test taking skills and identify topics that need further revision. If you decide on hiring a tutor, then ensure they are prepared to teach test technique and provide practice test resources to help your child improve their ability to demonstrate their knowledge successfully during a test.
Hiring a tutor is often a logical and easy solution, but it will not always address the particular problems your child is experiencing. Before out-laying the considerable expense for a tutor, research some other options that may be more helpful and successful.
Mirella is a Mathematics Teacher and Education Consultant and her mission is to help parents raise mathematically confident and competent children through her site www.educationequals.com