It's been a week and you have not posted part 2 of the discussion/suggestions for parents telling them what it is exactly they should be looking for when selecting a math tutor.
For our daughter, we need to get a jump on it so that when she returns in the fall for her junior year of high school she will be ready and not get stressed-out the way she did last year. Let's just say she ended up having to miss three weeks of school to recover from her meltdown. (And she is NOT usually a neurotic kid. She's well-adjusted because we only put pressure on her to perform when the situation calls for it.) Like now, it's time she perform and she knows it. She just doesn't seem to know how to perform WELL. Not yet, but she will, because we're going to stay on top of her, and we're going to see to it that she performs well. She definitely will because she has to, even if she doesn't yet know how.
Raleigh, North Carolina
Dear Devoted Mother,
Rather than follow up my recent response to the question regarding the criteria parents should consider when selecting a math tutor with a "Part 2" extension as I originally planned, I've since become convinced that a more helpful and user-friendly approach would be to post an ongoing series of short posts, each focusing on one or two aspects of this complex topic.
Since this website's beginning (barely over 1 1/2 years ago) one of the five most popular subjects of the letters we get relate to tutors, tutoring, and the ways to determine the best tutor-pupil fit for one's child. On average, we post answers to only one or two questions per week, but respond in private emails to almost every question that we receive. Now, sorting through the collection of letters about tutoring, it seems most logical to address this broad subject in discrete units.
So, here goes:
Here are what I believe to be the TOP 5 factors parents and guardians should keep in mind when selecting a tutor:
1) KNOW WHAT MATTERS
There is a weak and unreliable relationship between a person's ability/credentials and talent in the area of mathematics, and how effective that person is when it comes to TEACHING your child MATHEMATICS. Obviously, one's tutor should – at the least – have the relevant material mastered, but, it is usually not necessary that he/she also has mastery of material several levels beyond that. Having a collection of high-level math-related degrees and decades of experience calculating variations in water temperature is not likely to make someone a more effective tutor for your ten-year-old child than another tutor without that history.
2 ) BE WARY OF A TEACHER OR TUTOR WHO APPEARS TO HAVE MORE COMMITMENT TO USING A PARTICULAR BOOK THAN TO TEACHING A PARTICULAR STUDENT
(This seems to be a common issue when it comes to selecting a tutor for one of the big standardized tests than in other areas, but it is always worth noting.)
In other words, if your child's potential tutor sticks to one review book without adding, reducing, reordering chapters, etc., it should strike you as QUITE a coincidence that throughout all his/her time working with the infinite range of students' strengths and weaknesses, he/she has landed the one-and-only book that was custom-made for your child's mind and learning style...
A teacher should be paying close enough attention to your child's needs – particularly in a one-on-one learning situation – to see where and when he needs to customize a previously published treatise.
3) OF ALL THE IMPORTANT CRITERIA, THE ONE THAT IS MOST TYPICALLY GIVEN INSUFFICIENT CONSIDERATION WHEN VIEWED ON RESUMES, DISCUSSED IN INTERVIEWS, AND EXPRERSSED ON JOB APPLICATIONS IS THAT OLD EMBARASSING WORD: TALENT
Talk to people who have used this tutor and find out how magical and effective the experience was regarding the mathematical thinking of the child.
4) ANY TUTOR WHO CANNOT RAISE A STUDENT'S SCORE AT LEAST SUBSANTIALLY ON AN EXAM AS PREDICTABLE AS THE SAT IS WASTING YOUR CHILD'S TIME, WASTING YOUR MONEY, AND DISSIPATING THE ENERGY OF ALL THREE PARTIES. HERE, GET REFERENCES AND, IF POSSIBLE, CALL THEM UP AND SPEAK WITH THEM.
5) EACH SESSION SHOULD HAVE A BEGINNING, MIDDLE, and an END, and SOMETIMES THE COMPLETE MEASUREMENT NEED NOT BE DETERMINED BY THE CLOCK.
Sometimes sessions run long; a focused tutor does not stop in mid-sentence when a bell rings, and he does what he can to avoid stopping before a child's problem-specific confusion is cleared up.
Parents often do not enjoy waiting while the tutor finishes with someone else's child, but most tutors come to notice that those same parents do not mind waiting when it is their child who is in the room with the tutor and learning for a few minutes longer than was planned.
Hope this helps,