I am tutoring a 9th grade student. And he is terribly weak in mathematics. He doesn't remember the multiplication tables, can't divide efficiently. Doesn't know how to proceed with solving a mathematical expression. He says he is not interested in the subject and lacks motivation as well. Also, he is not serious about studies; a month from now he has exams. It really takes all my energy when trying to teach him a topic.

Enough of my vent, I just want to know how to deal with this situation? I don't want him to rote learn and try passing the exam. It is only going to get worst. He never had a tutor before and seems like he had been just getting passed by rote learning.

What should I do? When his mathematical base is extremely weak, and he himself is not serious. I like teaching in depth. But it takes a whole lot of time. And I can't devout it.

  • 5
    $\begingroup$ You can lead a horse to water, but, you can't make it think. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 29, 2017 at 3:41
  • $\begingroup$ Perhaps you should enlist the parents for help in motivating him. $\endgroup$
    – Amy B
    Commented Aug 29, 2017 at 5:39
  • $\begingroup$ 9th grade is primary school? $\endgroup$
    – Jessica B
    Commented Aug 29, 2017 at 14:21
  • $\begingroup$ @JessicaB Sorry, Just needed to get a wider range of opinions. $\endgroup$
    – Shad
    Commented Aug 29, 2017 at 14:57
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Perhaps ask him what he wants to do in life and/or what his interests are. From there find suitable logic/mathematical thinking problems related to that topic. In other words, ask questions that he might actually want to know the answer to and let the mathematical thinking come naturally. $\endgroup$
    – Aeryk
    Commented Aug 29, 2017 at 15:25

4 Answers 4


Weaker students need drill and rote. Make flashcards and drill the heck out of him. That will help him more than any kind of detailed explanations or motivation talks.

Just treat it like a sports practice and drill, drill, drill. As he starts to master the drill, that will help him to become more confident (justifiably). You need to be less of a thoughtful explainer and more of a sports coach or drill sergeant.

  • $\begingroup$ Also, Problem is I can't be that strict with him. It's not in my nature. :( I mean what he doesn't drill enough? $\endgroup$
    – Shad
    Commented Aug 28, 2017 at 23:33
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    $\begingroup$ @shad than you're most probably the wrong tutor for this student. There are different students and different teachers and not every match is good. I must agree with guest that if your student is as bad as you say, drill and rote memorization seem to be the way. There are probably other methods that might work but unless you are an experienced teacher they probably aren't available to you. $\endgroup$
    – DRF
    Commented Aug 29, 2017 at 9:18

As you mentioned:

he is not interested in the subject and lacks motivation

As a simple tutor you don't have the authority to deal with such a situation, so the best thing to do is to stop working as his tutor, and inform the parents about your reasons to stop (his lack of interest and motivation):

There are two things you should be aware of:

  • Children should obey older people, so he must listen to you very carefully. In case (s)he doesn't, the parents need to intervene.
  • When you keep on tutoring this child and (s)he fails, you'll be blamed for not having succeeded supporting the poor child, and the parents will be mad at you for having "stolen" their money (I imagine you're being paid for tutoring that child?).

I can very well imagine this is not easy (you want to succeed) but sometimes admitting defeat (especially when it's not your fault) is the best thing to do.

Good luck

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Yes, I am being paid for tutoring him. But I am charging nominal. His family seems reluctant as well to invest in good coaching or experienced tutors.I did tell him though if he is not going to take this seriously I will not tutor him. $\endgroup$
    – Shad
    Commented Aug 29, 2017 at 14:02
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    $\begingroup$ @Shad: you did good threatening him to stop tutoring him, but you should do this to his parents, after all they're the ones who are paying you. $\endgroup$
    – Dominique
    Commented Aug 29, 2017 at 14:06

It seems like the lack of motivation is what is really holding the student back. You don't have much way of telling how hard he finds the maths if he isn't even trying.

You (or rather, he and his parents) need to decide what the aim is.

With an exam coming up soon, they best option at this point is probably to do the rote learning. You are not going to reach a good understanding in a short time.

If instead (or afterwards) you want to focus on solving the problem longer term, I believe you should take a big step back. Find out why he's so resistant to learning maths. Is he trying to hide real difficulties? Is it too uncool to be seen to try? Is he just that uninterested in learning in general, or maths specifically? If the latter, perhaps try looking at applications, without trying to learn the details yet.


Some students are easy to remember the numbers, some students are easy to remember the narrations such as history, some other students are easy to learn languages, etc.
My 8 year son also hard to remember time tables, and we are still struggle to help him. The more we drill, the more he stress. So I think it's a bad idea.
After tried so many methods, finally what we are doing is to make him understand how the numbers works. How to do addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. We tell him the basics to count, and use the stories to make some example. Still he hard to remember the times table, but at least he can count correctly because he know the logic (even not yet fast enough).


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