I'm a private math tutor--been doing it a couple of years, so I'm not terribly experienced yet. I have junior high through college students in most math topics.

It goes the best when the parents hire me to see their student at least twice per week. Then I have a continuous feel for what they are struggling with, and we have time not only to finish their homework, but to review old topics or work ahead.

But many of my families only want one session per week. I sometimes feel we can barely make progress. They come to me with different issues every week and there's no time to do anything but rush through the latest homework.

So my questions are:

  • how can I work with this situation, infrequent tutoring?

  • Can I refer them to outside websites or books they can use to study in-between sessions with me? (note: we probably aren't allowed on this stack exchange site to make recommendations for specific sites or products, but if you could just speak generally about the types of sites or books - like a "video lecture site" or "YouTube videos" or "a practice math problem site")

In particular I'm asking about how to make their math experience more continuous, so the student has a clear idea of the topic and moves through it at a good pace, with a chance to clear up any confusion, in spite of obstacles presented by the school, their teacher, their textbook, or infrequent tutoring.

There's a situation with a discontinuous/fractured experience for a different reason -- the student is using a textbook which tries to show connections between different areas of math--by jumping all over the place! So my student can't tell me what topic to prepare him for, and the book obscures some of the typical ways that topics are sequenced.


1 Answer 1


Here are a few pointers and questions.

  1. Do the families have a realistic picture of how much help the students actually need? It is common in my work as a tutor to find 14-year-old kids who are getting a B+ or better in math, but cannot calculate $2000-1997$ mentally. (They have to use the vertical stacking algorithm to get an answer and are unaware of any other methods.) Having students try to do simple conceptual questions - not calculation questions - while thinking aloud while the parent watches, often causes the horrifying epiphany that parents need. I'm happy to share some of those with you if you request them by private message.

  2. Are you sure they are willing to do homework or have a second session in the first place? A lot of students already have so much on their plate that it is very hard to prioritize math. This is especially true for those who perceive math as a credentialing and hoop-jumping exercise with no intrinsic value. They just want to do the minimal effort to get the minimally required grade for passing or not going to summer school or admission into some other program, etc. How many of your students does this describe? Do they even want you to try to change their attitudes?

  3. Related to #2, are the students: (a) rote cramming for tests and homework completion or (b) really going for a deep understanding and lasting mastery?

  4. Instead of a 2nd weekly session, would the students be willing to do homework that you assigned and send it to you by email (or Schoology, EdModo, moodle, etc.) the night before the sessions?

  • $\begingroup$ Related to #2, I have three situations where both parents and students say they are willing to do extra work, and even the student has a hopeful look that they could feel less confused. You are right, though, that most aren't eager to take on work, yet I suspect that if the work were more clear to them than their class, and more satisfying (enjoying a feeling of comprehension), the students would have some motivation, and this could be presented to the parents as an alternative to paying for extra lessons. $\endgroup$ Oct 30, 2018 at 6:29
  • $\begingroup$ I'm not trying to put myself out of work, I'm trying to make myself more efficient. I.e. be able to see more students and be a more valuable service to the parents. $\endgroup$ Oct 30, 2018 at 6:31
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    $\begingroup$ If the students are willing to do extra work, then assign it, and have them email to you at least one evening before the next tutoring session. What is unclear about what's going on in class? And what are the other obstacles you mentioned? $\endgroup$ Nov 1, 2018 at 1:34
  • $\begingroup$ I'll edit the question. $\endgroup$ Nov 1, 2018 at 6:27

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