By Meredith Crawford
When it comes to math, most people either love it or hate it. No matter how you feel about the subject, though, there’s always room to enhance your existing mathematical mastery or to improve your understanding of key principles and concepts.
Online tutoring helps students to master concepts and practice skills with one-on-one learning. In addition to helping students build on the foundation they’ve been establishing in the traditional classroom during the school day, online tutors can help students focus in on areas of weakness and develop strategies to more effectively tackle math problems.
Here are some tips from TutaPoint.com’s own top math tutors on how to enhance your math skills using online tutoring.
Just like with any endeavor, you are going to get out of online tutoring what you put into it. So, motivation is key.
“If a student can find a reason to work hard at learning a subject – whether it is to make the honor roll, to get a scholarship, or simply to get a desired grade – the student will make much more progress remembering why he/she is working so hard,” advises TutaPoint’s Joshua Daniels, adding that younger students might require more external motivation, which parents can provide.
“They could motivate their younger children by telling them how well they can do math or offering rewards for good progress. This is the key to making steady progress over a long period of time.”
It always pays to be prepared, especially when it comes to your online tutoring sessions.
“It helps to have problems to go over, or to give the tutor the topics (and tell them you’d like them to find practice problems) in advance,” advises TutaPoint’s Sarah Wanger, adding this is especially important when it comes to math because the tutor will need time to solve the problem before working with the student.
So, if you provide that information to your tutor in advance, then you’ll have more time to tackle other problems.
You can’t dance about architecture, and you shouldn’t read about math. It’s a subject that’s best learned by actively doing it.
“Math is a set of rules to apply and patterns to recognize,” explains Daniels. “Reading about math is helpful, but I have seen many students recite rules and analyze complex problems clearly and in depth without being able to mathematically solve problems of the same caliber. The best way to learn math…is by practicing and working problems…[Students] benefit much more by working as many problems as possible than by reading about how to work the problems.”
It’s best to come to an online tutoring session armed will all the tools you need.
Says Wanger, “In my tutoring sessions, I always start out by having the student give me all the relevant formulas (and giving them to the student if they are going to be given a formula sheet) at the top of the white board. I suggest that students start every homework assignment or exam this way. In this fashion, they are able to build a formula sheet, so the focus is on the application of the formulas and they don’t have to remember them every time.”
Patience is key when it comes to solving math problems, especially the word problem variety.
“Many of my students struggle with word problems, especially when they are very long. The block of text often seems daunting and the students – even when they know the math – become overwhelmed and don’t know what to do. My suggestion to them is to start to break word problems up and look at them one sentence at a time. Read each sentence and write down the information that sentence gives you in numbers and symbols. If you write down an equation, solve it even before you finish reading the question. Then, the very last step is to ask yourself, “What is the question asking me for?” It will most likely be something you already solved for or can easily find!”
Remember, with math, it’s all about the details.
“A common error I see students making is trying to break up denominators or square roots with addition inside them,” says Wanger. “One way to combat this error is to get into the habit of putting parenthesis around the denominator of a fraction or the quantity under the square root. The parentheses serve as a reminder that we are doing the addition first, so it can’t be broken apart.”
All of that effort you put into your session with a great online tutor might mean nothing unless you continue to practice your skills.
“A student and I could have a very productive session together, but if that’s the last they ever think about those topics until the test, theywon’t retain much,” says TutaPoint’s Christopher Gunlock. “I’m happy to help students with their homework, but it would be more beneficial to the student if they requested examples and problems from the tutor similar to the ones they have for homework so that they can then do their homework problems on their own. This makes an enormous difference in learning retention.”