Students ask me all the time: “Should I get a tutor!?” and my answer is almost always a resounding “YES! OF COURSE!”. The only part that bothers me about this question is that it is usually asked towards the end of the semester by students who are in danger of failing. If I were to recommend when to hire a tutor, it would be to do it at the start of a class before your grades suffer! I guess the natural question is – why do I think that getting a tutor is so great?
- Forced Practice on a Fixed Schedule – The only real way to learn math is through practice and that doesn’t mean doing 100 problems the night before the test. Think of it like something athletic – you have to build up and be consistent. Instead of 100 problems before the test, it should be 100 problems over the few weeks before the test. If you know that you are meeting with a tutor at 3pm every Friday then at the very least you will be practicing your math at that time every week. More likely, to get the most for your money, you will be practicing earlier in the week so that you have lots of questions for your tutor! It’s just another way to keep yourself on track.
- Hearing it Explained Another Way – In the classes I teach, I have students explain ideas to eachother all the time. Why? Well, over and over again, I have seen students who don’t understand the way I explained it hear the same idea explained from a friend and then suddenly understand! Even if it is exactly the same process, everyone has a different way of explaining things and hearing these other ways can help you develop your own understanding.
- A Tutor Can Focus on Your “Style” of Mistakes – I have been doing math practically full time for the past 15 years I can still get all caught up in a problem and miss a negative sign if I’m not careful. I know this and have learned to always do a quick double check of my signs. We all have mistakes we tend towards and since these can be very individual, they usually won’t get addressed in a class. A tutor however, can notice that you always forget to divide by 2a in the quadratic formula and help you figure out how to handle that. You may have a habit that it holding you back that you don’t even know about but working with a tutor can help identify and address it.
- Reviewing that Stuff You’re “Supposed to Know” – Who remembers everything they learned in every class ever? Well, if you do you are lucky as most of us don’t. Unfortunately in math, there can be little topics here and there that come up again in future classes in fact this is pretty much 100% guaranteed. Double unfortunately (ok go with me on that phrase lol), there may not even be time in class to remind you of these tricks or skills. This is where having a tutor is incredibly helpful as they can help you go back and practice this “old stuff” so that it doesn’t hold you back with the new stuff.
If you do decide to hire a tutor, you should really look into all of the options first. Your school may already have a free tutoring program that you can take advantage of. Do your research and remember – tutoring is an investment just like paying for your tuition or books – so take it seriously and try your best to get the most out of it that you can.