Introduce yourself and find out the name of your tutee.
Find out what the student has already tried in solving the problem.
Try to ask questions that lead the student to answer his/her own question. This
means you’ll need to ask an easy question first, one that helps the student take the
first step of solving the problem. Keep asking questions that prompt the student to
continue taking steps. The student will gain much more from discovering a solution
than from being told a solution. As much as possible, let the student do the
Give plenty of time for the student to answer. Sometimes a student needs more
time to think than you might guess.
If you make an explanation, be sure to write down what you’re doing. (Bring your
Write as neatly as you can and be methodical in your written explanation.
Never write on the student’s paper. A pad of scratch paper is often helpful,
particularly if you’re helping many students. If you’re working with a single
student, you can make neat, organized notes on a piece of binder paper.
Don’t do the homework for the student! Remember it’s their work, not yours!
Check for understanding; ask a related question to see if the student really “gets”
it. Again, give the student plenty of time.
Be encouraging! Remember, most of these students find math difficult and many
have known much failure. One of your goals is to make them feel more confident so
that they won’t sabotage their own efforts by feeling “dumb”. NEVER make
comments like “Oh, that’s SO easy!” or “Anybody could do that!” or “You don’t
know how to do THAT??” Be PATIENT!
If you’re not sure of an answer, be honest. If you can ask someone who’s there
for help, do so. Otherwise say, “I’ll find out and tell you at our next meeting.”
Then, do follow up. I’m always available for those kinds of questions. You can also
ask for help in teaching a topic. Sometimes even when you know how to get an
answer, you may need help in teaching it to someone else.
HAVE FUN! There is great pleasure in helping a student to gain understanding and
confidence in mathematics.
Vivian Moutafian/Cal Teach