We are now entering the season of exams, results and feedback which inevitably raises the perennial question from parents of the need for a math tutor – whether the purpose is to help with homework, fill in some gaps, excel in the subject or simply maintain current progress.
One of the most famous tutors in history was Aristotle, who in the 3rd Century BCE tutored Alexander the Great - and he went on to create one of the largest empires in the Ancient World by the age of 30. That is some endorsement! As a tutor, Aristotle had an unquestionable pedigree having been a student of Plato, who in turn had been a follower of Socrates.
But fast forward to the present day and there are so many different factors involved in private tutoring that ultimately it is a choice that parents (and students) should make after careful consideration. It might be worth contemplating both the advantages and disadvantages of tutoring to allow everyone to make their own decision.
Firstly, the right tutor can provide specific and individual support for any student and I have never heard of tutoring in maths having an adverse effect on a student’s progress as long as a link is maintained between the teacher and the tutor. For a student who needs extension work, the tutor provides a wonderful way of introducing new concepts and offering a different style of teaching. Tutoring definitely gets results, although in the short term, it might not always seem like money well spent!
In the negative column, students can become overly dependent on the tutor and look to him, or her, to do all their thinking. Tutors that are employed to do assignments are especially to blame for this. This reliance on the tutor can then prevent the student from developing resilience skills and progress as a learner. It is important for students to develop independence and with access to Googol… I mean Google, there is a wealth of information and help available to everyone.
Websites like Khan Academy, Mathspace, and Mathplanet as well as many, many more all provide free tutoring. Sometimes it is just a matter of asking Siri or typing in a question for example, what is the solution to the quadratic equation, x2 + 5x + 6 = 0? At Somerset, the Maths teachers are always available for help outside the classroom and they provide regular informal tutoring sessions on Monday and Thursday in the Senior School. The College has a subscription to Mathsonline for all senior students who each have an individual login code and password.
Finally, the importance of getting help from peers and the family unit cannot be over emphasised. Students can set up their own online discussion groups which if used properly can provide tremendous support, while tutoring from family members is a wonderful way to bond together. As a parent or grandparent, you may find that you even learn or relearn some mathematics yourself.
Whatever the final decision made over a maths tutor, just bear in mind the famous quote from Aristotle “The roots of education are bitter but the fruit is sweet”.
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