Ideas for Tutoring Math
The following three ideas are the core of how I try to help
students with math. I hope they are of some use to you as you work
with your student on the weekly math problems. When creating those
problems, I am always on the lookout for applications of math ideas
(Idea #3) and would welcome your suggestions. Please also pass along
other observations that may help us all do a better job.
Idea #1: Understanding is an important goal. Too many students
have learned too large a share of their math by memorizing rules.
That may get them through an exam, but in the absence of
understanding, the rules may be misused and/or quickly slip away.
With a foundation of understanding, using the rules becomes a matter
of doing what makes sense. The resulting confidence in one's own
mental powers is empowering. For more on this topic, have a look at
Street Math, Making Sense, Confidence and
Weekly Problem #1.
Idea #2: Motivation. Too few students are motivated to do well
at math, even though they have the capacity. Math can be fun and
exciting and motivate itself, but there's more. At College Bound we
are in the business of keeping opportunity alive, so students need to
be informed that math underlies most STEM fields. One place to look
is "STEM: Good Jobs Now and for the Future,"
where "good" means higher pay and lower unemployment and the "M" in
STEM means Math, and there are dozens of STEM fields (37 or 50
depending on whether you ask Immigration or Commerce).
And that's not all. Closer to home, there's a raft of ways math helps
in daily life. I have made a long list of them, organized into
categories, in Why Learn
Math. In subcategory 2(a), the topic "home loans" is there to
remind us that the sub-prime lending melt-down, though mainly about
greed and loosened regulation, also involved math-challenged victims.
People will tell you that they haven't found math useful. I wonder if
they are just not noticing the opportunity.
Idea #3: Applicability feeds into Ideas #1 and #2. Teaching
math with plausible applications can be a motivator
(idea #2) opening a student's eyes to interesting ways to make a
living. At the very least it derails the false complaint that math
might not be useful. Applicability can also help a student visualize
what the math is accomplishing, and that visualization can aid
understanding (idea #1). On this topic, there is another
1-pager on this site at
Words & the World.