I am currently pursuing bachelor's degrees in mathematics and music performance. In high school, I found that I enjoyed helping my friends with math, so when I got to college, I decided to become a tutor. Ever since, I have been helping students from a variety of backgrounds and age groups. What sets me apart is my empathy. It wasn't long ago that I was taking calculus, and I remember what it feels like not to understand the material. Although I love mathematics, I completely understand why many students don't. So, even though I do my best to show my students that math is beautiful, I feel it is much more important to show them that they are capable of excelling in mathematics even if they never come to like it.
To me, teaching is more listening than it is talking. Most students know more about themselves than they realize, so I ask many questions to get to know my students. My goal is to help a student to become independent. To me, tutoring should be working yourself out of a job: if I do my job correctly, they shouldn’t need me anymore.
University of Nevada-Las Vegas - Current Undergrad, Mathematics
AP Music Theory
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
I think a pen and paper are enough when tutoring math. Often, I have textbooks available and my laptop open just in case we run into a problem that's particularly challenging. The amazing thing about math is you don't need very much stuff to learn it.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
During my first session with a student, I try to assess how they like to learn and what they hope to gain from my tutoring. Some students are taking their last math course in college, while other are aspiring engineers. It's important to me that I understand my students' goals so that I can adjust my teaching style accordingly.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
The very first thing I do is let them take a break. Frustration makes learning a lot more difficult. After they've relaxed, I ask the student why they feel that the concept is difficult. Every student is different, so I work with them to write up a reference sheet on the topic that suits their learning style. Then, we work through examples together, making sure to take notes in the margin on the thought process that goes into each step.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
I draw a lot of pictures. Most of the time, students feel like math is a foreign language. Giving them something to imagine when they read a problem helps to make the material feel more familiar.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
It depends on their interests. For some students, I give them an example of how they will be able to use it in the future. To others, passing the course is the most exciting thing in the world.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
There are two aspects of mathematics: mechanical and conceptual. Students gain mechanical skill through consistent practice, so I have many practice problems that they can work on. As far as the conceptual knowledge, I find that drawing pictures and asking open-ended questions help clarify concepts.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
I remind them of how far they've come. Especially in math, students look back and realize that was used to be a foreign language has now become clear as day.
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
Most of the time, asking them is more than enough. Students know a lot more about themselves than I do. In particular, it is important to know whether the student feels like they can learn independently. If they don't, then I focus heavily on raising their confidence.