What You Need To Ask a Math Tutor To Make Your Child a Math Champion

Maybe your child works with a math tutor once or twice a week for some extra math help. 

Or, maybe you travel fifteen miles every Wednesday to bring your child to the nearest math learning center. 

But something still seems to be missing. 

Your child isn’t a math champion yet. 

It might be difficult to determine how effectively and quickly a math tutor or math learning program can deliver performance improvements for your child. 

You likely have to wait until math grades start to roll in. 

But, you can proactively speak with your child’s math tutor about your goals and expectations to accelerate success and learning improvements.

Here’s what you need to ask your child’s math tutor to make your child a math champion

Are you teaching my child math in a way that will make them remember it for life? 

I really disliked Geometry when I was in high school.  

Proofs? 

What a nightmare!

Memorizing all of the different formulas? 

Yuck!

I eventually realized that the reason I had trouble with Geometry was that I wasn’t taking the time to understand why I was learning it. 

I wasn’t relating the material to the real world. (And nearly fifteen years later, I continue to encounter many situations and real-life problems that use Geometry!) 

If I had let myself focus on more than just memorizing formulas, I would have deepened my conceptual understanding. 

I would have been a math champion… instead of scraping by with a B-!

Your child could be in a similar boat if they’re currently struggling in math class.

This is because to truly understand a math concept, your child needs to pass through two levels of learning.

Level One: Understand how the procedure works – this is memorizing how it works and the steps required to reach the answer. 

Level Two: Understand why the procedure works – this is a comprehensive understanding of the ‘why’ behind the concept. 

If your child is working with a math tutor, the goal might be to make sure your child can — at a minimum — master level one.

After all, successfully using steps will likely help your child get an A on their next test. 

Sure, this is a nice starting point… but just ‘learning’ isn’t enough

It doesn’t lead to life-long understanding, which is critical for your child to have a solid foundation in math and develop cognitive fluency. 

Let’s say your child doesn’t get to level two and you ask them how to solve a problem they “learned” six months ago.

There’s a good chance that they might not remember exactly how to work through the problem-solving strategy and steps. 

Why? 

Didn’t they take the time to learn it in class? 

When your child learns a new concept, they use their working memory to store new information. 

This is a problem because your child doesn’t have an endless supply of working memory. 

Eventually, their working memory can become overloaded with information… and new information then pushes things previously learned to the side.

Your child then has trouble remembering and recalling how to solve that math problem they learned six months ago. 

confused child

So, how can your child avoid overloading their working memory? 

By trying to remember as little as possible for a math concept. They should be able to derive other facts when solving a problem. They should also spend time learning multiple math strategies. 

In doing so, they can reduce the cognitive load, which helps them remember math for life! 

Your child should spend time building fluency and understanding the “why” behind every problem. 

Be sure to ask your child’s math tutor these questions: 

  1. Are you spending time helping my child understand the “why” behind every concept? 
  2. Are you relating the questions to real-world examples? (This helps your child understand why topics and concepts are important to learn and relevant to situations they’ll encounter in life.)
  3. Is my child practicing how to solve many math problems and learning different problem-solving strategies? 

Your child can think more flexibly and non-linearly when they learn multiple problem-solving strategies. The ability to do so demonstrates strong conceptual thinking skills – which all math champions possess!

How are you hyper-personalizing instruction and content for my child? 

math tutor

Let’s say that your child has already mastered adding and subtracting fractions. 

Now, they really need help with multiplying and dividing fractions. 

They keep getting question after question wrong on their homework, and there’s a big quiz at the end of the week. 

After spending an hour with their math tutor or at a math learning center, you find out that your child spent time working on adding and subtracting fractions.

Huh?

But this isn’t the area where your child needs help the most!

Your child still doesn’t understand how to multiply and divide fractions for their quiz!

(And won’t you feel frustrated that you paid the math tutor to work on a concept your child doesn’t need help with?) 

So, how do you avoid this from happening? 

Make sure the math tutor is always hyper-personalizing your child’s learning plan! 

One way to do this is by making sure your child operates in the Zone of Proximal Development. 

zone of proximal development

Lev Vygotsky developed the Zone of Proximal Development, which identifies a stage where the right amount of guidance and scaffolding accelerate learning. 

To successfully use this learning process, your child’s math tutor uses their knowledge and expertise to help guide your child and provide the appropriate amount of assistance. This assistance requires giving suggestions and hints to guide your child through problem-solving methods. 

The math tutor:

  • Must identify what your child knows, what they need help with, and what they will struggle with when working independently. After identifying these areas, the math tutor can then provide the right level of support to help accelerate learning outcomes for your child.  
  • Needs to adapt and modify content and instruction constantly to ensure your child gets help with the concepts they are struggling with. The learning plan must be relevant to what your child needs to know and learn.  Then, when your child demonstrates mastery and proficiency, the learning plan should update so your child can move forward to a new topic. 
  • Should cover any concept your child learns in school and needs help understanding! Having open discussions with your child’s math tutor is critical for ensuring this. 

Be sure to also ask your child’s current math tutor:

  1. How do you decide what concepts or math problems to work on during the math tutoring sessions?
  2. Do you ask my child what they’re learning in school? 
  3. How do you determine if my child has mastered a concept and is ready to move to a new one? 

If your child’s math tutor is already hyper-personalizing instruction and content:

Awesome! Constantly tailoring the learning plan accelerates learning improvements and helps make your child a math champion. 

If the math tutor isn’t hyper-personalizing content:

Discuss why this is important so that your child shows rockstar performance in the classroom.

How do you help my child when they solve math problems?

math homework

“Siri, what’s the fastest way to work?” 

Silence.

Uh oh, someone behind me is honking. 

Come on, Siri! What’s an alternative route to work?! 

I need to make a decision… quickly! 

Not getting in-the-moment help when you really need it can lead to massive frustration. 

This is exactly how kids feel when they don’t get timely help and assistance on math problems they have trouble answering. 

It’s a scene that you might be very familiar with — 

Your child is sitting at the kitchen table… 

They have to answer a handful of math word problems and can’t remember how to use the strategy they were taught…

They come to you, but you’re not familiar with the new problem-solving methods… 

You try to help them but hear, “That’s not how Mrs. Smith showed me how to solve it!” 

So, how can your child get help quickly so that they can move forward with their learning?

Timely assistance and frequent feedback minimize the possibility that your child ever feels “stuck” answering a math problem. 

Can your child’s current math tutor provide help and quickly answer questions? 

Or, does your child have to wait a week before they meet with their math tutor again? 

Immediate, next day, or live support help your child work through roadblocks and continue with their assignment. This is because their math tutor is available or can provide resources that help your child. 

To check how your child’s math tutor provides assistance and help, be sure to ask:

  1. How quickly will my child receive support or feedback when solving problems? 
  2. How do you deliver feedback? Only during tutoring sessions? Can you support my child every day of the week? 
  3. How do you help minimize frustration at the point of learning? 

Do you have a plan to help my child succeed and show learning improvements? 

I thought that I had good guitar strumming control before working with my guitar teacher. 

But, during my first lesson, my teacher told me that my technique could improve if I practiced picking patterns and worked on coordination exercises every day. 

So, I followed his recommendation without any questions.

Why?

Because my teacher observed my technique from a completely different lens. I knew he saw something that I wasn’t able to see in myself! 

And I wanted to be as awesome as I could be at playing guitar! 

When it comes to your child’s academic performance, don’t you want them to be as awesome as possible too? 

Don’t you want them to become a true math champion? 

For your child to become a math champion, you should get a math tutor who is like a coach. 

When you think of a coach, you might imagine a sports coach who analyzes and critiques performance. A coach does this to provide insight and feedback to their athletes. 

This helps deliver substantial performance improvements. 

Having a one-on-one math tutor gives your child the opportunity to have someone analyze performance and develop a custom plan for learning success.

And this tutor should be open and very transparent when discussing goals and successes with you! 

After all, don’t you want to know how you can also help make your child a math champion? 

Asking “Do you have a clear plan for performance success and learning improvements?” is a good starting point. You can also ask: 

  1. Do you notice any challenges that may prevent my son or daughter from becoming a math champion? 
  2. How frequently do you update my child’s learning goals to ensure they continue on the path to success? How will I know when you adjust these goals? 
  3. What can I do to support my child and help them become a math champion? 

How is my child doing? 

Sometimes we ask questions that we think are pretty straightforward… then don’t get a reply that actually answers the question. 

I recently spoke to a mom who said she asked her child’s in-person private math tutor, “How is my child doing?”

The tutor replied, “Great! We worked on algebraic inequalities today!” 

The mom said that the answer left her a little confused. 

Did I misconstruct the question? Are we talking about two different things?

The math tutor technically provided the mom an update on that day’s specific tutoring session.

But…  the tutor didn’t fully answer what the mom actually wanted to know.

The mom was curious about her child’s current progress and performance.

She wanted to know how her daughter improved over the last month, and what areas she still needed to work on.  

Asking “how’s my child doing?” might be a broad question for your child’s math tutor to answer. To make sure the tutor doesn’t evade or misunderstand what you’re asking, frame questions so that they lead to meaningful responses and updates. 

Your questions should also ensure that you receive clear updates on performance to show your child achieves mastery and learning improvements. 

With mastery learning, your child obtains mastery in a topic before moving on to a new topic or unit. In doing so, your child develops a strong conceptual understanding and is truly ready to move forward to learn more complex concepts. This approach allows your child to reach a high level of achievement when combined with sufficient instruction, time, and perseverance. 

And having data-driven insights is a must for mastery learning! 

Your child’s results and performance should be analyzed by their math tutor. Diagnostic tests allow their math tutor to pinpoint your child’s specific areas of weakness. Then, they focus on obtaining mastery in these specific areas. With additional tests and data, the math tutor can then show you learning improvements and mastery. 

Ask your child’s math tutor the following questions to make sure they use data to hyper-personalize the learning plan and support mastery learning: 

  1. Can you provide data-driven insights that show measurable learning improvements? 
  2. Can you provide a diagnostic report that shares my child’s current math capabilities? 
  3. How often do I get an update from you? Daily? Weekly? Monthly? 

Your child’s math tutor can hopefully update you on performance improvements at any given moment. 

Measurable learning improvements keep your child on track with their learning goals. The math tutor can then use these performance indicators to continuously tailor and adapt the learning plan as your child progresses. 

This helps your child become a math champion very quickly! 

Conclusion 

If you’re ready to make your child a math champion, be sure to take the time to speak with their math tutor. 

There are a handful of important questions that you can ask to open up dialogue. After all, you want to ensure that you and the math tutor both have the same goals for your child! 

Ask questions like, “are you teaching my child math in a way that will make them remember it for life?” and “how are you hyper-personalizing instruction and content for my child?” to understand the math tutor’s instructional approach. 

Then, be sure to check in frequently and ask questions directly related to your child’s performance.  

Your child can also work with an elite Thinkster Math tutor. Our math tutors are always ready to answer all of your questions and share updates on your child’s progress and performance results. 

Your child works with one dedicated math tutor, whose goal is to help your child develop a variety of math and life skills.

Learn more about how our math tutors can help make your child a true math champion

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Kendra Straley

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