My time at the Community College Math Lab, working as a math tutor was the basis of my teaching abilities. I taught people of all walks of life, students, young folks, older folks, people with kids, and people that worked full time jobs. Most of them were there in the math lab because they needed help, so most of the folks had deficiencies, and I was there to help them.
I needed to learn to listen. I needed to understand what kind of math problem they were having issues with and most importantly I needed to make sure I knew how to solve the problem. I then needed to ask them to show me what they have tried so far. Some of them did make an effort and got stuck, some of them did not even try. I understood some of the students were “forced” to go to the Math Lab. After looking at their work, I could easily identify where the student got stuck. At times, it was as easy as pointing them towards the right direction, and at times I realized I needed to start from step 0 with the student. There is a lot of let me ask the student this question and depending on what they respond, I adjust. I learned the art of being patient.
I have always been a big fan of keeping things super simple and making sure I knew the basics. Whenever I need to explain concepts, ideas, or steps to a student, I keep things simple. The goal is not to impress, but to help the other person understand. Math tends to build on itself. I needed to understand how to count before I learned how to add. I needed to know how to add before I learned how to multiply. I need to assess and determine how much math does the student know at this moment. This will tell me how I need to explain, what words I should use and which ones to avoid. The key for me is to make sure I know all the steps and have the skills needed to solve a math problem. I also needed to know what questions to ask and how to listen to determine where I should go next.
Step by Step
I walked the student step by step and stopped at each step to verify they understand. After I have verified they are following/tracking me, I move on to the next step. If they seem to “get it”, I ask them to tell me what the next step is. I ask them to solve the next step of the math problem. I need to constantly gage how much hand holding I need to do. The goal is to teach, not to do the work for them. I needed to challenge them, but not make it so hard that they get frustrated and give up.
The end Goal
At the end of the day the hope is that the person I tutored is better off than when they connected with me. I hope that they learned at least one thing. I hope that next time, they will not make the same mistake. If they don’t need my help anymore, my job is done. I also realize that this requires the student, to practice on their own time. This is where most students fail, they simply don’t put in the time needed to get good at math.