“I’m working with a 6th grader and am having a hard time tutoring math. It’s so different from the way it was taught when I was in school. Sometimes I feel like I’m giving him the wrong information, and a couple of times I’ve definitely been wrong–and found it a little embarrassing. Any advice would be appreciated.”
My experience has been math is almost always the subject kids have problems with. I have a strong background in math, so usually my problem is how the subject is being taught in school. I use a couple of sources. I first go to Khan Academy to see how they present the problem. I also have a number of books from third to sixth grade math on what the students should know and how Common Core is teaching it. Also, looking at the student’s book and homework assignment oftentimes has examples. Once I learn what particular section of math the student is working on, I will spend time prior to the meeting preparing so I don’t waste time when I am there. I always carry a small whiteboard and erasable markers to both show the student examples and let them work so I can see it. Additionally, seldom do students know the fundamentals very well (times tables, fractions, percentages), so I spend some part of the lesson reviewing them, usually with apps on a tablet.
Sixth grade might be algebra or geometry, and one of the first things I do is try to relate the subject to the real world. For example, algebraic equations are expressions of how nature works. The next time you go to a drinking fountain and press the handle, you will see that the water rises and then falls. The shape is a parabola and its equation is Y = X (squared). This can be too sophisticated mathematically, but it starts to help students understand the abstract nature of math.
It is difficult to attempt to tutor a subject that you don’t know really well; however, today there are many online free courses that you can look at. Hope that helps.
About the Tutor: Richard Bennett graduated from the University of Michigan with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and has a JD from Whittier Law School. In his professional career, he was a software engineer, sales and marketing executive, and business owner of a software and consulting firm. He has been a volunteer for SOW for nine years, and for the last five years he has tutored students at Family Promise of the Verdugos. He is also currently a member of the Board of Directors for the Glendale YWCA.
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