The Three Biggest Pitfalls in Hiring a Math Tutor

When searching for a math tutor there are things you need to have in place to ensure a good experience. Having a good tutor can be a great benefit – far more bang for your buck than classroom education – but there are three common problems that can interfere with your getting your money’s worth. These problems are inability to communicate, lack of real knowledge of the subject matter, and plain irresponsibility. On the other side of the equation, you can (if you are deliberate in your choosing) find a tutor who doesn’t merely avoid these problems but gives far greater benefit than all the teachers you’ve ever had combined.


Some brilliant mathematicians are notoriously bad communicators. (Those of us who are not downright schizophrenic, like John Nash, famously portrayed in A Beautiful Mind, often love the world of ideas especially because of its removal from real life!)

If you have an absent-minded-professor type for a tutor, you have an abundance of knowledge but no way to access it. If you have a present-minded tutor who knows how to nurture the students’ learning process, you have an invaluable aid to your learning.

What a good tutor and good tutoring company do to communicate clearly:

A good tutor listens. She/he is patient, she listens to your needs, she works with you at every step and continuously monitors your progress and takes you from where you are to where you want to be. (Not from where you aren’t.)

A good tutor is very experienced at tutoring-not just at classroom teaching, which is a very different activity. A good tutor is intuitive about students’ needs.

A good tutoring company hires good tutors, not just brilliant mathematicians, or certified teachers, or people looking to earn a buck. When it contracts a tutor, a good company director asks her/him to teach a sample lesson. They have a conversation. They interact.

An experienced tutoring director knows when someone can communicate well. They’ve paid attention to their students, to feedback, and have analyzed and reflected on the communications process to see what works.

Some students need things to be spoken slowly, some need things repeated many times, while others may need things to go fast in order to keep their attention focused.


An experienced tutor should not only take into consideration the student’s learning abilities and knowledge of a particular subject matter, but should also be able to take into consideration other factors as well. Very often the obstacle to understanding mathematics is not necessarily due to a person’s learning abilities, but is due to the person’s current tutor psychological and emotional state. A student may have things going on at home, at work or in a relationship, which can cause a significant obstruction to learning. He or she will be with their tutor during a tutoring session, and instead of focusing on what the tutor is trying to explain, the student is engaged in thoughts pertaining to his/her problems. This can cause attention deficit, inability to focus, and lack of desire to learn or listen to the tutor. If taking on a student for long term tutoring, a good tutor or tutoring company should try as much as possible to take these factors into consideration and craft their tutoring sessions with this information in mind.

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