How to pick a tutor…or not

Who needs a tutor?

You do!

Well, no…you probably don’t. Even if  you’re faced with the challenge of Honors Geometry (a rude awakening to many students who are suddenly faced with the demands of their first high-school honors math course), you probably don’t. As I wrote almost a year ago, fewer than 20% of  successful students in Honors Geometry actually see a tutor. And there are similar numbers in other honors math courses at Weston, and lower but still significant numbers in college-prep math courses. Those students, though far fewer than a majority, have somehow determined that they need a tutor. Or their parents have determined that. In some cases this is the right decision, in some cases the wrong one. And in some cases they pick a good tutor, and in some cases a bad one.

So if you are a high-school student or the parent of a high-school student or just an interested observer, you may want an expert analysis to help you decide whether a tutor is needed and to help you pick the right one. Fortunately, my esteemed colleague Dr. Boris Korsunsky published an article on this very subject a couple of years ago, aimed primarily at parents. His advice is appropriate and to the point. I agree with 96% of what he says (that figure, like 88% of all statistics, was just made up on the spot, but it’s in the right ballpark). I would merely add two additional related points:

  • The tutor needs some familiarity with the curriculum and with the teacher’s approach to it. See whether the teacher is willing to have some kind of communication with the tutor, either by phone or by email. This would be useful even if it occurs only once, preferably near the first tutoring session.
  • The tutor is not only helping the student but is also helping the teacher. Some tutors have been known to undermine the teacher by overtly disagreeing with the curriculum or the teaching methods. That’s not the role of the tutor and it’s not helping the student! If your tutor is doing that, find somebody else.


Categories: Math, Teaching & Learning, Weston