This article appeared in The Telegraph on the 15th December 2017.
Here we run through 10 of the most common ways to know that your child is in need of a maths tutor, whether to build confidence, to unlock their potential or to help them to pass an all-important exam.
1. Falling behind
In many ways, this is the key reason why parents and children seek out help from tutors. It’s impossible for classroom teachers to give each child their full attention. If a method isn’t understood properly from the beginning, it can be hard to grasp it after the rest of the class has moved on. Make sure your child understands the basics of the problems they're solving, before it's too late. Most tutors will expect to take at least six months to coax your child from a low D grade to a good C or higher.
If their skills develop for them to keep up, there’s very little that can be done in school to sort out the problem past a certain point. A good tutor will identify a child’s weaknesses and take proactive steps to strengthen them. This might mean going over maths problems with care and repetition, helping to choose the right books, guiding revision, or more generally re-teaching topics that have already been covered.
2. Unlocking potential
While many tutors unearth real academic promise in children whose performance may be unremarkable at school, the rule of thumb is to hope for a one- to two-grade improvement on average in the course of any one academic year. But targets should help a pupil’s skills in a topic, not simply aim at improving their grades.
Whether a tutor is hired to help a child catch up, boost confidence or lift attainment in the run-up to GCSEs or A-levels, he or she can also provide a bridge between a family and school.
3. Slow progress
A personal tutor rather than a schoolteacher can focus attention on a single child and allow them, and not the demands of the curriculum, to set the pace. If your child is doing well, but feels they need more time to crystallize their efforts in order to work through schoolwork quicker and more efficiently, a tutor could be the answer.
4. Parental guidance
Although it’s important to ensure that routine homework assignments are completed by pupils and not by tutors, hiring a professional teacher can lift a significant burden on parents when it comes to schoolwork. If you feel that you can't dedicate the time your child needs out of school hours yourself, a tutor can step in to help - leaving you to focus on your other priorities.
5. Building confidence
Fear of failure can feel insurmountable to some children. If your child lacks confidence, a tutor can help to bolster their self-belief. Although many parents hire private tutors in advance of significant milestones such as the 11-plus or a school entry exam or GCSEs, it isn’t all about exams. A maths tutor can be invaluable at any stage for confidence building, for example. Some children may simply need the positive reinforcement of the phrase "well done" to keep them motivated.
6. Exam preparation
It seems obvious, but for many children and teenagers a tutor will provide the extra momentum they need to pass an upcoming exam. Many parents believe that getting their child into the right prep school is a pivotal moment in their education. The most likely stages in which your child might require a tutor for this is at GCSE-age, or ahead of the 13-plus and the 11-plus.
7. Class act
Some children simply thrive in a one-on-one environment, and find it much easier to concentrate and build an understanding of a subject than they to amid the disruptions and distractions of a class atmosphere. Some children may simply thrive from having a little of an adult’s time.
8. Lack of enthusiasm
Sometimes, a lack of enthusiasm can be a signal that a child isn't being challenged enough in the classroom. He or she may simply be bored. That’s where a tutor can come in. Tutoring is good for children who are highly able, not just for children who need academic help. If maths lessons aren't challenging enough, that might mean that your child is in need of an extra push and would relish the opportunity to test their abilities.
9. Making maths fun
If your child is in need of rediscovering the joy of maths, then an extra-curricular, outside-the-box approach could provide them with the Eureka! moment that they need. There can be less pressure if they take time to immerse themselves in a topic with a tutor, and there's the opportunity to laugh, play games and experiment with novel approaches.
10. Building rapport
If your child is struggling to get on with their appointed maths teacher at school, their studies are likely to suffer. An outside tutor can be a tonic to that, and ensure that they continue to feel good about maths and to progress.