How to improve math marks?
22 Oct 2008
How to find a good math tutor?
如何找一個好的數學老師?
Frank Ho, Amanda Yang
Ho Math and Chess Learning Centre
何數學棋藝
BC certified Teacher
Vancouver, BC, Canada
After teaching and tutoring math for over 15 years, my own experience shows that it is important to realize that after 4 hours of instruction and if the students show no sign of improvement then it is time to consider changing your tutor. With the above in mind, the most important ingredient to improve math is still that the child has to have a mind of wanting to be a good student. If this precondition does not exist then all tutoring efforts must be discounted.
A practical way to find if your math tutor is good is perhaps by comparison, have the child to go through a few tutors and then the child will know which is better one. This one of the reasons that Ho Math and ChessLearning Center offers free lesson.
A good tutor is not working just for money. He must be genuinely interested in teaching. Personally, I found out my enjoyment of teaching comes from the team efforts that is my students and I have actually formed a good team  not only my students learned math from me they also provided me with good feedback. Many of our workbooks were produced because I have discovered the gap in their understanding.
Many tutors taught fraction by firstly dividing pies and have students draw pie charts but where is fraction coming from? If we can get students to understand the source of fraction then students will understand better. It is also interesting for me to discover how Chinese look at fraction by saying it from bottom up and North America teaches fraction by naming fraction from top to down. Because of this discovery, I teach children by explaining fraction in 2 ways. For example, means one half but in Chinese, they say “taking one part out of 2 parts”.
A good tutor not only teaches well, but also interested in doing research. If the tutor is really interested in teaching math then most likely the interest will carry on to research this is the reason Ho Math and Chesshas produced over 25 innovative workbooks – many of them are world’s first and oneofakind.
A good tutor not only teaches but also knows what method or algorithm really can help children get high math marks. The following example was taught by one tutor and that tutor asked the student to convert all denominators to be the same and then add all numerators. Is there a better way to do it?
It is easier if one would just use the special nature of dividing decimals by 10’s, 100’s or 1000’s without doing any division.
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Lots of parents feel that the math at grades 1, 2, or 3 is “nothing” in such a way that really nothing to be learned other than the basic computation. Personally I totally believe that it is important for children at young age to build a solid foundation for basic computation skills, but it is equally important to have built problemsolving skills or thinking skills at young age.
A good tutor is very patient to listen to children and watch how they react after a brief lecture, a parrot style teaching is not a good sign of teaching. I have noticed that some tutors will spend entire hour on nonstop talking. Instead, I rather teach for a short time and watch my students’ reaction. I am always interested in finding out why my students could not work out the solution.
To follow student’s thoughts and trace their problems is very important. How can one be a good teacher if he does not even know why students could not get the right answers? I am interested in going over student’s hand written notes to get into their thoughts and find out what are the problems.
A good tutor is interested in finding out what procedure is good and what is not. For example, there are many ways of getting factors for a trinomial but there is only one method the student needs to master and be good at, so the math teacher or tutor needs to be flexible to allow students to have their method to get the correct answer even if it means the methods is a bit slower.
A good tutor needs patience. What would you do if the tutored child is your own child and your are a math tutor? The same treatment must be applied to the tutor’s students as if the student were tutor’s own children. I was at shock when I discovered that one tutor would insist her own son to do some open problem solving questions but just ignore all those questions when teach other children since they are time consuming to mark and explain. A tutor without heart will not be a good tutor.
Frank Ho, Amanda Yang
