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A Roadmap for Becoming a Maths Tutor

By Jon, published on 20/07/2018 We Love Prof - AU > Tutoring > Advice for Tutors > How to Tutor Maths

Due to the very nature of maths, it would seem that that subject is daunting to many students. Judging by the volume of websites that offer online maths help, the need for maths tutors is great and growing.

Are you someone who is passionate about maths? Have you thought about becoming a maths tutor? This article will tell you all you need to know about starting out in the world of tutoring.

The good news is that there is no law requiring any certification or licensing to work as a tutor in the UK. Therefore, if you have the necessary skill and are passionate about numbers, shapes, equations and functions, there is nothing stopping you from imbuing your future students with maths competence.

Tutoring in maths can be enriching and rewarding for you and your students.

Enabling a fundamental understanding of maths and logic not only permits your students to pass exams, but they can use ‘mathematical thinking’ and logic in all aspects of their life which, in turn, serves to advance society.

Besides, as a self-employed private tutor, you get to set your own hours and the pay is pretty good, too!

Without further ado, let us explore the many ways you can convert your maths skills and teaching abilities into a productive, fiscally attractive, mutually rewarding venture.

Tutoring in maths is rewarding for you and your student You can offer many different types of maths help. Source: Pixabay

How to Become a Maths Tutor

Generally, when one ponders the topic of teaching mathematics, a highly degreed professor comes to mind because such worthies offer a wide range of experience and deep subject knowledge.

The good news is that, even if you do not (yet) have a maths degree, it is not necessary for you to study for years in order to help students study maths today. In fact, you can tutor any subject you feel competent in – even if you have no formal qualifications in it!

As long as you feel that your level of knowledge and skill in maths is advanced enough, you can offer your tuition services to students wishing to improve their numeracy skills.

The idea of ‘tuition’ covers a wide range of learning support. There are a variety of ways to be a maths mentor:

  • General maths support: In this type of tutoring, you would work regularly with your students to help them understand the fundamentals of maths – the nuts and bolts of the subject, so to speak. What you teach depends on the students’ school curriculum and what they are covering in class at the time. Homework help also comes under general maths support, and the nature of this type of tuition means that lesson content will vary week on week. Sometimes your student will bring you a particular maths problem they need help with, and other times they might simply ask you to recap something they’ve covered in class – it’s your job to make sure that they have the support they need to keep up with their peers in the classroom.

  • Preparation for examination: There is intense pressure on students of all ages to succeed in core academic subjects such as maths. With major examinations such as SATs, GCSEs and A Levels at the forefront of every student’s mind, many parents call on the help of a private tutor to make sure their children are as prepared as possible for their upcoming exams. When it comes to GCSE maths exams in particular, getting a grade C or above makes all the difference to a student’s prospects – so why not be the person to help someone build a bright future?

  • Teaching maths: Teaching maths in tutoring sessions is similar to general maths support, but the learning plan and lesson content are more focused. Tutors have more latitude to instil and reinforce broader aspects of maths concepts and applications. Doing so is a bit more work but the benefits to your students are exponential, as you are not bound to a specific curriculum, which means that you can teach at the student’s own pace. In some cases, this means that students end up mastering mathematical concepts which their peers may not encounter for some time.

Before engaging as a maths tutor, you should ask yourself:

What are your maths competencies? Are you indeed a highly degreed professor with years of calculus applications under your belt? Are you equal to the challenge of instructing at university level or would you prefer working with younger learners – say, those preparing for their SATs or 11-plus?

Are you looking to establish yourself as a full-time educator, or would your foray into the maths tutoring arena be more of a summer break gig, until you start your next college semester?

Would you want to tutor in students’ homes, in your home or in a more public setting, such as a library or even a café?

All of these questions are meant to help you determine who you can help, where and when you would work and how much you stand to earn as a tutor in maths.

Having a clear idea of what you want your tutoring job to look like will not only help you get on the right track, but it will also help you target your advertisements when market your tutoring services.

Learning disabilities can prevent students from absorbing lessons Students with maths anxiety need special care and attention. Source: Pixabay

Qualities Needed for Maths Tutoring Jobs

Even though anyone endowed with maths competence could give maths help, there are certain qualities that distinguish a stellar educator of maths from an average one, or even a bad one.

Math anxiety is a very real phenomenon that affects an estimated 2-6% of secondary school students in the UK. Such sufferers may grasp mathematical concepts but perhaps cannot apply them well due to the feelings of anxiety which are evoked when they encounter a maths problem.

In the most extreme cases, the student who is so unsettled by the subject that they struggle to complete even the simplest calculations as the symptoms of panic set in.

Whether a student needs a tutor’s help because of a condition such as anxiety, or they simply need a confidence boost, tutors are not only there to teach, but to mentor.

The best maths tutors empathise with their students. They put themselves in their pupil’s shoes in order to understand the difficulties they are experiencing, and tailor teaching methods to suit the learner’s strengths whilst working on their weaknesses. A popular method which is used by tutors to ease their students into maths with minimal anxiety is to disguise learning as play; by incorporating mathematical concepts into a game, you can get a student’s mathematical brain in gear without them even noticing! Playing math games at the start of your lessons is a great way to help your student relax before they start learning about and using maths in a serious context.

Learning disabilities and Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLDs), such as dyscalculia are also among the reasons many parents seek one to one maths help. Dyscalculia affects a person’s ability to understand the way in which numbers work and grasp concepts such as addition and why counting is important. In the same way that dyslexia affects a person’s ability to master language, dyscalculia can make learning number sense much more difficult. For this reason, learners who have trouble reasoning and counting, who cannot grasp concepts such as ranging numbers from biggest to smallest might need your patience more than your maths expertise.

And, speaking of expertise…

It might seem redundant to emphasise that a maths teacher should be a master of the discipline, at least to whatever level they wish to instruct, but it is necessary to drive that point home.

Consider the fact that you will be called on to answer any question your tutee might pose. You will be expected to clarify difficult subject material and help your students work through each step of complex equations, being fully capable of explaining each step along the way – and you must do so with a surety that only one well-versed in the subject can have.

This is why it would be preferable for you to have undergone the same learning trajectory as those you teach maths to, at least in general terms.

For example, if you received your education in Scotland, you are perfectly qualified to assist students in England or Ireland with maths tutoring, but the fact that your students will be following a slightly different curriculum to you, and being examined by different exam boards, may be challenging. The best way to overcome the issue of preparing for unfamiliar exams is to do some research before you plan a lesson; ask your student about what working they are expected to show, visit the exam boards’ websites and look at some sample papers and mark schemes – knowing what is being asked of your students will make your teaching go further and ensure that each student fulfils their potential in mathematics.

But what if you left the education system a long time ago? Maybe you acquired your mathematics skills from somewhere other than school? It’s worth knowing that although having recent, first-hand experience of maths learning in school is helpful to tutoring, it’s not obligtory, and many industry professionals and retirees go on to have successful tutoring jobs.

There is muh more to tutoring than the transmission of knowledge; tutoring is about the enrichment of students’ lives though an alternative method of education which goes beyond the school curriculum. So, although it’s likely that many of your students will be following the same course content and sitting the same exams, you need to remember what makes tutoring different from classroom teaching: personalisation.

Every learner is unique, and each one presents a singular set of requirements for you to meet. Whether teaching elementary math or algebra, it is necessary to adapt your knowledge, skills, abilities and experience to each of your students’ personal needs and goals.

This means taking the time to talk to them about the points they find difficult to understand whilst taking their preferred learning strategies into account. Are they a visual learner? Or do they prefer to learn by doing? Trying new things and asking for regular feedback will help you to keep your lessons as relevant and as effective as possible. Your job as a private tutor is to act as a problem solver and help students overcome the obstacles created by the one-size-fits-all teaching methods used in schools so that they can achieve the academic success they wish for.

A student’s achievements proclaim their teacher’s abilities.

The old engineering adage, KISS – Keep it Simple, Sir! – also applies to teaching maths. You should dilute difficult concepts into everyday language, or through real-world examples: slicing a pie to explain fractions, for example.

Breaking down calculations into steps and explaining each one in detail is also a good way of making math concepts easier to understand.

For your younger, or more hands-on students, try using building blocks, hoops and other shapes to explain geometry and arithmetic.

Good maths skills require vision and imagination. While you are formally called on to help develop students’ maths proficiency, keep in mind that you are unofficially training their minds to work in a rational, logical manner.

There is maths everywhere we look. So get your students interested in the maths around them every day by using visual aids, props, kinaesthetics and even music to show them just how intrinsic mathematics is to even the most seemingly mundane aspects of life.

For example, why not demonstrate the presence of maths in everyday life by using a set of scales to show how cooking ingredients are measured out? Or use a recipe to explain ratio? The more a student appreciates the relevance of maths to their day-to-day lives, the more they will be thinking about it, and the higher the likelihood that they will be motivated to succeed.

Assured guidance in maths means students learn better You will guide your pupils through the intricacies of maths studies. Source: Pixabay

Tutoring Maths, Step by Step

Maths teaching is seldom a spontaneous activity; much goes into planning lessons which are tailored to each student’s needs.

It can be tempting to rely on a stockpile and reuse lesson plans from lessons you have already delivered, however, it is important that you review your materials prior to each tutoring session. This does not mean that you have to create a brand new lesson plan for each session, but you should take some time to look at that day’s work before you meet with your pupil. Spending a moment to do this will give you a chance to try to anticipate the student’s difficulties and formulate responses in advance, making for a smoother lesson.

The way in which you break down your learning programme is also important and ensuring that the student understands where they are in their learning journey when you begin and end each session is especially important.

Before moving to another concept, ensure your student has fully understood and retained the previous lesson. In order to help the student consolidate their knowledge from the last session and get in the right mindset for learning new material, prepare a few test questions or a quiz, perhaps related to students’ interests: “How many players would Manchester United have at the next game if 12% of them are out sick?”, for example.

Prepare props or handouts to help explain new material in a visual way and give students something to help them revise. If you are helping a student to prepare for maths revision GCSE or other exams, feel free to give a mock test, just to assess what facet of the exam your assistance is most needed. GCSE and A level past papers can be found online and are free to download, so you’ll have plenty of mock exam material.

It is important that both you and your tutee see official exam questions as a learning aid, rather than something negative to be overcome. Helping your students to get used to tackling exam questions will familiarise them with the exam format, and reviewing their answers alongside the mark scheme will help them to get familiar with what is being asked of them so that they can keep calm when the day of the exam arrives.

Your sessions should be used for teaching and explaining, however, you should regularly assess your students throughout the course of your teaching, not only to keep track of their progress but to also pinpoint weaknesses and prove strengths. Assessments can take any form you like, however, they should not eat into your one to one teaching time too much.

When it comes to discussing your student’s performance with them, bear in mind that reprimanding or disapproving of incorrect answers or uncertainty is counterproductive. A positive, encouraging attitude is a must! Gentle corrections with good explanations are the most suitable or, better yet: guide your pupil to the desired answer. Letting your student reach the correct answer themselves will not only allow them to use the right method, but it will also avoid damaging their confidence.

As a new tutor, it can be difficult to find your place in the market, especially when it comes to setting your hourly rates. Read our article on how to set your maths tutor prices for all you need to know about earning money as a private tutor.

Find Students for Your Maths Tutor Jobs

Starting up your math tutoring business may seem easy, until you have to find some students who require your expertise!

Thankfully, advertising your tutoring services and getting your name out there is easier than you may think!

Here are the main ways new tutors find clients:

  • Work through a tutoring agency. The benefit is that clients come to you and their needs have already been assessed. The downside is that you would be an employee, working within the confines of that company and your pay could be less than if you worked independently as agencies usually take commission. Tutoring agencies can also tend to be quite selective when it comes to choosing their teaching team, but if you’re suitable qualified and don’t want to spend your free time looking for clients, this could be the right option for you.

  • Placing an ad online is an easy and cost-effective way to advertise your services, but it is possible that your ad could be overlooked, especially if you choose to not pay for premium placement. Many tutors use local advertising sites such as Gumtree, however, online tutoring platforms such as Superprof as becoming increasingly popular as they offer advertising services specifically for tutors. While you’re online, you can do a search for students who have placed an ad for a math tutor and offer your services.

  • Word of mouth is a powerful advertisement medium which is not to be overlooked. Talk yourself up! A chat with a neighbor, a casual exchange at the local grocer and, who knows? Your first student may well be living right next to you. And even if you don’t speak to anyone who is in need of your services, the people you do speak to may know someone who is looking to find a tutor.

Maths Tutor Prices & Earnings

The amount of money you can make as a tutor depends on what level and what facet of maths instruction you give, your experience in teaching maths, where you live and when you work.

Generally speaking, a Maths teacher salary in England ranges between £15 and £30 per hour.

If you are based in London, you stand to earn more than if you worked in or around as less densely populated area.

Here are the average costs of one to one tuition around the country:

CityAverage Price per Hour
London£22.50
Manchester£19.50
Leeds£17.34
Newcastle£20.00
Edinburgh£19.41
Cardiff£18.21

If you teach GCSE maths or university-level maths, you could charge more than if you instruct elementary level maths.

And if you cut out travel costs by choosing to teach maths online, you can keep more of your earnings in your pocket!

No matter which avenue you choose or what level you help students excel at, giving maths lessons is sure to bring you and your students rewards.

Discover the Brief History of Mathematics tutoring over the centuries with our guide.

Find tutoring jobs on Superprof. Whether you want to teach at home or start online tutoring jobs, we can help.

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