Hiring a Math Tutor and How to Handle Them

Being able to guarantee the results of your work is a big plus. An experienced tutor or tutoring company, after spending a couple of sessions with a student, and making the necessary assessments, should be able to tell how many sessions the student should need in order to do well in a course or to pass an exam. The tutors should be able to guarantee whether the student will do well in the course or on the exam (on the condition that the student does all the work that is assigned to him and cooperates with his tutor. There are many cases where families or individuals buy large tutoring packages for themselves or their families, go through the tutoring sessions, do all the necessary work, and then don’t end up doing well in their respective courses. This is unethical, because a tutoring company should take a certain measure of responsibility, to be able to guarantee the final outcomes in performance. If such a case occurs, then you should contact the company and ask for your money back. However, if you or your child spent time with a good tutor who has done all the work from his or her end, and you or your child did not participate or do the necessary work, then your failure should not be the company’s responsibility. At the same time, if a company or a tutor notices a student who is not interested in learning, this situation should be immediately addressed, and further efforts should be made to change the situation around. After carrying this out, if indeed there is no desire to continue on the student’s end, then all further sessions should be cancelled. There are many tutoring companies who take advantage of such students. Those, for example who are not interested in being tutored, but are forced to attend lessons by their parents. There is little or no benefit from such sessions.

People who apply to work as tutors at many tutoring companies have studied at some of the top universities in the country. Yet there are some candidates who shouldn’t be hired even with the kind of credentials any student of mathematics would envy, simply because they do not have listening skills.

In matching you with your tutor, a really good tutoring director listens carefully and gets a sense of what the best kind of match will be. And if he really has class, then if he doesn’t a match for you, he won’t pair you with a tutor who can’t really help your needs-he’ll simply refer you to one of his competitors.

What YOU can do to ensure your needs:

When you speak with a tutoring company the first time, be sure to ask about the communication skills of the tutors. Then, when you get matched up, have a conversation with the tutor yourself, and ask questions. Ask the tutor to explain a mathematical concept to you. If you don’t understand the explanation, or if you find you’re having to work hard to understand or keep up, this might not be worth pursuing.

What to look for:

• a great tutor will ask you questions while explaining, and find out if you’re following.
• a great tutor won’t assume that just because you’re hearing the words that you’re understanding.
• if you don’t understand the first explanation, a great tutor will explain it differently the second time, rather than simply repackaging the original explanation in different words.
• a tutor will have the attitude that if the explanation wasn’t clear, the student is not to blame (on the condition that you are cooperating and actually want to learn). The customer is always right.


A tutor needs to know the material not just well enough to pass the exam himself/herself but know it when on the spot, and be able to explain it as well as doing it. Real knowledge of subject matter is actually a different skill set from the ability to solve a problem and get a grade on a exam.

A tutor needs to have teaching-knowledge as well as learning knowledge. Concepts often seem to slip out of some people’s heads when they’re asked to explain them. A real understanding of the context for a mathematical concept is necessary, and of the fundamental principles involved, not merely a pat method for solving a problem. This is particularly true on the SAT or ACT, tests of reasoning rather than subject matter, and on higher level math courses such as college and graduate courses.

For higher-level courses: if you’re a college or graduate student, you need a tutoring company that specializes in tutoring for college graduate school classes. There are few people in New York City who are advanced enough in mathematics tutor to be able to tutor these subjects, and very very few tutoring companies who have them. The best mathematicians in New York know the best places to work-so ask them which companies are good.

Some tutoring companies are geared toward their bottom line, not your learning. Their corporate structure legally requires them to maximize their profits-not your learning. They use rote teaching methods, formulas to ensure that quality is controlled. The downside of this is that, since the tutors aren’t free to depart from the tried-and-true methods, the improvement in students is very slight. The tutoring isn’t individualized or tailored to the student’s particular needs. As a business model it makes sense: put a large quantity of students through a rote program and ensure they’re all slightly satisfied. But the great additional gains that could have been garnered are all lost.

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