You may be wondering if you need a math tutor. Is your difficulty in math really bad enough to spend money to fix? If your child is struggling, won’t their teacher help them in school? Doesn’t everyone have a hard time with math sometimes? I will answer these questions and many more in this blog.

First of all, struggle in math isn’t necessarily bad. In order to learn, we must be right at the edge of our understanding. To grasp something new, we usually have to work through it and make a few mistakes to get it right. This is all very normal. However, if your struggle is more of an ongoing complete lack of understanding rather than a temporary effort to understand a new concept, then you may need a math tutor.

## Here are five reasons that it might be a good idea to seek out the support of a math tutor:

**You Notice Attitude or Confidence Changes**

If you notice that your child is avoiding math, seems bored or uninterested, is developing math anxiety, or is often upset by or tries to get out of completing math homework, that can be a sign that more support is needed. Young children tend to be curious and have an enthusiasm for learning new things. If you see your young child’s enthusiasm wane or even turn to negativity towards a subject, it probably means that they are having a hard time. Teenagers may not always outwardly display excitement about learning, but if you notice anxiety, avoidance, extreme frustration, or disengagement, it can be a sign that they are struggling. It is important to seek out help before they become permanently discouraged, decide that they “are not a math person”, or stop trying.

Students can also lose interest in math because they are not being challenged. If a student never has the opportunity to face academic challenges, they can become bored with math. Math tutors are not just for struggling students; they can also be a great asset to accelerated learners by providing additional rigor.

**Homework Takes Hours**

If tons of effort is being put into completing classwork and homework assignments without any reward, this may be a sign that more help is needed. In order to be successful in school, it is usually necessary to practice concepts that are learned. As a student gets older, this means they should be spending some time each night reviewing what was learned in class and completing homework. If a student is completing assignments and studying for tests and quizzes, they should see this positively impact their grades. If a student is doing tons of work, but it does not seem to result in any additional understanding, they may need the help of a tutor. More support may also be needed if homework is taking hours and hours each night and causing lots of additional stress and tension during what would usually be family time.

**There is a Gap in Understanding**

If you notice that your child is not grasping or retaining basic math skills like how to deal with fractions or decimals, complete basic calculations without a calculator, or understand the relationship between numbers, it may be time for a tutor. Since new math skills rely on an understanding of previously learned math skills, a gap in that understanding where skills are missing can be very damaging to a child’s overall math ability.

A tutor can use a diagnostic test to assess which skills are missing and reteach. Often children learn a skill but fail to make connections between new skills they have learned and what they already know. This can result in it looking like a child understands a particular math concept, but then not being able to think through and apply how to use that math concept in a novel situation. With additional and varied practice over time, a student can develop a deeper understanding that allows them to think critically and apply what they have learned.

**There is a Need to Safely Ask Questions**

In order to learn, a student has to feel comfortable asking questions and making mistakes. If a student is behind, they may require more help than the teacher can provide in the classroom. Sometimes a child is not below grade level, but they simply do not feel comfortable asking questions in front of thirty other students. There are also classrooms that foster a harsh or competitive environment where students do not feel safe to ask questions or get a problem wrong. Individual or small group tutoring can place a student into an environment where they can develop a positive and trusting relationship with a math teacher. Individual attention allows for time to answer questions and can create a positive association with math, allowing the student a safety net to get it wrong sometimes without those mistakes being counted against them.

**When Preparing for a Standardized Test**

Even if you do not typically struggle with math, you may find that you need a math tutor to help prepare for standardized testing. Tutors can help set up a plan, based on what you already know, to ensure that you are prepared for the test by your test date. Often students are not entirely familiar with the content of standardized tests, so guidance in this area can be helpful. In addition, having a set appointment with a tutor each week can develop the accountability and support needed to increase scores. It is easier to accomplish a goal of practicing for a certain amount of time each week if you know that you have time set aside for that specific purpose and a person who will hold you accountable. Tutors can also help when you run into a problem that does not make any sense or for which you have not yet learned the math concepts at school.

In math, it is especially important to seek help quickly if you notice confusion, since new math concepts often build on a foundation of previously learned math skills. If something is missed, holes can easily form in that foundation causing the whole structure of understanding to become unstable. A tutor can help to reteach missed skills, provide additional practice, increase understanding, and build up confidence.

**-Nina Parrish, M.Ed.**Owner | Parrish Learning Zone, LLC

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