Tutoring the Uninterested

I had a first session today with a 15 year old boy. We were going over math, and most of his responses to my questions about the material was "I already know that" when it was obvious that he didn't. He constantly looked away and obviously wanted to be anywhere but there.

I know this is typical for a boy his age, and I was able to get him more involved by getting him to "teach me". I also made sure we had eye contact when he answered my questions. He softened up near the end, but I wonder if there was something else I could've done. Obviously it's just the first session, and I have another with him in a few days to prepare him for a test.

I'd like to throw this out to other tutors who have dealt with a similar situation. What has worked for you? Thanks in advance.



I like how you changed your style half way through, asking him to teach you. That is one of the strategies that I find usually works for me. When I come across students like this, I usually go over one type of problem (like an example problem). When we get to the next problem of the same type as the example problem, I ask the student what the first step is, then the next, then the next until the problem is complete (the only thing that I do is ask for the next step and write it in). A lot of the students that I worked with only had problems with the material because they felt like they did not know how to do it, or because they made little mistakes along the way. I find that asking them the steps is a good stepping stone to getting them to do all of the work by themselves, while boosting their self confidence. You know what I mean? I hope that this comes as some help to you, Katie D.


Tom L.

Tom - College Math Instructor and SAT/ACT Book Author

2750+ hours
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