Friendly Advice for Math Students & Tutors

In my experience both as a student & tutor in various math disciplines (especially algebra) I have encountered many students that struggle with the subject.  Some students have never been exposed to the material in over a decade; others avoid it like the plague & yet others struggle with test anxiety.  Based on what I have seen I have a few pieces of advice that warrant sharing.  Hopefully this will help the students that struggle with it as well as offer tutors some guidance on dealing with the most difficult learners.


(1) There is a definite emotional aspect in any subject that involves numbers.  Math brings out the emotions of frustration & fear (or some combination) in those that struggle with it.  The frustration comes from not being able to understand the concepts, while the fear results from failing a test or assignment.  In either case, these emotions drastically affect the student's thinking to such a point that they are unable to focus on the concepts being taught.  It is important to realize that these feelings do exist & tutors need to not only focus on reinforcing the concepts taught in class but also on these emotions, as they can affect the success of the tutor & the student.


(2) There is a specific process to solving any math problem, whether simple or complex.  It is important to realize that there are steps & rules to follow.  It’s not really much different than making a cake or assembling a product.  Understanding that a math problem is a process helps makes this easier.


(3) Addressing the fear & frustration in math effectively involves focusing on not only the process but also instilling confidence in the student’s ability to understand how to solve the math problem & understand the concept being taught.  Most of the frustration, fear, & test anxiety will be eliminated simply by increasing that confidence level.  Many of the students I have tutored were adults that were scared of math to the point where they avoided it until the end of their degree programs.  I was able to restore their self-confidence & explain the topics in different ways they could understand.  Realize that there are many different learning styles & methods to explain a problem that must be catered to. 



Michael E.

Business, Accounting, & Math Guru

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