Math is one of the most challenging and intimidating subjects for students of all ages. The phrases “I’m just not a math person” or “math isn’t my subject” have become commonplace, much to the disappointment of families that want their kids to have a wide range of options for the future. So why do so many kids seem to struggle with math today?
Math teaching has changed dramatically in recent years as educators have focused on letting students “discover” mathematical concepts. Indeed, recent research indicates a decline in math performance in provinces like Ontario. Increased use of math manipulatives and toys and even stories have replaced the drills and textbooks of yesteryear, leaving many students confused when it comes to more challenging math problems. Larger class sizes where teachers have limited time to focus on the needs of individuals has also made it hard for kids that struggle. While many students have thrived in modern math classrooms, others enter older grades without a strong grasp of math facts.
The interruption to learning caused by school closures during the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated math learning issues among students, leading many families to invest resources into math help outside the school. Dozens of paid math apps and sites have emerged in response to support math learning, and the demand for math tutors continues to grow. If you are passionate about math, there has never been a better time to get into tutoring!
This article will discuss everything you need to know about getting started as a math tutor. Worried that you don’t have the qualifications or certifications to tutor others in math? In Canada, there is no policy or law requiring any teaching certification to work as a tutor. If you know how to teach math and can provide clear explanations of operations, measurement formulas, functions, or have great methods for performing mental math, you may have what it takes to be a successful tutor.
Teaching math is one of the most rewarding jobs you can have: helping kids to be successful in school and confident with numbers is incredibly satisfying. When they see the results, they will thank and remember you as the one who helped them get through a tough school year. Math impacts so many aspects of our lives, from budgeting a household to interpreting data, so you can feel good knowing that you have helped someone develop essential life skills.
Of course, it’s not just about the kids - when you are self-employed or are making an additional stream of income, you can feel incredibly empowered!
Let’s explore some of the ways you can transform your math skills and enthusiasm for teaching into a rewarding business.
Are you thinking of becoming a math educator? Find out all you need to know about becoming a math tutor or teacher.
How to Become a Math Tutor?
When you think of math teaching, you probably imagine enduring challenging coursework and an extended university stay in teachers college. And of course, most people would want highly qualified people teaching them or their kids math, so we shouldn’t be surprised at the idea. However, the reality is that most students simply need individual feedback and review - not a bespectacled professor or a strict school teacher. Think about kids who are having a hard time remembering order of operations, or not getting math practice: what they need is someone enthusiastic, empathetic, and firm that can explain math clearly.
Many families will be excited to have someone to help their child get interested in math, or fall out of the “I hate math” complaints. You likely don’t need a math degree to teach 4th grade numeracy: as long as you feel that your level of math is advanced enough to help someone else at a lower level, you can easily offer your services as a tutor.
There are so many ways to be a math tutor and different types of services you can offer.
What Types of Tutoring Services Should You Offer?
1. General Math Support for Elementary Students
In this type of tutoring, you would work on a weekly basis with school aged kids to review what they are learning in school and reinforce the fundamentals. The good news is that you have already passed this level of learning and can help kids with very little preparation (though it doesn’t help to watch a YouTube video for a little review on some math teaching strategies)! Homework help also falls under this umbrella: going through students’ binders or virtual classrooms to see what has been assigned that week. Sometimes, students will have specific problems on hand for you to work with; other times you may be reviewing or providing practice exercises to build their foundational skills. The main goal is to help them keep up with their daily learning.
2. Exam Preparation
Students who are looking to enter postsecondary programs typically must perform well in their secondary school courses and tests like the SATs or MCAT. With so much on the line, parents and guardians will not hesitate to pay for math tutors to ensure their kids can achieve the highest marks possible. Offering a service for exam preparation is great if you have taken these exams yourself and understand what it takes to get a good score. The best part is that you will have a direct impact on a student’s future.
Want to know what math teachers earn in Canada? Learn the salaries of math educators in every province.
3. Math Teaching
Teaching math to small groups or individuals is similar to regular tutoring, but your role will be much more as a teacher. Many parents have been opting for creative education solutions for their kids thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, and may want a math teacher to help out with their kids’ homeschooling. To do this work, you will need to have a good sense of the provincial curriculum, and do more preparation as you will be delivering the lesson and not simply reviewing it.
Before You Offer Your Services
Before you start choosing what you want to offer, make sure you ask yourself what your competencies are in math and education, and that you are confident enough to help the learners who reach out to you. Can you help teens, or are you more comfortable with young kids? Do you have the patience to deal with a frustrated child?
Another thing to consider are your long term goals. Do you see yourself working in education in the future? What might you gain with this type of work experience other than money? How long can you commit to tutoring?
Consider location as well - many families want in-home or in-person support. If you would rather work virtually, then make sure that goes into your tutoring profile or advertisement.
The more questions you ask yourself, the more organized you will be coming into your role.
What are the Qualities of a Good Math Tutor?
Being good at math or even having degrees in math is not enough to be a good math tutor. You will need to have some qualities as an educator to keep you tutees engaged and enthusiastic about doing work outside of class.
A lot of students will be requesting tutors because they have math anxiety, and have difficulty applying their learning due to the uncomfortable feelings they have when faced with a math assessment or problem. As a math tutor, you will need to be understanding, and learn about what triggers your student to feel anxious so you can work around it.
Another great quality to have as a math tutor is empathy - to step into your student’s shoes and understand how they might be interpreting their teachers. If they are finding math boring, introduce games and play with puzzles, shapes, or other math manipulatives. Review fractions by slicing fruit, or have a go-to collection of online videos about math that are fun to listen to. Sneak in some focused practice, take breaks when needed, and make time to build relationships with your students and they will feel happy and comfortable learning with you.
In some cases, you may be asked to work with a student who has a learning disability or behavioural challenges. In those cases, ask lots of questions about the child and, if applicable, the Individual Education Plan in place for them at school. Be patient, and focus on the child rather than the learning so you can understand what keeps them focused. Celebrate small victories and remember that your work is important.
Thinking of getting into math tutoring and not sure what to charge your clients? Learn our tips for determining your math tutoring rates.
Confidence and competence in math are other qualities that are valued in a math tutor. Ensure that you have mastered the level of math you will be tutoring, as you will be asked lots of “whys”. If you are ill-equipped to answer those questions, your clients will lose confidence in you. Be prepared to answer questions about each algorithm and formula you will be using, and prepare in advance by looking over sites and textbooks.
Ultimately, it is preferable to have experienced the same curriculum as your students so you will immediately understand how it is being taught. Curriculum will vary from province to province, and sometimes even year to year, but the core of the learning expectations will generally be the same. Take time to visit the ministry of education website for your province so you can understand what students are learning. Provinces like Ontario offer provincial testing, so look up for samples to get a clear vision of what your students are working toward.
What are the qualifications you need to be a math tutor? Find out what it takes to be a tutor in Canada.
The Importance of Personalization
As a tutor, it’s important to understand that you will be offering a personalized experience that differs significantly from what they are getting in class. This is why they are hiring you - something in school is probably not working out - so you need to differentiate your teaching from what they are getting in the classroom. This is done by tailoring instruction to the student’s needs and goals, strengths and weaknesses.
Take the time to survey your students and find out where the learning breaks down in the classroom. Is it a lack of direct instruction? Are they missing skills from the previous year or years? Are they not having their assessments returned in time to make the most of the feedback? Answering these questions with your pupils will help you to offer a bespoke service that makes a big impact.
Simplicity is Key when Tutoring Math
Students who are struggling in math will find simplicity refreshing. Dilute hard concepts and break down problem solving into smaller steps, review foundational math skills, and avoid using complex tools or math manipulatives that confuse. Use simple objects like fruit, and draw your problems from everyday life to keep math relevant.
Sometimes all you need is a blank sheet of paper and a pencil to do the most effective math instruction. But don’t hesitate to be creative, and find math in a backyard, a walk to the park, or even in the kitchen. If you are covering fractions, why not take a simple recipe and double it, measure the temperature of things in the fridge or the stove, or use kitchen scales to experiment with weight? Activities like these are simple, fun, and completely engrossing for kids.
How much do you know about the history of Math instruction? Learn the history of Math teaching.
What are Some Tips for Successful Math Tutoring?
As tempting as it may be to improvise your lessons, remember that the best tutors plan ahead and do some preparation. Build a repertoire of materials you can draw from on the internet, and print out some problems if you have access to a printer. Email your students ahead of time to see if they can give you a sense of what they are learning, or if they are not old enough, email their parents or guardians instead. This way you can show up with a plan of activities and practice exercises.
Take the time to make sure students have mastered a concept before moving on. Don’t rush through content - this is the opposite goal of tutoring. Review prior learning and offer quick quizzes and games at the start for recalling the previous lesson.
If you have older tutees that are taking big tests or exams, have ‘mock’ test days where they can complete an assessment and you can give them feedback. This may help them overcome nerves on the day of!
Stay positive, promote a growth mindset, and do not reprimand your students when they make mistakes. Keep your learning environment positive, and set small and realistic goals for every tutoring session or sessions.
Online math teaching is a popular job for people with math degrees. Learn why tutoring is one of the best math degree jobs.
How Do I Find Tutoring Clients?
Finding clients to tutor in math may seem like an easy task, but it does take some effort to advertise your services to people in your community. Here are some ways you can find new clients:
1. Place an ad online or set up a profile on Superprof
Sure, you could put an ad on Kijiji, but there are people there looking for different products and services and your ad can get lost.
Superprof is specifically built for tutors and tutees, so you’ll reach your audience directly. Tutors and clients alike enjoy using Superprof because the site is exclusively dedicated to tutoring services, so you don't have to sift through tons of different ads and postings. You can also compare your rates with other tutors, and perhaps even discover new niches you can offer tutoring or private instruction. The site is colourful and engaging, and will help your posting appear more professional to potential families and clients.
You can make your own profile stand out by having a great description of your strengths and abilities as a private instructor. Include a concise description of your services, focusing on how you can help students. Add depth and personality to your profile by including a recent headshot with good lighting that reflects your best self.
Sites like Superprof are a great way to find online math tutor jobs. You can organize math tutoring for small groups, individuals, and independently develop your teaching skills. Be sure to check out the site today!
2. Place physical ads in areas where people might be looking for tutors
Have you seen community bulletin boards and flyers taped up to poles? - as simple as it seems, those are effective ways for getting your name out and finding some leads. Community centres, schools, shops, and cafes are just a few places families go and may come across your ad. Post an email address if you don’t feel comfortable sharing your cell phone number, or a website. Make sure your flyer is clear and simply states what you do: “in-person or online math tutor Canada” might be one quick way to attract attention.
3. Word of mouth advertising
Word of mouth advertising may seem old school, but in a world where your credentials are everything, referrals are key. Get the word out that you will work with kids in person or online, and offer a free online math tutor session for the first hour.
How Much Money will I make as a Math Tutor?
What you make depends on what level of instruction you offer and the background you bring. Tutors in big cities like Toronto or Vancouver can likely ask for a higher rate.
In general, you should pay yourself at the minimum wage of your province, which can range from $10-$15 dollars an hour. If you are just starting out, set your wage on the lower end until you can get some good reviews posted, after which you can adjust your rate based on demand.
Find out how to advertise your services as a face-to-face or online tutor and get more math tutoring clients.
Remember that if you can coach students on exams or big tests, you can ask for a bit more money if you have the expertise to back it up. You can charge more competitive rates by working online or sticking to clients within walking distance - think creatively, do the research, and you will come up with the best rates that attract clients.
Want to know a quick way to determine a good tutoring rate? Visit Superprof.ca and find out what tutors in your area are charging. You'll easily figure out what the going rate is, so you know you are not charging too little or too much. You might also explore the site and get plenty of other ideas for services you can offer as a tutor.
Excited to get started on your math tutoring journey? Check out Superprof today!
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