In this article, I would like to share my past experiences of being a math tutor and undergraduate and graduate teaching assistant. Also, I will explain what I have learned as a math tutor and TA.
How I Started As A Math Tutor
I think it started in grade 11 (Age 16 or 17) when the math teacher asked me to tutor a math classmate during lunch hours to gain volunteer hours. Note that the high school I was attending in Ontario, Canada (I can’t give full details.) had a requirement where we had a mandatory minimum of 40 community service hours as a part of graduating high school. At the time, since I needed some more volunteer hours I said yes and that was the start of my tutoring hobby.
For additional volunteer hours, I also did math tutoring at my old elementary school (Grades 1 – 8). I remember tutoring a child (Grade 4 or 5 I think) with autism. More patience was required than usual as it took more time and care to contribute to the child’s success.
Being a Teaching Assistant in Undergrad and Graduate School
My undergraduate school was a small university with a small math department but was well known regionally in business. I took on some undergraduate teaching assistant roles in various introductory calculus and introductory statistics courses. Duties included aiding students with understanding math and stats topics, marking and grading assignments, and preparing for tutorials and math labs. Most of the students were not math majors and many of them hated/disliked math with a passion.
With some good grades in my upper year math courses, I decided to go for graduate school for MSc. Statistics to supplement my BA Financial Mathematics. Each graduate student in my Stats department had to be a teaching assistant for an introductory calculus or statistics course. Since I knew some Maple, MATLAB and some numerical analysis, I was assigned to help students with Maple and MATLAB math code in first year calculus and linear algebra courses for science and engineering students.
What I’ve Learned As A Math Tutor
- A lot of people do not like math or stats.
- Everyone learns differently and at their own pace. (Visual vs Auditory Learning for example)
- Everyone has different levels of motivation. (Intrinsic vs Extrinsic)
- It is still up to the student whether he or she wants to do well. The tutor is there for support.
- As someone who learns mostly independently, tutoring allowed me to take a break from studying and work on connecting with tutor clients.
- One way of teaching does not work for everyone. There is no one size fits all approach. Being able to improvise and problem solve helps in tutoring too.
- I am not sure if it is just me but you can sense the motivation levels of students by how often they come for help and want to try.
Learning mathematics is one thing but to be able to teach the subject and communicate it well to others is a different challenge. It is important to be open minded and be aware that everyone is different in how they learn and their views on math (and other things too).
The featured image is taken from http://www.hometutorspembrokepines.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Science-Tutoring.jpg.