Hiring a Tutor: Part I of III
How do you know when it’s time to hire a (math) tutor?

This is a common question for parents, and it comes with a whole slew of related questions: Does a little struggle here and there necessitate getting outside help?  Isn’t struggle just part of learning?  Do we really need to hire a tutor, or shouldn’t my learner be able to get what he or she needs from the resources already available to them?

On the one hand, these questions beg a much bigger discussion and can quickly get controversial and unwieldy.  On the other, it’s quite simple, at least with math.  With math, you can’t afford to take the gamble.  A little struggle can quickly avalanche into a huge and insurmountable struggle.

If these questions arise, it’s best to get help sooner rather than later.

There are two main reasons for this:

  1.   Because of the linear, or sequential, nature of math, once you get behind, it can be very difficult to catch up.  It can actually become impossible without some intervention. When you’re in a class that assumes mastery of skills that you don’t yet have, you can honestly be giving it your all without seeing much progress.  This isn’t your fault- you simply don’t have the foundation required to grasp the new skills you’re being expected to learn.
  2.   It is possible (even likely) for a student to get the grade without getting (lasting mastery of) the skill.  This means that a student can often “get by” for years with a weak foundation before it really starts affecting their grades and their ability to progress.  So by the time there is evident struggle, they really may be in over their heads and legitimately need help.

Bottom line: before there is evident struggle, have your learner’s math skills assessed, and get help early. Mathematically speaking, an ounce of prevention is greater than or equal to a pound of cure.

Next in this series: 3 things to look for when shopping for a math tutor