Part 3: Tutoring Tips to Boost Math Sense

Starting the Lesson
During the first few minutes, you may want to review prior content to see if students have retained the concepts. Write a problem on the white board or ask them a few mental math questions. You may also want to ask if they were confused by any topics in their school math class since the prior tutoring session. Jot these down to discuss before or after homework.

Boosting Math Sense During Homework
If you have an iPad or other tablet, it’s helpful to take a photo of the student’s homework so you can work along with them. While students solve problems, use these eight tips to coach them and boost math sense.
1. If students don’t know how to start, have them solve a simpler problem that requires similar operations.
2. Discuss math vocabulary and symbols. Students may need help learning to write equations to represent word problems.
3. Ask key questions about problems and have them explain their solutions. When solutions are wrong, help them analyze errors.
4. Show how to make helpful diagrams or other models.
5. Suggest using a ruler, calculator, or other tools if appropriate.
6. Provide tips for showing steps accurately and efficiently.
7. Help students break multi-step problems into parts.
8. Encourage them to use mental math and/or shortcuts.
The “Be a Star in Math” poster below provides reminders of eight ways to make sense of math, based on Common Core. This free poster can be downloaded from the K8 Math Sense store. Related resources are also available.

Other Activities
When students finish their school work, try these other options. Don’t spend the entire time on worksheets. Mix in some fun, engaging games for review  and concept development.

Dice Activities With number dice, it’s easy to generate a wide variety of computation problems. Draw boxes on a dry-erase board for each digit of the desired type of computation. Then have the student roll dice to generate a number for each box, copy the problem onto paper, find the answer. You can also make this into a game where you generate a different problem and play against the student, with points for the highest answer. You can also offer bonus points for getting the answer using mental math.

Card Games With K-8 students, you may want to choose free or inexpensive card sets from the K8 Math Sense store. These are available for many of the math goals on the checklist, and come with a handy recording sheet that can be used before of after playing a game.

Review or Assessment Activities If students are in Grades 3-8, you may want to have them work on pages from a review packet for their grade level or the prior grade. After working on questions related to specific math goals, discuss whether they feel confident with the goal or if more practice if needed. Progress should be marked on the math goals checklist in the student’s folder. If students struggle with quite a few concepts in the same section, either use questions from a prior grade level or play a game with concept-development cards.

Ending the Lesson
Looking Back  Ask students one or two questions about the key concepts that you discussed. Also, remind students that you will help them with challenging questions that they may encounter in the their school work. Encourage them to list page numbers from their textbook, and to bring along any worksheets that have confusing questions.

Tutoring Reports
Keep a Tutoring Report handy throughout the lesson. This is available as a Word document from the FREE Be a Math Tutor Guide on TpT
During the lesson, write down goals that the student has worked on and note any challenges. At the end of the lesson, make a second copy for the student’s record folder, and send the report home with the student.

See Part 4  for tips on scheduling and record keeping.