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Personal Gratification of Being a Tutor

Personal Gratification of Being a Tutor

A little over two years ago I began tutoring high school students in several types of mathematics, including preparation for the S.A.T. Test. While I did this initially to earn money, I have continued to tutor (often pro bono) because I enjoy the material and the contact with the students.

I have always enjoyed math tremendously. I can remember riding in a car for long distances as a child and continuously calculating average speeds and percentages of distances covered as we traveled. In college I took upper division math classes such as Real Analysis and Game Theory (and placed near the top of the curve) though they were not required for my major. All this time spent playing with math has left me with a deep understanding of the way numbers work and the many ways in which problems can be solved.

When I first began tutoring I was stunned to find that most of the kids I worked with, although very bright, not only lacked the ability to solve complex problems, they were very uncomfortable with some of the basic principles of math. This discomfort led to fear and avoidance, and the avoidance led to more discomfort. A vicious cycle began. Instead of seeing math as a beautiful system in which arithmetic, algebra and geometry all worked together to allow one to solve problems, they saw it as a bunch of jumbled rules which made little sense that they were forced to memorize.

As a tutor, I found that it was important when starting with a new student to find out where his/her discomfort with math began. Often, this meant going back several years in their education to explain important basic concepts. For some students, fractions and decimals were the point at which math stopped making sense. For many others, it was the introduction of letters to represent numbers in algebra. Some students found that identifying their weaknesses was an embarrassing process. I explained to them that it was not their fault. Everyone comes to understand new concepts in math in a slightly different way, and the problem was that no teacher had taken the time to explain their "problem area" in a way which would make sense to them. Since math was a system, once they missed out on that one building block, it was not surprising...

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