Maths tutoring is expensive and you may be paying for something that looks good but only provides surface help.

I was speaking to a parent during the week. They had been told that their child was having problems with maths. Being concerned, they contacted a local provider of tutoring who ran some tests and informed them that their child had problems with multiplication and division. It all sounds reasonable, right? When they told me this, alarm bells started to ring. Here’s why.

 Mathematics is an involved subject that builds on foundations of deep understanding of mathematical concepts. You can find out more about what is involved for multiplication here. When a child struggles with mathematics, it is because that deep understanding is poor and it is this understanding that should be addressed by the tutor. Being reported as having problems with multiplication and division likely means that little more has been assessed than following multiplication and division processes.

 A process is a set of steps that one learns to get to an answer (like following a recipe). You do not need a deep understanding of maths concepts to follow a process, you just memorise the steps. This type of maths learning is shallow. Students who learn in this way rarely manage to reach any higher levels of mathematics.

 For the tutoring service, there is a huge win here. Drilling the process will mean that the student results will go up. This will give the appearance of the tutoring service being very effective in getting results. It also means they can get away with having tutors who are poorly experienced in the teaching of mathematics (undergraduates commonly work in such places), after all, they only have to teach a set of steps.

To be fair, this particular organization may have better plans in place, but my experience is that most tutoring companies rely on the more shallow, cheaper approach and the report given to that parents points towards such an approach.

 If you are worried that you are paying good money for poor tutoring, I suggest you sign in to do an online assessment with us. It is currently free and you will get an in-depth report as to where your child is succeeding and missing out on core mathematical concepts. You can use the report to compare what is needed and what is provided by your tutoring organization. You can apply through an email request on our website here.