8 Skills You Need to Be a
Successful Online Maths Tutor
Are you considering becoming an online maths tutor? If so, then you're probably trying to figure out what skills are necessary in order to be successful. In this article, we'll examine eight invaluable skills that every online maths tutor should possess.
Whether it's your first time tutoring, or you've been doing it for years, these tips will help improve the quality of your lessons and the experience for your students!
1. Extensive knowledge of the curriculum
The curriculum is the basis of each lesson. Without a solid understanding of what's required for your students to learn, it will be difficult to know how you should approach their tutoring sessions. If you've been spending time outside of class working on homework or reviewing concepts taught in class, then this shouldn't be an issue. However, if there are certain topics that still give you trouble when studying them on your own, then some extra research may be necessary before jumping into lessons.
Subject fluency is even more important when you are teaching a group of students online who are studying different sub-topics with different skill levels. Simply knowing the content is not enough. You'll often need to quickly jump from quadratics to trigonometry or measurement to statistics without a moment's hesitation and much faster than you would in a classroom setting.
2. Simplify difficult concepts
You need to be able to break down complex problems into simpler components in order to help your students understand them. For example, let's say a student is having trouble understanding why the denominators of fractions must be made the same before we add them together. If you can't simplify this idea down so that it makes sense for a student at their level, then they may become discouraged or frustrated rather than feeling confident about being able to solve more complex problems.
Simplifying mathematical concepts is more than merely explaining a process. You must be able to explain the "why" behind the thinking. This tends to develop a deeper level of understanding and critical inquiry among students as well.
3. Communicate creatively
To keep students engaged online, you may need to get a little creative. You can use images, videos and interactive whiteboards rather than just text or verbal explanations. If you're trying to teach your students about 3D objects, then it would be beneficial to show them virtual nets of solids that they can explore and play around with.
Bringing rewards, gamification and music into your online lessons is another fantastic way to motivate students. Prodigy, Khan Academy and Kahoot! are all examples of digital resources a maths tutor can use to communicate ideas in a fun and creative way.
Be patient; most importantly - don't give up on your students! They may not pick things up as quickly as you were expecting but if you keep working through examples together then, eventually, they will get there.
Sometimes you may need to reteach some concepts or review work that was done in previous lessons before moving forward again. Always remain calm and positive even when students are struggling or not performing as well as you'd hoped.
To be successful at maths tutoring you must always empower students to take their time while problem solving and to embrace mistakes as a vital part of the learning process. Remember, teaching maths is not about speed - it's about depth!
5. Effective questioning
As you're getting to know your students and working with them, try and develop a clear picture of what is causing their difficulties in maths. When tutoring online, it can be tricky to pinpoint where a gap in a student's understanding lies.
Keep inquisition open-ended and avoid asking yes/no questions whenever possible. Instead of asking "do you need any clarification?" try something like "what was the most important thing that you learned today?" and "why does this part of the question not make sense?". This will not only encourage students to critically analyse their own thinking, but will help you to better understand them, so you can address their individual needs more effectively.
6. Adapt to various learning styles
Every person learns and understands things differently. You may need to adjust your teaching style depending on what kind of learner you're dealing with; visual, auditory or kinaesthetic for example.
By doing this, your lessons will immediately feel more authentic, contextual and relevant for the student, which will make it easier for them to absorb the information and retain what you've taught.
Knowing how your students learn can also help with assessing their progress in a timely fashion, so that you know when they're ready for the next stage of learning rather than just arbitrarily moving on because they have reached a certain level or time has elapsed.
7. Technology skills
An online maths tutor must have a very good understanding of technology. Here are some examples of some online tools a Maths tutor should be familiar with:
- Digital resources for practise
- Interactive Whiteboard
- Learning management system
- Scheduling and billing software
- Google Meet / Zoom for the video call
- Feedback and Reporting
- Online assessment and diagnostics
There is no shortage when it comes to ways in which you can communicate maths concepts, practise problem-solving and organise online classes using technology. In fact, there's probably too much choice! You need to carefully consider your students' needs and your own preference before deciding on any particular tool or resource. Remember at the end of the day, it's not the tool itself, but how well you can use it that makes all the difference!
It's essential to have a positive attitude while providing maths tutoring online. As a mentor, you should praise your pupils frequently - emphasise their strengths, help bolster their weaknesses and urge them to take on greater challenges.
When maths doesn't make sense, it can be extremely discouraging, leading to high levels of anxiety and frustration. Remote distance learning has not helped either, with many students falling behind during the pandemic.
But you can help by staying positive, recognising their efforts and telling them what they've done well after every lesson. Your students need to know that even if the world of maths feels like a complex maze at times, there is always light waiting for them at the end of it all!
In order to be a successful online maths tutor, you need skills that will help your students enjoy learning and succeed in the subject. These eight skills are crucial for teaching maths effectively online. Keep learning and practicing them so that you can continue being the best mentor for each individual student. Remember, even though every student learns differently, they deserve the same amount of patience, empathy and positivity from their instructor!
About the Author
Nish Mathur is the lead designer and head coach at Math Minds. As an educator, he has helped thousands of students develop a growth mindset and achieve academic success.