Are you going to struggle with Math this year?

August 25, 2006

As the new school year is approaching, one thing is certain: Many students will struggle with their courses this year. As always, one of the most prominent areas of difficulty will be Mathematics.

It is not very difficult to understand why math is considered by most Canadian high-school and college students to be such a difficult subject. Math is a discipline that requires a basic foundation and a natural transition from core knowledge to more advanced concepts. However, the reality of North American education is that the transition rarely takes place naturally.

It is often the case that throughout elementary school and early High school, math is taught in a very disorganized fashion. While arithmetic gets more than its fair share of attention, intermediate core concepts are often glossed over by everyone except the very astute students. Only the dedicated students fill in the big education gaps in their spare time. What happens to the less dedicated students?

For other students, the true math difficulties begin in grades 11 and 12. At those levels, math transforms into a serious subject and cracks in the knowledge foundation begin to emerge. Those concepts that are natural extensions of what is considered to be basic mathematical abilities become difficult to grasp for many students.

As a result, many struggling students turn to a private math tutor for additional help, but this is often not a sure-fire path to better understanding. Most tutors have the ability to help students with their immediate areas of difficulty. However, only the more experienced tutors are able to detect true deficiencies in the students' knowledge and fill in the gaps before concentrating on more complicated topics.

For those looking for a math tutor, it is very important to consider the tutor’s knowledge, experience, and approach, and not just the hourly rate. With math tutoring, like with anything else, you will often get exactly what you pay for.

In order to get the most out of tutoring, it is vitally important to establish specific short and long-term learning objectives early on. A good tutor will be able to use this information effectively in creating a structured learning progression, rather than concentrating on the irrelevant concepts.


"Mathematics is a more powerful instrument of knowledge than any other that has been bequeathed to us by human agency."
-- Descartes