9 Dec

Teacher’s Methods or Tutor’s Methods?

One of my students is currently learning a new topic at school. The method that her teacher uses must be a new approach to teaching this maths topic or perhaps the teacher’s own invention. Either way, i am not 100% familiar with it and i’m not sure the student is responding well to that approach. What’s the best way to tutor this content?


This is quite a common situation. There are hundreds of teachers out there and each one has their own spin on some topics. There are a few main considerations you should look at but while being mindful that the most important consideration is what will be in the best interests of the student?

Its always best to keep things as simple as possible, we don’t want to confuse or overwhelm a student who may already be struggling by giving them too many options. When students (especially ones who lack comprehension) are given different methods they often end up trying to “reconcile” the methods and make sense of both of them. Mathematical methods which accomplish the same thing will usually have a lot in common and students can mix up what goes with which method and in a sense trip over their own feet, failing to truly comprehend either method. Also, remember that when the teacher is working through questions in the classroom, they will be using their own method and it is super important for the student to feel comfortable and “in the know” during school classes. For these reasons it is best to learn the teacher’s method thoroughly and teach it to the student. It is inevitable that these situations arise and this is usually the best way to approach the problem.

However, if:
•    The student struggles with the teacher’s approach
•    The teacher’s approach is based purely on “tricks” or rote learning
•    The approach will not work once the student needs to apply it to harder math content which is yet to be learned

Then you may want to consider teaching the student the regular method.

Most importantly, remember, maths is maths – whatever method they are using the concepts behind most methods are always the same. As long as the student understands how and why the method works the maths should be do-able and that’s the actual goal here.

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