My student is in Year 10, but she does not know her times tables. She even struggles with her 2 times tables. When I arrived, the student and her mother asked me to teach her long division. I am aware that my student needs to build her foundations first – her multiplication skills should be improved before moving on. However, I am unsure whether I should keep teaching her long division as asked, or to try and focus on Year 10 work.
Firstly, if she can’t do her times tables how did she manage to get through year 8 before they were allowed calculators? It seems rather challenging to accept this, however, you are right – long division cannot be learned without knowing times tables. At the same time, times tables are usually rote learned at a young age – you can’t exactly “explain” times tables, they need to be memorized.
You should probably give some homework for times tables regularly while focusing on teaching the student what will currently help them in class so that she doesn’t fall further behind. Either way, you cannot completely neglect the request of the client, however, they obviously do not understand what it takes to succeed in mathematics – otherwise their request would be somewhat different. As a tutor it is your responsibility to make sure the client has accurate expectations about what it takes to achieve their goals. Tutoring works better when everybody is on the same page
Here are a few points you can act on:
- Speak to the student and client to find out how the student has managed so far without knowing times tables – there must be an explanation which may could prove useful.
- Spend some time developing the student’s algebra and calculator skills. Together this could probably help to circumvent the weakness in times tables.
- It would probably help to sit down with the client and student to advise what your professional opinion is in this situation and what you think needs to be done. It should be a discussion where at the end, your question about what you should do will be answered by consensus in the conversation. Arrive, with the student’s help at a plan you can carry out.
- Use examples to illustrate how you arrived at your conclusions. For example, in the process of teaching long division the student must have constantly fumbled. And probably this was because of times tables not because of long division? Point this out.