At my school, we provide students with tons and tons of support. We have homework clubs, almost every teacher that I can think of has offered tutoring for at least one child at some point in the year, and we have oodles of clubs and enrichment opportunities.

It can be SO hard to switch gears from living inside of my kindergarten bubble to tutoring a 5th grader in math or an 8th grader in science. That stuff is complicated!! {And I don’t just mean comparatively!!} And oftentimes, parents don’t really know what to tell you their child is specifically struggling with because they genuinely don’t know and their teacher {sometimes multiple teachers} is wrapped up in other things and rarely do you get the opportunity to sit with them and discuss the tutoree’s specific problems before you start tutoring the child.

So — how do I pinpoint problem areas so that I make sure I am working on specific things that will help them? I ask myself that a lot when I start tutoring a new kiddo. And sometimes it’s fairly easy to figure out, but other times, I scratch my head wondering why the kid needs tutoring in the first place. Sometimes, it’s just not as obvious.

The first thing I do is make sure that I get to know the student. There are 600+ kids in my school and I never, ever assume that all of them know Mrs. Brown from KA. Kindergarten is the furthest thing from the minds of 5-8th graders! I ask them some questions and then I let them ask me questions. We settle in around my room and have a little snack and then we get to work. I ask them what they think they need the most help with and sometimes they know and other times, it’s as big of a mystery to them as it is to me!!

I typically tutor math. It’s a popular tutoring subject, that darn math. But lucky for the kids, I LOVE math, particularly because I had a REALLY hard time with it in elementary and middle school and then FINALLY I got a teacher that explained it to me in a way that I completely understood and so now when I teach math, I ALWAYS provide multiple strategies for solving the same type of problem. {Duh. There’s more than one way to skin a cat!!!}

Anyway — I take a look at what the child is working on currently in math by looking through their homework, their notebook, and any work samples they may have. Then we dive right in. I give them a series of problems and I watch them work them out. By watching them work through the problems, I can usually pinpoint the problem. And I’m telling ya’ — 9 times out of 10 — the problem lies with foundational skills! So teaching kindergarten ACTUALLY comes in handy for tutoring! We backtrack and figure out how to set a stronger foundation.

When I was in grad school, I had the pleasure of taking a math class taught by Sherry Parrish. This math class literally changed the way I approach math — even to this day. The strategies and “math talks” that this professor taught me made a lasting impact on how I teach and how I use everyday math. I LOVED that class. L-O-V-E-D. Invaluable. Dr. Parrish wrote the book “Math Talks” and I cannot say enough good things about it. There are foundational strategies taught in this book that will help students understand why we borrow from the tens column and what it means to divide and how to develop a deep enough understanding of numbers to master mental math. I love it and I go to it ALL of the time to help my students with their math skills.

Here is an example of what type of skills this book covers:

Let’s say we had the problem 102 – 76 = ? Most students would line these numbers up and start crossing out numbers, moving to the next column and making it a different number until we had a friendly number that we could subtract from. If you were to ask a student to explain why we borrow a the tens column or what it actually means — they’d stare at you like you had horns growing from your ears. NO CLUE. {GUILTY!!}

This book teaches that there is an easier way to solve the problem! If you add 4 to both numbers, you would get a friendlier way to subtract {instead of doing all of that borrowing for Lord knows what reason} — and you’d still have the same problem. 106 – 80, which is 26. And I mentally know that 80 and 26 makes 106, so I know I’m right. I can also go back to the original problem, plug in 26 and mentally add those together to get 102. This book teaches all of that and TONS more. It’s fascinating!!

Click the image to check it out!

I hope this helped you if you’re tutoring right now! This book is seriously a life-saver when it comes to math and I personally believe that EVERY. SINGLE. TEACHER. should have a copy!

{Please know that Dr. Parrish had nothing to do with this post and I was not paid or asked to provide any type of review — I just really love this book.}

Have a great week!