Measuring Tutoring Success

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Measuring Tape
Christie Veitch

Christie Veitch

Math Tutor, Education Writer & Strategist

Measuring Tutoring Success

Maybe this feels familiar: You’ve hired a tutor and you’re paying them, but you have no idea if the tutoring is helping your child. It can be hard to know what they’ve worked on and if there’s been any progress.

How can you measure tutoring success?

The best way to track your child’s progress is by setting measurable goals. In this post, I share how to work with your tutor to define goals and how to leverage those goals to gauge progress.

Before I get started, I should probably mention that I love metrics. I’m not just a math or numbers nerd, I also like creating processes and ways to visualize progress. For me there is satisfaction in not only setting goals but defining the metrics I can use to celebrate those achievements.

Explicit Goals

When you hire a tutor, I encourage you to begin by discussing your goals. It is useful to identify all of the goals that are important for your child, before deciding which ones you want to focus on first. It is also helpful to define short term goals separate from long term goals. Not all short term goals have to build towards a long term goal, but if that’s the intention getting everyone aligned with that is useful.

It is also important to share these goals with your child. A goal that has alignment between parents and children is the best kind and the most likely to result in success.

Here are some examples of explicit short term goals I’ve set with students. (At Woot Tutor, we work with students on a variety of skills, including core math skills, Executive Function skills, and everything in-between to ensure they are successful.)

Working Independently

When I am tutoring a student, I often set a timer so they can try working independently during a session. I tell them we are practicing how they will handle their work during times when we are not working together. This is an ideal way to help my students build confidence during a tutoring session.

Afterwards, they get to experience asking questions that arose while working alone, and see firsthand that it is fine to be unsure and not have all of the answers.

If the long term goals for the same student were, “ability to do 10-15 minutes of math homework a day and stay focused,” it’s easy to connect how building a student’s focus and independence from just a couple of minutes could later help with doing 10-15 minutes of math homework nightly.

Solidifying Key Math Facts

The best part of a goal like honing math facts is the pride students feel when they can see they are able to give answers easily and correctly with no assistance. In the long term, reaching a high level of mastery with math facts is essential as students progress to more advanced math concepts.

Developing Organization Skills

Developing better organization skills is key to succeeding not only in math but in school in general, For example, I might ask a student to have their homework, notebook, and math book ready when tutoring session begins. While preparing the necessary items for tutoring might not be tied to a long term goal, that doesn’t mean it’s not a good goal—it may be the goal we need RIGHT NOW to build good habits!

Simple Measures

Once you have defined short and long term goals with your tutor, you are ready to define how you plan to measure progress. Here is how I have measured progress for common short term goals:

Working Independently

Working independently can be measured by having the student try a few problems by themselves or with a timer. Ask the tutor if they can track the number of problems done and the increasing amount of time that the student is able to work alone.

As the student becomes more confident working independently, these are some additional areas that can be tracked:

  • Does the student check their work or work problems backwards? How often?
  • Does the student correct mistakes?
  • Does the student have a checklist or routine when working on word problems?

Measure Recall of Key Math Facts

Once (and only once) a student has mastered a concept, it can be helpful to use flashcards to increase their recall of essential math facts. For instance, the tutor can use flashcards for simple addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, and then measure the speed at which a student is able to recall key math facts.

Clear Communication

Finally, here are a few other examples of things to ask your tutor to monitor that are harder to quantify, but still important. Clear communication with your tutor, and a unified message between you and your child’s tutor can help your child get the most out of the experience.

Here are a couple of examples of ways that you can work on a joint communication plan.

You can do this!

Ask your tutor to let you know if your child says something like “I don’t want to do this.”

Your tutor and you should agree on a consistent response like, “I know. You can not like it, and you can still decide to get better at doing it.”

You should also discuss with your tutor what reactions your child has at different times when gently reminded that, “whether or not they like the work, they can and should do it.”

I’m not good at math.

Have your tutor keep a rough tally of how many times they hear, “I’m just not good at this” and also report when they begin hearing, “I want to get better at this.”

I love reporting the sessions when I start hearing, “Hey, I had some questions I wanted to ask you about ____,” because this indicates the feeling of “crisis” may be giving way to “curiosity”.

Think about what your goals are for tutoring, and ask your child what their goals are. Then imagine and talk about what progress might look like.

Ask your child and their tutor, “what would success look like in this math class?” The answers can guide you in considering ways to measure progress and help frame what the tutoring is accomplishing.

I hope these tips help you set goals when working with a tutor. A great tutor can do more than help your child with a specific topic like math; a great tutor can help your student have the confidence and skills they need to succeed.

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How to Ace Math

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Diana Rapp

Diana Rapp

High School Math Teacher & Woot Tutor

How to Ace Math

As a high school math teacher, students are constantly asking me how they can be better math students. They have all these ideas about staying organized and staying focused, but they do not have a clear path of action to achieving those goals. Having smart goals is crucial for meaningful and long term success. Keep reading to find out more about what you can do to stay on track in math class!
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Organization Is Key

Your backpack is your friend! Do not abuse your backpack by stuffing papers aimlessly into the pockets. You will never find that paper again and your teacher will be confused when you ask for another copy. If organization isn’t your strong point, find your teacher after class and ask for their help. Your teacher will be happy you are invested in your success in the class. 

Your backpack is your friend! Do not abuse your backpack by stuffing papers aimlessly into the pockets. You will never find that paper again!

I think it is a good idea to schedule a time every week to clean out your backpack and organize your folders. This routine will keep you prepared and organized! Not to mention, you will know exactly where all of your papers go. This means no more missing permission slips, no more extra copies, and no more feeling lost. Teachers hand you papers and expect you to keep them. Yes, that formula sheet is important, I promise!

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Resources

Does your school have a study corner? A place where you can go for extra homework help? Talk to your teachers and the librarian about student resources. You would be surprised that there are many different outlets created to help students be successful, from math study tables to homework clubs and office hours. It is crucial that you understand what is offered to students at your school. The more helpers you have for your math success, the better prepared you are!

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Schedule

Do you have an off period that you just do not know what to do with? I suggest finding a quiet spot in your school and creating your own workspace. Then plug in your music (or white noise) and enter into the homework zone! The more time you utilize at school to complete work, go to office hours, and study, the more time you have after school to attend sporting events, choir concerts, and hang out with friends! Make your schedule work for you. I know a lot of students that use the off period after math class to get a head start on their homework and get work done with their friends.

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Allies

You need to create a team of friends and teachers that will help you be successful. Did you love your math teacher last year? I am sure they are happy to help you out this year. Teachers love helping former students because we love to watch you grow and progress in your studies. Maybe your neighbor took the same class last year, ask them questions and get their help. That project you’re confused about? They did it last year. Using your friends and teachers to help yourself move forward is crucial.

Follow these four simple steps and I believe you will be well on your way to acing your math class!

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Playing Games & Winning at Math

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Terry Wyberg, PhD.

Terry Wyberg, PhD.

Mathematics Education Researcher

Playing Games & Winning at Math

To succeed in mathematics, your child needs to be able to (1) think flexibly and strategically, (2) explain their reasoning, and (3) persevere.
One of the best ways for your child to develop these skills is by playing games. The best games encourage players to think flexibly about numbers or shapes and provide opportunities to communicate reasoning. My two favorite games that do this well are Cribbage and Kryto-Fractions.

Cribbage

When I was playing Cribbage with my son and niece on summer vacation,I was delighted to see them use number sense to make decisions on what card to play. My son explained that 7 plus 8 is 15 because 8 plus 2 makes 10 and 5 more would be 15. My niece counted on her fingers from 27 to 31 to figure out which card she would play next. Cribbage is an excellent game for adding and subtracting whole numbers because you need to think about sums and differences flexibly as you decide on your next move.

I so wish that Cribbage had cards with fractions. From research, we know that working flexibly with fractions is highly correlated with success in middle and high-school mathematics.

Krypto-Fractions

For fraction skills, I like to use Krypto-Fractions, a terrific game for children in grades 4 to 12. Krypto can be played with any number of players, and in a short time will have everyone thinking creatively and flexibly about fractions. Even better, you can quickly and easily create the simple cards you need to play.

The Krypto-Fraction card deck is shown below. It contains halves, fourths, and eighths. You can easily make additional cards with thirds, sixths, and twelfths if you want to increase the challenge level.

Krypto Fractions Game Cards

Krypto-Fraction Rules

Here are the rules of the game…
  1. Deal out 6 cards from the deck.
  2. The first 5 cards are the “playing” numbers and the last card represents the “target value”.
  3. Players use from 1 to 5 of the cards and the arithmetic operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division to create an expression that equals the target value.
  4. All players use the same numbers and figure out an expression.
  5. After several minutes each player will show their expression and explain why their expression equals the target number.
  6. Players get points for their expression based on how many numbers are in their expression as shown in the table below.

1 Number

1 Point

2 Numbers

2 Points

3 Numbers

4 Points

4 Numbers

8 Points

5 Numbers

16 Points

Example Game

Suppose the following six cards are dealt:

Playing Numbers

playing numbers - 4/4- 3/8 - 2/8- 1/4 - 4/8

Target Value

Target value - 1/2
Player A creates the expression:

and explains that this sum is one-half because “Two-eighths is the same as one-fourth. One-fourth and one-fourth make one-half.”

This player’s explanation shows flexibility in recognizing common equivalencies and they communicate the reasoning about how these numbers can be combined.

Player A would earn 2 point for this expression.

Player B creates the expression:
(4/4 + 3/8) x (2/8 - 1/4) + 4/8

and explains that “Two-eighths minus one-fourth is zero because they are equal. Zero times anything is zero. Zero plus four-eighths is just one-half.”

Player B used all five numbers and would earn 16 points.

This player found a way to use all the playing numbers and showed flexible knowledge in both operations and equivalence to show their reasoning. GREAT WORK!

There are many expressions that can be made with these five cards that equal one-half and people feel proud when they create a clever expression that equals the target number.

NOTE: When you play, the goal is on ways to combine the numbers rather than the following of rules. If a player’s explanation seems too focused on an algorithm, then you might ask them to draw a picture.

Recently, I played Krypto-Fractions with some kids and one of them explained that fractions are scary. He drew some pictures of his expressions and asked others to draw pictures of theirs. He began to see certain “moves” from watching others play. His expression became more complicated and his confidence with fractions improved although we only played for 15 minutes.

When you play Krypto-Fractions, or any learning game, remember to encourage everyone to be flexible, take some chances, make some mistakes, explain what they are thinking, and learn from each other.

If you do these things, I promise you will help build the skills that are most important for making sense of mathematics, and you will have fun doing it!.

About the Author

Dr. Terry Wyberg is a Senior Lecturer of Mathematics Education at the University of Minnesota. As a research consultant at Woot Math and Woot Tutor, Dr. Wyberg leads the rational number instructional content and also co-leads studies on efficacy and effectiveness. Dr. Wyberg is the Co-Principal Investigator on the latest Rational Number Project (RNP) grant funded by the National Science Foundation that produced the second RNP curriculum. Dr. Wyberg has taught methods courses for K-12 pre-service teachers at the University of Minnesota for the past 20 years and provided large-scale professional development for in-service teachers in Minnesota rational numbers, algebra, and number sense. His publications, state, and national presentations are related to teaching and learning of rational numbers.

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