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Futile TUTORING! Please read on

  1. Oct 21, 2005 #1
    Hi, I'm bomba923 and I'm a high school senior. I will take seven AP tests in May 2007, and have agreed with my counselor to tutor other students in academic subjects to pay for my AP tests. Each AP test costs $82 (USD) and every 8 hrs. of tutoring I provide for students will reduce the fee to $5 (USD).

    I can tutor in:

    *HS Statistics and math equal to or below Calculus II
    *HS Physics
    *Chemistry equal to or below AP Chemistry
    *English style and grammar
    *Basic introduction to Spanish

    And I currently tutor four students in AlgebraII, one student in Chemistry, and the others in English grammar and style.


    *Two of the students I tutor in AlgebraII have very weak algebra I skills. (one of them has trouble understanding and multiplying simple fractions)

    *The student I tutor in Chemistry is learning about bonds and how to write orbital configuration, but has almost no basic understanding.

    You see, I wish to help my two AlgebraII students attain a higher grade in their math class ----> but I can tutor only an hour each day, trying to *patiently* explain to them basic skills. I would like them to receive higher marks in their math classes ---> but reviewing the necessarily basic skills seems to waste a lot of time.

    Also, I wish to help my chemistry student. You see, she has almost no understanding of what an element is, no clue about what an orbital is, why valence electrons are foremost in bonding, what does it mean for bonds to share electrons equally or unequally, etc. The Problem: Teaching her about quantum levels, wave functions, electron energies, attempts to model the atom, the concept of electron shielding and effective nuclear charge, etc--->is really beyond her class curriculum. :bugeye: But how can one understand orbitals without understanding these? Similarly, how can one understand what covalent and ionic bonding is before learning of electronegativity, and the factors which contribute to it?

    ~Should I go beyond her chemistry curriculum and tutor in a deeper context... or should I just basically tutor at whatever level she is in, just giving her facts and methods (of which she'll have no deeper or even a somewhat slightly intuitive understanding of)?

    Then again, perhaps I may be taking this rather too seriously :devil:. I am not responsible for their learning or understanding; I can just sit there and do some homework problems with them for an hour~ or correct a test for them (and watch them nod as if they "understand their errors" :rolleyes:). It's just that... well, they seem to be nice people (socially speaking)..., but are rather unintelligent and at times just don't bother to even think about the concepts.
    (just kinda feel sorry for them..:frown:)

    Any help??
    Last edited: Oct 21, 2005
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 21, 2005 #2
    I have begun tutoring in mathematics, and I am a high school senior as well. I find that a big problem is students don't really care for the material. I know this sounds difficult (don't worry it is) but the best way to get them to learn is to get them excited about the material. This is easier than normal if you have interest in the subject you are being a tutor for.

    Secondly, make sure they understand the concepts. That's the most important part. Sure, they can plug and chug formulae for hours on end, but I feel that you can never truly master anything until you understand it.

    Just the other day, when I was tutoring a girl in Algebra/Trig (we were working on slope formulae) I was trying to have her connect (x,y) and y=mx+b. It's best not to give them the answer — but hint at it, and see if they can get it on their own. That way, it was their own thinking that led them to the answer, and not yours. In my case, it was "if b is the y-intercept, and (x,y) (where x=0) is a coordinate, how do I find my y-intercept." She couldn't figure it out, so I gave her a pretty big hint that the y-axis was intercepted at x=0. It clicked for her.

    It's true, you aren't responsible for her learning/understanding. I don't tutor solely for the money — it is because I love the subject which I tutor (mathematics in general). I want the student I tutor to experience that same love I have (though that won't happen more than likely I will try!) If they begin to enjoy the subject, they will work at understanding it, which will make your job easier and more fun.

    To reiterate:
    1)get the student interested in what you are trying to teach them.
    2)Concepts are much more important than individual homework problems, though a concept can obviously be taught via a homework problem.
  4. Oct 21, 2005 #3


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    Do both of the Algebra II students have similar problems? I agree that your tutoring would be more effective to get them caught up on their Algebra I skills so they even have a fighting chance at Algebra II. Maybe you can tutor them together for the Algebra I review rather than individually so you can make more efficient use of your time. It's not wasting time to keep going back to review the basics, that's what they need. It's more of a waste of time to keep pushing ahead if they haven't gotten the right foundation yet.

    As for chemistry, how were you taught the basics? It's one of those tricky subjects where you start out with some over-simplified fundamentals because you'd completely lose the students to jump into things like waveforms, etc., when they don't even know what an electron is yet. But, in order to really understand bonding, you do need to delve into that. So, the way it's usually taught is to use a very glossed-over approach in the beginning, and then after they've basically had a very general survey of chemistry (that's all the introductory/high school classes really are is a survey of material) and have acquired better math skills as well, then you go back and teach each part of the subject in greater depth in college.

    So, there are two approaches you can use, and it will depend on the student you are tutoring. If the student is still struggling with the most elementary concepts of the subject, don't confuse them more with more detail that isn't covered in the class; they'll get it all mixed up come exam time and it'll do more harm than good. Just stick with the over-simplified version and help them get through that. If, on the other hand, the student you are tutoring is able to handle the material already given and is now starting to ask those questions, "but WHY do these bonds form," then you can enhance their learning by sharing some of the more in-depth material. Don't go overboard, but slowly introducing some information beyond the course material is a great way of opening the door for the curious student to see how much remains to be learned of a subject and to give them a taste that the material they will learn beyond the general class is much more interesting than the very simplified version. If you have such a student and can give them some view of the subject beyond their high school class, then you may have a budding chemist to nurture. Just don't overdo it. Remember, they are mainly seeing you to help pass the class they are in now, not to learn college level material already.
  5. Oct 21, 2005 #4
    I've had two chemistry classes: one in high school and one in college (level 1111, we use four digits here; it is probably something to the effect of a 101 level for those who use three digits). In neither of these were we taught about anything of the sort of quantum levels--we just learned basic atomic structures, how they correspond to the specific element, and a very mild understanding of how chemical and ionic bonds work, and the differences between them. I'm not quite sure why it would be necessary to teach them any advanced physics about it; it might just make their brain explode.

    If I were you, I'd persue the chemistry teachers about the chemistry cirriculum and ask them what to do about it.

    P.S. $80 USD for an AP test? Yikes! They were free at my high school here in Minnesota.
  6. Oct 21, 2005 #5
    Some high schools are known to subsidize AP tests for their students.
  7. Oct 22, 2005 #6
    I don't necessarily qualify for a fee waiver :frown:

    But Thanks guys, I'll consider your advice for the
    students I currently tutor (especially for that student I tutor in HS chemistry)

    Any other ideas, though? :redface:

    P.S: some of you are teachers. Did you ever encounter this sort of problem?
    ~Where people took your course but SEVERELY did not meet the prerequisites?
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2005
  8. Oct 23, 2005 #7


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    Yes, it happens. Though, I teach at the college level, so have more flexibility on what to do about it. I can recommend a student drop a class until they've gone back and remediated the prerequisite skills, and usually recommend the classes they'll need to do that. I can also work with them to find a major more suited to them if they've taken the prerequisite classes and just can't grasp the material. Or, I can recommend they get a tutor.

    It really is a problem in elementary and high schools that too many teachers and principals are reluctant to hold a student back because of the "stigma" associated with it, and instead bury them deeper into academic trouble by promoting them when they haven't mastered enough skills yet to take the next level of classes. It would probably be a better use of your time and the student's time to review Algebra I material during your tutoring sessions than to keep plugging ahead with Algebra II. If you can get them caught up with Algebra I, they can get caught up more quickly on the Algebra II material as well.
  9. Oct 23, 2005 #8
    I'm a junior in HS. I don't "officially" tutor. But, I do help people out in class (if possible) or in lunch sometimes.

    A hint I have though, try to find out why they got a tutor. Was it because they wre dissatified with their grades, or were they forced to by their parents. By finding their motivation you can find out how to get them excited and/or driven to learn the matirial.
  10. Nov 15, 2005 #9


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    I also tutored Algebra II students as a HS senior. And like you, the students I tutored were way behind in their understanding. I used an adage, that a college professor told me years later. It is better to teach in small amounts, than to overwhelm someone. Otherwise they will feel lost and not learn at all. (I've had classes later where the information came faster, than I could assimilate it. It's not a fun place to be :frown: )

    And that's essentially what I did.. I had them practice examples with concepts they were weakest. And pretty soon, guess what? They caught on and felt great because they understood it!! :smile: I wouldn't try to teach them everything you think they should know, but instead go at a pace they can handle. Who knows, with a little encouragement they may begin to enjoy learning the material and want to know more.
  11. Nov 15, 2005 #10
    SO YOU ARE BASICALLY BEING PAID 63 CENTS PER HOUR? What kind of deal is that? Why don't you just mow a few lawns or work somewhere for a day or two. You will surely make 82 dollars by working almost anywhere (even McDonalds) for two days.
  12. Nov 15, 2005 #11
    I don't understand. Don't most tutors make anywhere from 10-40 dollars per hour usually?
  13. Nov 15, 2005 #12
    Oh, are you saying that if you tutor for 8 hours then the fee is reduced to 5 dollars? I thought you meant that every eight hours you tutored the fee was reduced by five dollars. That makes much more sense. Sorry.
  14. Nov 16, 2005 #13

    I am only a HS senior. I can tutor in AP chemistry and below, in AP Calculus II and below, and in AP Physics and below. :frown:

    (These "qualifications" (which are barely anything) don't even qualify me for minimum wage :redface:)

    I'm am not a professional teacher/tutor, only a HS senior...so whatever I get, I must take.
    :biggrin: And so I come to PF for advice
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2005
  15. Dec 11, 2005 #14
    To be very specific about one problem, the easiest way to teach about distinct chemical elements is to explain that there are distinct kinds of atoms based on the number of protons in the nucleus. A sample of a chemical element contains of kind of atom based on that number. A normal atom contains the same number of electrons as protons arranged in layers a certain distance from the nucleus. The size of an atom is extremely small, and it's a good idea to mention just how small. The Bohr atom model is a good rough model of how the atom is constructed, even if it isn't as detailed and precise as current theory. From there you talk about chemical compounds that contain more than one element. Familiarize the student with the names of the more commonly used elements and the periodic table.

    In a few paragraphs a good writer can give a student a good grounding in atomic theory and make him or her aware of modern atomic theory without causing confusion. In the next chapter the student can learn how to derive the important numbers that might be wanted on a test.
  16. Dec 11, 2005 #15
    It is very noble to try to teach them to think as well as understanding the material, but what I have found out from tutoring highschoolers is that most do not like to think and would rather just wave a magic wand and get A's in every subject. Depends on the person but in most cases I just used the syllabus and made them course notes which they took down with some problems. The idea of having two students in the same class is good, if you're in it for the money you could expand to more. But as you said that they hate to think I get the horrible feeling I know what you are up against.
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