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Looking for advice about being a tutor and switching majors.

  1. Jul 21, 2012 #1
    Hey guys, I don't post here much but I visit quite often. Anyways, I would like to ask if you guys have experience in being a Math tutor. Is it a difficult task? Can you guys tell me the experience you gained from it? I have been thinking of being a Math tutor but I am really scared about the idea since I am not the best Mathematician in the University. I am scared that when a student asks my help about a problem I will be unable to help because I had forgotten the material. Has this happened to you guys?

    Also, I am currently a chemical engineering major. Lately I have been finding myself being interested in higher level math (abstract algebra, linear algebra, real analysis, etc.). Switching to Math and Computer Science double major from a chemical engineering major has been in my mind for a while now. Can anybody tell me what it is like majoring in mathematics?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 21, 2012 #2

    For your first question: I believe that in order to aspire to tutor anything, in particular science and VERY much in particular

    mathematics, one must be completely deep sunk into the subject(s) she/he is going to tutor. Of course, there are ALWAYS questions that

    we won't be able to answer, but as long as we dominate the subject even our struggling with such problems can be very

    enlightening to a student. This way I learned a lot, in particular in courses where a teacher began " Ok guys: this is the first time I teach

    this stuff and much of this I'm gonna learn for the first time, so bear with me...or not: who cares". Of course, these were graduate courses.

    As for your second question: majoring in mathematics is fun...and depressing and enlightening and a mess. Only when I got

    my B.Sc. in mathematics I realized I knew very little, and not until I got my M.Sc. I became fully aware I knew bananas, literally. With

    this background, starting on Ph.D. became like a damn good opportunity to FINALLY learn some mathematics...and even then...

    Nevertheless, go for it: knowing squat of mathematics but being aware of this is one of the things that, imo, make mathematics

    the only think worth dealing with on this planet, in spite all.

  4. Jul 21, 2012 #3
    I've been a math tutor for 3 years at my university and i don't think its difficult. Sometimes people come in with questions for calc 3/linear algebra or some other upper level class. Where i tutor we're not even required to tutor anything higher than calc 2, but we try to anyways. I have trouble tutoring certain classes like calc 3 or real analysis and usually i review material before i have to tutor it (if i know ahead of time that i'm going to be tutoring that subject).

    But, more than likely you would tutor classes like algebra, business calculus, pre-calc, etc. Those are easy to tutor and you'll only get better at it. It is also the easiest money you will ever make.

    As for your second question: i'm also a math/CS double major and i would say that it's not so hard, but the workload can really suck at times. You will have weeks where you have two huge programming assignments, a ton of math homework/preparing for a test, and then on top of all that your tutoring duties. But if you attack your assignments as soon as you get them, i think it's very doable and an awesome combination of two majors.
  5. Jul 22, 2012 #4


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    I suspect you're worried about the aspect of tutoring that shouldn't worry you, and not worried about the aspect that should.

    Most of the students you see will be dreadful at math. Most of them will be taking low-level math courses.

    The hard part about tutoring well is doing it in such a way that the tutee really ends up doing the work him/herself. It's easy to solve the problems for the tutee, but the tutee won't get any benefit from that.
  6. Jul 22, 2012 #5
    True that, I've been tutoring for a college for just over 3 semesters and the thing that i'm least worried about day after day is that I'll come across a question I haven't heard before. As a matter of fact, I go in every day hoping to hear something I haven't heard before.

    My favorite type of students are the students who are smart and who I can have an two-sided intelligent conversation with. After a little while as a math tutor you'll begin to realize that you love your job so much because you love math so much, and that the hard parts of your job such as the unreliable hours and uninterested students are quickly compensated for because you are spending your days doing something you love instead of something like fast food or answering calls all day.

    The worst part of being a math tutor from my experience is the pay. I work for a college who doesn't make any money from my services, therefore, they only pay me 10 dollars an hour (for first level certification.) I would go private but I'm worried about the extra responsibility dealing with finances, income taxes, and finding students. I only work eight hours a week because I work with specific students. I have 4 students, each of which I see for an hour twice a week. So, I make 80 dollars a week, about 130 per pay period on average considering students that cancel and taxes. This obviously affects my life because I drive an hour to work and school every day but yet I don't have the money to pay for car insurance.

    Anyways, those are a taste of the problems with being a math tutor. However, I would still say it's an amazing job. I make long lasting friendships, I meet other tutors who are intelligent and who I can talk to about math and other subjects, and get valuable experience with communication that I would never get at another job (that I'm qualified for.) For example, I gave a two hour long presentation last year in an auditorium to prepare pre-algebra students for their finals.

    As for your major, find something that you know you'll always be interested in. My major will never switch from physics because I know I'll always have questions to ask and knowledge to obtain (about something that I'm absolutely fascinated with.) That's what keeps me going.
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