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Why Classroom Math Beats Math Tutoring

Parents are flocking to one-on-one math tutoring programs following the implementation of the common core curriculum across a number of states. And why wouldn't they? The common core, while one step in the right direction, leaves much to be desired.

Parents assume, understandably, that the best way to fill the gaps in their child's math education is to hire an experienced adult whose attention will solely be absorbed by the student in front of him/her. But this is a mistaken assumption. While tutors can provide some short term, remedial help, they don't do much for enhancing skills and knowledge in the long-run. And here are the top three reasons why:

1) Students are kids, and kids like to be around other kids: peers of a similar age and level. An environment of interaction, collaboration, and healthy competition keeps the lesson fun and interesting. The boredom factor in one-on-one tutoring can often contribute to a student's dislike of mathematics.

2) Rather than simply providing students with the answer, which often happens in one-on-one tutoring, the classroom setting requires students to think on their feet and persevere through problem solving, drawing upon what they already know, which builds critical thinking skills. Also, some of the best teaching happens between students: it's much easier to help a peer push through a mental block when you've just overcome it yourself.

3) The classroom setting allows for students to compare and share their knowledge, skills, solutions, and ideas, which stimulates learning. Honest feedback from instructors makes students accountable for their performance. Both of these factors build confidence, and give students a realistic sense of their own strengths and weaknesses in relation to others, allowing them to grow. Students also gain a measure of how their hard work and dedication can impact those results.

100% of someone's attention and focus can be useful in occasional short spurts, to provide remedial help. But if overall education and intellectual development is the goal, don't underestimate the power of a stimulating environment.

Written by Irina Khavinson, Co-Founder of the Russian School of Mathematics 

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