Have you been feeling overwhelmed about how to plan for your math tutoring students? In this post, I’ll share how I plan in addition to what resources I use over and over with my students. We’ll begin with the student inquiry and move on from there to assessment and planning. (this post contains affiliate links)
Student Inquiry for Math
When I get an inquiry for a new math student I first find out if they are in high school or younger. If they are a high school student, I will not begin with an assessment but rather we discuss how they are struggling and schedule a time to meet the student. I teach skills as they come up in our tutoring session as we work on homework together.
If the student is in middle school or younger I like to begin with an assessment from Let’s Go Learning. I use ADAM K-7 to guide my planning. I prefer to do all assessments while I am present with the student. I prepare them by getting a little bit of background about how they feel about math.
Assessment to Guide Tutor Planning
Before I start the assessment, I love to explain to students that there is a progress bar at the top of the screen. I point out that this progress bar is not accurate in the least bit. I explained to them that the program adjusts to their knowledge as they work through the problems. This helps my students that struggle with attention to be able to complete the test. Many students complain that they wish the bar would just disappear and I couldn’t agree more!
If I sense the child is struggling with attention, I actually will pause the assessment and stop to do a different activity like coloring. I am interested in what the child knows not their ability to pay attention. For one of my students this worked particularly well. She would work for about ten minutes take a break, color for 5 minutes, and then go back to work.
When we were done I felt like we got a really clear picture of her capabilities and she was happy at the end of the assessment. Mom had noted that when she takes assessments at school, she struggles because she feels trapped and can’t pay attention. Knowing this helps me to plan for our assessment time together.
After the assessment is complete, if we have time I also like to play a math game with the student. This helps me to watch in real time how comfortable they are with numbers. I typically like to play pyramid solitaire because the rules are simple. The object of the game is to add 2 numbers up to 13. I like that its 13 and not 10 because a lot of students are able to quickly add numbers to 10 but not so much to 13. Even watching middle school students play this game can be very eye opening. I watch for things like counting on fingers, tapping on the desk, and long pauses of staring into space. I pay attention to their stress as well. Are they breathing heavy? Do their shoulders go up by their ears? Do they spend a lot of time thinking about what numbers add up to 13?
Once the child leaves, I then go into Let’s Go Learn assessments and view the report. When I open the ADAM K- 7 report, I really enjoy the process of digging into the scores. They are divided into strands:
- Numbers and Operations
- Data Analysis
They make it really simple to see where the student is on or above grade level with a green line or below grade level with the red line. I can look at this quickly and know where the student is struggling. It also tells me overall how far below grade level the student is in each strand.
In the example below you can see that this student is in 5th grade and is only slightly below in numbers and operations, almost a full grade behind in measurement, a full grade behind in data analysis, a full grade behind in geometry, and almost to grade level in algebra.
After looking at the summary I then move on to the detailed report this is where it gets juicy. Inside this report you’ll see lots of numbers, pluses, and minuses. You can see the topics within the strands and observe that the student is struggling with multiplication properties of commutative, associative, and distributive. This is something I know that I can work on with my student.
Another feature I really like about Let’s Go Learn is the inside of their program (the back end). I can also view the same information, but it will automatically mark for me what is highest priority, medium priority, and low priority. This makes planting quick and easy.
The other thing that I really like about Let’s Go Learn is they have aligned with Khan Academy. Inside of their back and you can find links to tutorials for each section that the student needs help with. You can spend the time to create challenges for the student inside of Khan Academy and assign them when the child is not with you for tutoring
If I see that the student is very far behind in their math knowledge I will recommend to the parents that we purchase Let’s Go Learn Math Edge program. I like this program because it takes all of the information from the assessment and plugs it into the program so the student is only working on skills they need help with. The program is fun, engaging, and has a retro vibe to it. This helps the program to be more neutral and appealing to more students. if the student can only come to me once a week I suggest we go this route. Depending on how far behind they are, I also suggest it in addition to twice a week tutoring.
Post Assessment Plan Summary
After looking at all of the information from the reports, it’s time to make a summary plan. What I like to do is go to my local school district website and look for scope and sequence. All of this information is public knowledge. I open the scope and sequence and begin looking for topics my student is struggling with that were marked as high priority. Then I try to align these high priority items with the scope and sequence the student may be experiencing at school so we are working on items that they are discussing at school. I also pay attention to skills that need to be taught before another one and then start planning out in month-long chunks each topic we will study.
In the sample below you can see what topics I have laid out for us to practice. This was a plan for summer tutoring, so I was not bound by scope and sequence within the schools. I did use scope and sequence to help me get him ready for the first month of school by starting to work with rates as they showed up early in the school year. I then use this plan to help me organize the lessons for each week that we meet. I also identify which programs I will be using to help my students accomplish these goals.
The Fun Part! Individual Session Planning
Math is where my heart just sings. Last year I made the big decision the only tutor middle school math students. However, I’ve taught math to elementary students all the way up to Trigonometry. While I enjoyed tutoring a large spectrum of students, my heart is happiest in the middle school. The lesson plan template is available inside of the Profitable Tutor Framework.
I sit down and make plans for my tutoring lessons once a week. each student has their very own folder where I place all game pieces, worksheets, and my lesson plan inside. As I mentioned for high school students I let our session together be driven by their homework. I encourage high school students to take ownership of their learning and bring what they need to work on. I also encourage them to text me for additional help when they are coming up on a quiz or test.
For students in middle school and below, I format my lessons slightly different. Following the summary plan, I know that we have some high priority items that we need to work on in addition to class work. My lessons follow this typical order:
- Warm Up Math Activity
- Mini Lesson (focused on high priority skill)
- Practice Skill Taught
- Program Practice (Daily Math Puzzlers, Times Tales, Math Fact Mastery)
- Homework help
Here is a list of resources I’ve used with students of all ages. you’ll notice that the programs are mentioned throughout my lesson plans. Click on the title to look at the item.
This program was created by Laura Candler. Daily Math Puzzlers spans from 2nd grade to 7th grade. Math puzzlers comes with an assessment to help you place a student into the program. However after doing a Let’s Go Learn assessment you will know where to place the student based upon the general overall score found in the total column you will see.
Looking at the grade level score in the above example, this student averages out to be about 5th grade. Inside of daily math puzzles, I would start him in the fourth grade level work to help us get some practice at a lower level.
Each session, I work with my students on Daily Math Puzzlers for about 10 minutes. Math topics are mixed on each page and also come with a scoring area at the bottom of each problem. Laura describes how to use this grading system within the program.
I’ve watched my students become very proficient at solving word problems through using this program. It walks you through how to instruct the students to find keywords to solve. This program is best used on a consistent basis.
This program was also created by Laura Candler. Mastering Math Facts is all about fluency of facts through timed tests and having opportunities to practice math facts through games. All of my students have enjoyed playing the games inside of Mastering Math Facts. Many tutors and teachers are against timed tests, but for a student struggling a timed math test can help them be aware of how quickly they are mastering their facts. My students feel safe at tutoring and know that no one else in their class can see their progress. Timed tests haven’t been an issue, but rather a motivator! Be sure to also check out Math Stations for Middle Grades.
This program was created by Shelley Gray. Shelly has a very specific order in which to teach math facts. She also believes in having students repeat back the math facts to her instead of timed tests. This program is self-paced which may be good for sending packets for students to work on at home. I have only used the program during tutoring and have never tried sending it home with my students.
Times Tales is a unique program! I bought this this last year for a student that was struggling with all traditional methods of mastering math facts. He was a very social student and thrived in communication. Times Tales uses language to teach math facts through story. Even though the stories are a little strange and the graphics are mediocre, my student was able to master his math facts in just a few days because it was tied to a story. To make sure that he was retaining the stories in his mind, I would send him text messages with the story and see if he could reply with the math fact. He loved being challenged several times during the week.
Many times we have just a little bit of extra time during tutoring at the end of our lesson. For my younger students I like to use Math Bumps. This is a game to practice addition or multiplication facts 1 through 6. You can find free ones from Sunny Days in 2nd grade. She also has packs of them available to purchase which would be completely worth the money.
I absolutely adore teaching fractions! If students could just understand 3 rules about fractions they will never be a problem again. I created a program called Fraction BFFs to teach these rules and give opportunity to practice them.
The way I teach the rules make them more memorable. For example, a fraction that is written with the same number on the top and on the bottom is equal to 1. I refer to these as copy cat 1. My students know when they’re working with equivalent fractions they need to find a copycat 1 to multiply to make a fraction bigger or smaller.
Inside the program I also cover two other fraction rules and teach students how they work together. You’ll also see how the fractions expand into algebra concepts. Anytime I use these rules with my high school students, they always think I’m performing some sort of magic trick because I can get rid of a fraction quickly. At that moment, I will start and teach them about fraction rules.
Every year I add new text books to my library. I decide on which books to purchase by looking at my local school district approved textbook list. Now I have textbooks from 6th grade all the way up to Algebra 2. I buy used textbooks to provide extra practice and mock tests. It’’s also important to teach skills of research using these books with something that’s more tactile than the Internet. Remind parents that they too can purchase textbooks used online and keep them at home for a quick reference to help their child with their homework.
This book has been with me since the beginning of tutoring in 2006. I like the practice exercises inside of this book because they show how changing just one operation in a problem with the same numbers brings a different outcome. Throughout the entire book the problems build upon themselves and get more increasingly difficult. I can successfully use this book with practice problems for middle school and high school students.
Jenga has also been with me since the beginning of tutoring. I created Jenga blocks with dry erase stickers on them so that I could write problems to solve on the tower. My students love to play this game and it provides the much needed practice they need in a non threatening, non worksheet way. However, I did have a few students with sensory issues that the sound of the blocks falling gives them anxiety. For those students we did not play this game. To learn how to make your own DIY Jenga blocks click to read my tutorial.
I absolutely love this free download to teach students about the order of operations. These have varying degrees of difficulty but are very effective at teaching students how to work with order of operations and use parentheses as a tool within their equation. Download your own free copy here.
I have a set of graphic organizers for helping students with complex algebraic concepts like factoring polynomials. These organizers have helped my students to take such a complex and tedious process and break it down quickly. I like to slide the sheets into sheet protectors and use dry erase markers to write the equation that we are working on in homework on the sheet.
Another problem that was common with my students is working on geometry proofs. It is overwhelming to work with over 100 theorems, postulates, and definitions. To look at a shape and have to recall how to prove something about that shape can be difficult. With my geometry proofs attack sheets, students can quickly look at a list down below the shape of common postulates, definitions, and theorems to help them make a plan of attack. I also walk them through how they need to think plan and carry out the plan.
My good friend Gina Wilson is a talented algebra teacher. She has an entire program for teaching algebra to students. This program was created for the classroom, but can be adapted for tutoring. I encourage you to go to her store and look around for her free items that are extremely helpful. Consider buying some of her program to use with your students. Her ideas and worksheets are very insightful, fun, and help the students remember the concepts.
There are many other items that I use in my tutoring but if I share them all this would get to be one very long and boring post so I’ll spare you.
When to Move on to New Topics
You may be wondering how I know when to move a student on from one subject to another. I try to keep data on the things that were doing such as how are they doing with daily math puzzlers, math facts, and student scores on classroom test/quizzes.
if I find that a student is struggling with memorizing math facts I may also add another program to help with their working memory issues such as Angela Watson’s Working Memory Partner Games.
Keeping Math Skills Sharp
If you’re new to tutoring math, you will want to diligently work at refreshing and keeping your math skills sharp. One of my favorite books to read is Math Doesn’t Suck by Danica McKellar. She has an entire series of books written up to geometry. The series focuses on helping girls with math and has fun examples that girls totally get.
I also like to brush up my skills using sites like Brightstorm. This site has some free content but mostly paid content and it is worth every penny. When I was tutoring trigonometry at the end of the year last year, I relied heavily on Brightstorm to refresh my brain since I had not touched it since I was in high school myself. Brightstorm is full of helpful subjects like English writing and test prep.
I hope this insider view to planning for math students was helpful. There are lots of ways to plan and prepare. I’d love to hear yours. Click on one of the share buttons below and tell me more about it.