I Want My Students To Struggle

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Originally, it was a question on Quora that prompted this and got me thinking. The person asked if “math geniuses” struggled with math problems. Hmmm well first let’s answer that question.

Struggling is actually relative to the one solving the math problem. So, if you are asking if a math genius struggles with some of the problems that are difficult in basic classes up through calculus, then probably not. If, however, you are asking if such gifted individuals work through problems of their own without always knowing every step beforehand, then yes.

I provided the picture to exemplify my meaning here because it can be difficult to imagine problems that “geniuses” would find challenging, even for me with a math degree. While the first problem is hopefully easy for those reading through this, a student experiencing math for the first time can have a hard time putting together that one quantity plus another quantity gives a third quantity.

As a tutor and teacher, I have worked with students from the ground up, so to speak. It’s actually really cool watching little ones light up as they make connections and discover patterns. Getting there can be a struggle, though, and we all went through it at one point or another. In fact, the same struggle sticks with us all the way through our discovery and practice of mathematics.

There are problems out there that remain unsolved despite these brilliant mathematicians working together to arrive at a solution to benefit all of mankind. I would say that qualifies as a struggle since they haven’t been able to determine an adequate answer. But this is not a bad thing!

One of my personal education mentors asked me a question that has forever changed the way I approach math both as a student and teacher. Does struggling have to be a bad thing? While at first, of course I was opposed to ever having a student I was pouring myself into go through any distress in their attempts mostly due to the already negative association many people have with math, I came to understand that this is how individuals grow.

No matter how many times I explain a concept to someone, it will always seem easy when I do it because I already know how to perform the calculation or derivation. Until that person realizes for his or her self, they cannot repeat the process on a new problem. The struggle leads to discovery. Working through examples and then problems on their own helps foster both independence as well as appreciation for the effort needed to become a capable mathematician in their own right.

Granted, I don’t mean locking someone in a room and leaving them to their own devices. No, no. What I mean is a guided study that is equal parts help and discovery so that every student can feel that they understand the subject matter.

If you’re like me, then this revelation is one that does not come easy and can lead to a good deal of strife in terms of concern not only for your own progress but those you are responsible for. Hence, one of my favorite quotes from one of the greatest minds that has ever lived.

 

The famous math genius and physicist himself, Albert Einstein said not to let your struggles get you down because he was sure he had a much harder problem that he was trying to solve. Hard to get more authoritative than that!

Hopefully this not only answers your question but also serves as a springboard for any discouraged students looking toward the future for a little hope.

As always, thank you for letting me a part of your journey through math!

Kagan Love

How much do Online Tutors earn?

As I have been getting quite a kick out of answering these questions I find online, I would like to attempt to shed some light on this area. This answer, like so many others pondering a monetary value assigned to a skill, is largely dependent on a number of factors:

  • Your Credentials
  • Your Tutoring Medium
  • Your Subject Area
  • Your Demand

Let’s look at each in just a little detail so as not to make a monster wall of text but still provide some meat to dig into. (I personally tutor math, so the example numbers I use will be based on that information.)

Your Credentials

As with any job, the more capable you are, the more people are willing to pay you. As a general rule of thumb, high school students charge $15–20 per hour, college students charge up to $30, individuals with a bachelor’s degree move up to $40, and master’s degrees go to $50+ per session.

Typically, this would vary slightly due to geographic location. Large, more affluent cities will be willing to pay higher rates on average than smaller towns. Conversely, areas with less tutors in your specialty may let you set your own rates. Buuuut, the online world doesn’t care about any of that.

In my mid-sized city with one of the lowest costs of living in the United States, families couldn’t care less that some New York tutors charge up to $150/hr because they are paying $40/hr for excellent teachers. My advice, figure out what your specialty averages overall, and charge that.

Your Tutoring Medium

This could honestly be the largest deciding factor in this list. What I mean by medium is how you choose to go about offering your services. Should you choose a tutoring service such as Wyzant to simply list yourself as an in-person tutor, the values would be very similar to what I stated above.

Other sites such as tutor .com pay out somewhere in the $10-$15 range as they take their cut and have to make money as a business. The most profitable, however, are those who have their own websites and promote themselves there. Taking into account the other factors on this list, you could earn quite a good living.

Taking things a step further, you could also offer lessons coaching other tutors or hopefuls dreaming of making a fortune charging upwards of $500 for a specific online course package where you meet with clients.

Your Subject Area

Again, I personally make my supplemental income through tutoring math. The numbers I have been quoting through personal experience. Few academic subjects other than physics or specialty courses will earn you more. That said, there is oh so much more you could do other than simple academic tutoring.

I mentioned above that some internet gurus offer training to emulate their success. Perhaps you’ve heard of copywriting and it’s potential to earn you tens of thousands of dollars for a few hours of work. It isn’t a scam. It is completely possible, assuming of course you are very very well known with outstanding results. But those who are well known are happy to train you for your shot…for a high price.

Add to this skills such as playing a musical instrument or sports coaching one-on-one and you can see just how diversified tutoring can be.

Your Demand

Just how good are you? What can you offer that no one else can? You should be readily able to answer these questions in order to land clients. Perhaps you are just as good as the next mathematician but offer quick wit an humor. That can be your catch for students. Maybe you are an excellent storyteller or have a knack for empathizing to help alleviate stress before tests.

Whatever makes you you is your highest selling point because there isn’t anyone else that can do it the same. Granted, you do need to be skilled at your specialty in order to teach others. Figuring out the demand for your skill as well as your specific ability to teach it will help you determine what you are worth usually through experimenting with different prices.

Conclusion

No answer will be a one-size-fits-all here which is hopefully apparent just with the four extremely broad and over-simplified factors that I mentioned here. In the end, it is up to you to set your prices and come to a justifiable amount for your own services.

What I aim to provide through blogging about this topic is a guide to getting started on your own. Even though every case is unique, researching the successes others have seen can help you to discover your own path to achieving similar goals.

Thanks everyone!

Breaking Into the Tutoring Game

The following is an answer that I wrote for a question on Quora that I will link to here:

How much does an average mathematics tutor earn monthly?

The answer is of course that it really depends. I am sure that isn’t the response you were looking for, however, so I will do my best to toss in my two cents.

First I am going to assume that you mean tutoring privately as yourself and not through a business such as Mathnasium or Sylvan, both of which I have been employed by and even run at some points. At either you can earn anywhere from $9/hr to $20/hr for private lessons. The advantage to such employment is guaranteed income at 5 to 20 hours per week with the possibility of more as you devote more time to them and rise in ranks.

The next factor to consider is what you are charging. This will rely on both your qualifications and location. I live in a mid-sized city where math tutors charge from $15/hr as high school students to $50/hr as teachers with masters degree or higher. I personally charge $20 to $30 for each hour.

Finally, you must take into account the time you are willing to invest in tutoring. As a teacher, much of my day is naturally devoted to my job in addition to planning lessons and grading. Thus, I typically only have from four in the afternoon until whenever I feel like is a good time to stop. A word of caution here, however. It is very easy to get burned out working late into the evening and pulling consistent 13 or 14 hour days, so if this is a part-time endeavor on the side, mind your health.

On average, I once read somewhere that tutors can make an extra $500 a month as a simple side gig. Personally, I average around $2000 tutoring with some months as low as $600 and others as high as $2800. (My all time record was a month where I brought in almost $7000.) I have been told that I am a more rare case, to be fair.

If your purpose in asking this is to begin supplementing your own income through tutoring, I have a few suggestions.

  1. Start Now — I managed to make a name for myself in college by having my name on their tutor list to be provided to local parents who inquired about help for their children. The ultimate key to building up a steady stream of students is through recommendations made over time. I know everyone hates to hear that nothing is a “get rich quick scheme,” but I can attest that anything worth doing takes time. As you work with more and more students, you will slowly gain a following.
  2. Get a Facebook Page — This one is actually unique from what many professionals would suggest purely because I mean to have the page as your primary source of contact. I purchased a website and maintained it for two years with zero response even from the fairly decent number of pupils I had already. My Facebook page, however, continues to bring new customers. Perhaps others have had different experiences, but this is what worked for me. (And it is completely free! I wouldn’t even recommend running their ads!)
  3. Make Every Session Your Best — Ultimately, your best qualification and source of new clients will be word of mouth. This is especially true for any city with a population of less than 100,000. Be your own unique self. Personally, I live by the philosophy that math terrifies people, so I make them laugh and boost their confidence. I promise that if you can get a student to laugh even once, their mindset will change, and their parents will notice. Associating any academic venue with happiness instead of pain for a family that has been having struggles is sure to have them talking about you to their friends.
  4. Figure Out Where to Advertise — Alas, even though this is surprisingly the least important part of the puzzle, it is just as necessary. Where else are you going to find your first student to start making your recommendations? I have found success in Craigslist, Facebook (as mentioned above), college campuses, and math departments. Anywhere that will let you post a flyer will help get your name out. Talk to others in your area to see the most visited spots both online as well as in physical locations. The most useful areas are those where you would find your prospective clientele. You’d be surprised how helpful people can be with a simple conversation about what you are wanting to do.

These are only four of dozens of tips floating around in my head as well as making rounds on the web, but they are broad enough to help get you started. Everyone’s experience is unique, so as you begin to get a feel for how you would like to work you will undoubtedly find your own successful route. What helped me was my experience at Mathnasium and Sylvan honing my ability to break topics down all the way from pre-K through Calculus. This lead to building relationships with parents who sought me out after a center closed and they still desired math help.

Some of those parents recommended me to a private school where I found my dream job and continued to make more contacts. And the success snowballs from there as long as you remain honest and love what you do. That is where the time part comes into the equation.

At the end of the day, the best advice is to begin tutoring because you want to make a difference in students’ lives. This passion will drive you to become better which will draw the attention of the clients you need. I wish you the best and hope that I didn’t drone on too long as well as managed to answer your question adequately. Good luck!

Kagan Love