Becoming a certified maths teacher is a bit of an obstacle course since both undergraduate and graduate courses are fairly long and you’ll also need to up to date on the national curriculum.
So what’s it like for private maths tutors? Do you have to have a degree in maths to become a private maths tutor, offer online tutoring services, or supplemental instruction?
You mightn’t have thought it, but the answer is no. Of course, when students are looking to find a maths tutor, they consider the profile of the person providing a tutoring service. However, there are plenty of different types of private maths tutors, including tutors offering one on one tutoring who didn’t take the traditional routes into becoming an educator.
There is also a huge benefit to working in academic support and private tutoring or becoming an successful maths tutor online as opposed to a in-school teacher: less bureaucracy.
But what about those who still want to complete their studies? What are the advantages of doing so? And, above all, what are the qualifications you should get if you want to teach private maths tutorials? How many are there?
Do one on one tutors need all these ribbons in their bow? Does a student’s academic success depend on the qualifications of their tutor? Does academic tutoring require academic qualifications? Read on to find out the answers!
In September 2015, Superprof published their annual report on private tutorials. There were several facts, figures, and info graphics on the users of the site, both the students and the tutors.
Are you passionate about maths? Can you teach it without a degree? (Source: Flickr)
There was a really interesting fact: across all subjects and tutors, the average maths tutor rates were £19.25 per hour of instruction.
These figures are worth thinking about given what the best tutors earn once their diary is full. You can easily understand why more and more people are mentoring maths students across the UK.
Who can actually teach private maths tutorials these days? Don’t you need qualifications to teach private maths tutorials? What if I haven’t taken tonnes of maths exams?
These are probably the questions you ask yourself all the time. What’s the the answer? No. From a legal point of view, anyone can become a private tutor in the UK! However, as you might guess, you should have a degree in your given subject. You’ll probably never see an algebra tutor who’s never studied algebra!
Ideally, you should be at least 18 to teach private maths tutorials and provide academic support as well as have a DBS certificate, although nothing says an A-Levels candidate can’t tutor a student preparing for GCSEs. We’ll cover this concept more in depth later in this article.
It’s quite common that students find maths difficult and self-taught tutors come to their rescue. Especially tutors who excel in the higher maths: calculus, trigonometry, geometry, algebra, etc.
Parents no longer hesitate when it comes to employing these types of educators as they bring a different pedagogy and approach when it comes to teaching their child. Relaxed maths classes are often better for primary and secondary school students and are great for students who need help completing an assignment.
Besides, rapport is a huge factor in successful tutoring and those tutors who are closer in age to their charges have a wonderful way of finding common ground with those they teach.
You should know that, while most tutoring companies these days expect applicants to hold at least a Bachelor’s degree, most online tutoring platforms, including Superprof, accept applications from tutors without those formal qualifications.
How is that possible?
Easy! Whereas educational companies have no choice but to rely on credentials to prove the legitimacy of their tutors, online tutoring outlets depend on student testimonials to promote individual tutors.
The more engaging and personable (and knowledgeable) the tutor, the better s/he would get on with pupils, the better the reviews. And, the better and more numerous the reviews, the more attention they garner from students needing help in maths (or their parents).
So, as long as you bring your own personality and positive qualities to your tutoring programs, be it maths, physics, chemistry, technology, or even engineering, the more accessible you’ll be and the better you will be able to help students gain the study skills needed to succeed academically.
You’ll regularly find students offering home tutoring, homework help, and test prep. They’re often gifted mathematicians and usually undergraduate students.
Naturally, you don’t have to be gifted in maths in order to teach it but you should have a firm understanding of at least the fundamentals.
Being a tutor and a student at the same time is quite the feat! (Source: Linn-Benton)
Of course, these students usually choose to teach the topics that they already know inside-out. Since they don’t have training or qualifications in several maths topics, they have to be very specific when it comes to outlining what they teach to potential clients.
Let’s take a moment to think of exactly what that means.
It is only when studying at university level that education in maths diversifies. Throughout primary and secondary schools, through your GCSEs and A-Levels if you elect to test in maths, the syllabus remains practically the same. It will contain elements of algebra, calculus, trigonometry, geometry and so on.
Once at university, enroled in a maths degree programme, you start specialising: taking individual classes for quadratic equations, linear equations, calculus or, if you’re more of a mind to go into business, you might take maths for accountants, economics… and so on.
Universities tend to not bother with reinforcing basic math skills such as addition and multiplication, at least not beyond foundation courses. They generally assume that, if you’ve made it into their maths programmes, you’ve satisfied every requirement to do so.
In other words: if you are accepted into a university maths study programme, there’s a really good chance that you are well-grounded in basic mathematic principles.
While some parents might not like entrusting their child’s ability to learn maths to a student, this isn’t always the case.
For one, because they too are aware that if you’ve made it to university, most likely you’ve mastered all the math skills necessary to permit you entry to their programmes.
Another good reason many parents are eager to engage an undergraduate maths student is because they work cheaper than a certified teacher.
The logic behind that is such a teacher might have a family to provide for and thus (rightly) banks on his/her years of education and experience in the classroom to command a higher fee. University students, on the other hand, are generally not supporting a family or paying off school loans; they also know that they do not have the teaching experience necessary to entitle them to a higher fee.
The last, most pertinent reason that students are preferred over more experienced mentors is because the narrower age gap between tutor and tutee might generate a better rapport between them.
Have you ever had a teacher you simply had no chemistry with? You simply could not get along with them, no matter how hard you tried? A likely reason is that you two had so little in common you had nothing to build a rapport on. However, university students like to do things secondary school students like: play video games and hang out of social media; it is quite possible they even understand each other’s unique vernacular!
Caregivers are very aware of these considerations when seeking out a tutor for their charges. That is why, more often than not, students will get the job of mentoring the recalcitrant maths student!
Becoming a maths tutor is also an option for highly-qualified individuals. We’re talking about engineers, of course.
As one with a most experienced profile, you can expect to tutor in maths at the highest levels, say undergraduates and postgraduates, because their level of maths is commensurate with the learning and work experience that you’ve earned. You can also expect to command a higher per-hour fee, too!
As you know, engineers have to study a lot. Degrees take 3 or 4 years. Then you’ll probably go on to a Master’s degree, at which time you will delve deeper into mathematical applications and gain a vast storehouse of knowledge in the most advanced principles of maths.
In short, this is a solid basis for any professional, whether on construction sites or in offices. But nothing says you can’t tutor even the youngest maths learners in basic arithmetic!
That’s why we find plenty of engineers turning to tutoring and giving private tutorials in maths. They are educators of the highest calibre who worked for years putting advanced maths concepts into practice.
Those expanded credentials on their CV or tutor profile suffice when it comes to reassuring parents about their intellectual capacities in maths.
What about their teaching skills set?
The best tutors are patient; they happily explain concepts in different ways so that their students will excel! Source: Pixabay Credit: 3DMan_Eu
Before going on, we need to make a distinction between skills and qualifications.
Qualifications represent the tangible testament of your education in disseminating education: your Bachelor’s degree, Master’s degree or higher educational attainment, and your teaching certificate.
A Teacher’s certificate is earned separate of your degree programme in whichever major you have undertaken. It proves you have further received training specific to classroom management, educational policy, discipline procedures and pedagogy.
Schools at all levels require every teacher to have at least a Bachelor’s degree and a teacher’s certificate.
With that clearly explained, you can surely see that you don’t need to be a highly degreed professor with years of classroom experience to tutor anyone in maths. In fact, as mentioned before, you don’t even have to have a degree to tutor in maths.
Of course, prior to promoting yourself as a maths tutor, you should have some knowledge of maths and an ability to establish rapport with your tutees.
The rule of thumb for tutoring is that you should be at least one level more advanced in your subject than anyone you tutor.
Bear in mind that you are not teaching, as such, but facilitating. You are making it easier for your charges to grasp the concepts that elude them, for whatever reason.
So, the tutoring skills in question do not involve your ability to understand maths concepts; they address your ability to impart that understanding, filtered through a specific set of human qualities.
What do you mean, you don’t get it? It couldn’t be plainer!
Patience is a skill that you must cultivate to avoid such exclamations as the one above. When your pupil is genuinely incapable of grasping mathematical concepts, it is up to you to find a way around his/her difficulty by exhibiting patience, explaining the same concepts several times, and, through your calmness and self-restraint, give your students a reason to believe they too are capable of such understanding.
Feeling your students’ frustration and agony at not being able to understand what his/her peers grasp in one lesson is essential to building the ideal mentoring relationship.
Your students will look to you for understanding and support; you can only do so if you know what it feels like to be in his/her position.
Naturally, you should know where to set the boundaries: you want to empower your charges, not engulf them with your kindness!
Your tutees will take their cue from you. If you project an enthusiastic attitude, it will rub off on them. If you are a dynamic mentor, they will eagerly follow where you lead.
Nobody is suggesting you should be a perpetual fountain of cheer but, for the hour or so you have dedicated to that student, whatever else might beset you at the moment should have no room to show itself.
Which brings us to our last point on this topic:
The ability to focus on your students’ needs to the exclusion of all else during your sessions is paramount.
Remember: s/he will take his/her cues from you. If you are distracted; s/he will be scattered. If you are moody, s/he will feel your sadness and ire – and possibly reflect it back on you.
As a skilful tutor, your maths abilities will be less in question than your human qualities.
In fact, it is those human qualities that most often distinguish a good tutor from a mediocre one!
Now let’s talk about the necessary qualifications to tutor in maths…
Here is the alternative for maths tutors wanting to work out what qualifications they need. You should certainly take note since qualified maths teachers are better paid.
To become a tutor, you should get your A Levels in the subject you want to teach from either a sixth form or a college. After that you have a few options: a maths degree is the obvious choice. However, there are other related undergraduate degrees that also will provide you with the skills needed to teach maths.
There are quite a few qualifications you could get if you want to become a private maths tutor. (Source: The Foghorn News)
Science tutors often have the necessary skills to find tutor jobs in maths. The same is probably true if you’re a chemistry tutor, physics tutor, or a biology tutor. There’s a high probability you’ve worked on solving a mathematical equation and well-versed in the maths you study in school.
So what do you do once you have your degree? A Master’s degree might be a good option. Are you considering a PGCE or another teaching qualification? Remember that a Master’s or postgraduate degree isn’t absolutely necessary. If you’re looking to also become a teacher, you should definitely think about doing your PGCE.
Another option is to get a Master’s in education if you’d prefer to stay at university. This also leaves you options in other teaching careers. You should be aware that these steps aren’t necessary either if you want to be a private tutor.
They also help if you’re looking at becoming a teacher. Furthermore, these qualifications can help you to command a higher wage when tutoring. Academic support and in-home maths tutorials can also open doors for educators. Not every educator has to take up a job in a state school and be a civil servant for the rest of their days.
With similar training, maths teachers can always dedicate themselves to giving private maths tutorials. This option allows you to teach students from primary school, secondary school for GCSE maths revision, sixth form or college level, or university.
To make things simple, we’ll start off with your having just one student to prepare for. You will need to have some idea about the curriculum s/he is studying, know what level your student is at, and what difficulties s/he has with maths.
Is your student learning disabled, battling dyslexia or dyscalculia? These are questions you should pose (or issues you should be informed of) during your initial interview with every prospective student and/or their caregivers.
If you do have the pleasure (challenge?) of working with a SEN student, you will need to devise strategies to work with his/her unique situation.
With that sorted…
Let’s say your lone student is at Key Stage 2, preparing for SATs.
You might know that this exam measures students’ proficiencies in arithmetic as well as mental math and problem solving. Tasks involving counting money and measuring time will feature on the exam as well. Although not a SEN student, your tutee suffers substantial math anxiety.
With all of the variables now in place, it is time to devise our learning strategy.
1. To reduce anxiety, you might lead off with a game that involves math; maybe dominoes, a dice game or perhaps even Blackjack, a game which requires adding up combinations of cards that equal 21.
You could change it to Blackjack 13, Blackjack 19 or any number you wish the added card values to equal.
Once your pupil is at ease and in a maths frame of mind, it is time to get to work.
Here, you would play to your student’s dominant learning traits:
And, always remember that your work is less that of being a teacher in the formal sense than being a facilitator.
Your function is to plan and guide your students’ learning to meet one or more objectives. In this case, your students’ objectives are overcoming math anxiety and achieving maths mastery at a given level.
Now that your have a general guideline for successful maths tutoring, you can take on more students.
It’s not difficult to manage more than one learner; all you have to do is keep a separate file for each student. In every case, your process is the same.
Once you know your students’ difficulties and goals, and the challenges to overcome in achieving them – all of which should be learned during your initial interview, you can set up your learning plan and proceed apace.
Final note: always record each student’s progress in the file you keep for him/her, especially noting which specific learning tools and what approach works best for him/her.
You have several ways to claim your tutoring fees but all of them involve HMRC! Source: Pixabay Credit: Geralt
Most Superprof tutors offer free tutoring for the first hour. It is usually spent getting to know your students and their family. During that initial interview, you should discuss your rates and how you will be paid.
You may settle on the best payment terms that will work for both you and your clients, and you have several options to choose from: digital payments, cheque – made out for a month of lessons or written on a per-lesson basis. Supplemental one to one tuition can even be paid in cash!
Of paramount importance, no matter what payment method you settle on: you must declare any earnings from tutoring to HMRC.
Some caregivers prefer to establish your payment terms before scheduling your first session. Don’t be put off by this forward-seeming strategy; communicate openly and honestly with them (or your tutee, if s/he is the one making the arrangements) and make sure your terms are clear before any lessons take place.
If you tutor maths online, we recommend setting up a free PayPal account and receiving payments through this platform. Again, earning through PayPal must also be declared when completing your self assessment for tax in the UK.
In conclusion, there are two ways to become a maths tutor: complete a number of studies in order to command a higher salary or start earning private tutoring rates. The choice is yours!
Learn about the History of Maths tutoring over the years here!